Tips to Remodel Your Direct Mail

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"Remodeling" used to be a nice word. It evoked pretty images and pleasant thoughts. Now that I'm knee-deep in what contractors affectionately call the "remodeling process," the "R" word has become more akin to a curse.

But I won't let the dust and destruction deter us from the 99 selling tools we're slowly but surely packing into your toolbox. These tools will help you "remodel" your direct mail to improve response and increase profit.

As I have opined in the previous installments of this series, the craftsmen who are alternately demolishing and rebuilding my home seem to have a tool for every job. And the same should be true for you, the marketing craftsman.

So far, we've looked at general ideas related to prospects and creating direct mail. Now it's time to examine tools for making compelling offers. We've covered 18 items so far and thus pick up with No. 19.

19. Make an irresistible offer. Stating your price isn't provocative enough. An offer is saying, "You do this for me, and I'll do this for you." Make a deal. Slash your price. Throw in something extra. Design your offer so that people can't pass it up. What's the greatest offer in the world? The free trial. What other offers can you make? Visit my Web site, www.DirectCreative.com. I have a long list with details on each.

20. Present a choice of offers.  People like choices. Give them more than one way to say "yes." There's the classic good-better-best offer where you offer different versions of the same product. There's the yes-maybe offer where "yes" is a purchase and "maybe" provides a free trial or more information. There's the price-point offer, popular with subscriptions, which lets customers choose a year for one price, two years for another price, etc. Open more doors, and more people will walk through.

21. Structure your offer as a bargain.  If your product retails for $59, offer it for $39. Stress that this is 34 percent off. Show it's a savings of $20. Then throw in a free premium on top of your already great offer. Mention your guarantee. Compare your price to the high price that others charge. Layer your offer in this way to make it impossible to turn down. Point out every piece of the offer to build the perceived value beyond the price of what you're selling.

22. Offer a choice of payment. Different people prefer different ways to pay: credit card, personal check, bill me, installments, purchase order, etc. If prospects want what you're offering but can't pay for it the way they want, you lose sales. Don't let your accounting department dictate your policy on this. Customers are the authority.

23. Raise your selling price by adding value. You can add more value by positioning your offer as a "charter" subscription, an "exclusive" membership or an "executive" option. Use language, design and price to make your product appear more valuable.

24. Create urgency with a time limit. As a former salesman, I know that the faster you force a decision, the more likely that decision will be in your favor. Put a firm time limit on your offer, force a quick reply and sales usually will rise. People hate to miss a deal. It works almost every time.

25. Create greater urgency with an "early bird" rate. Instead of punishing late responders, reward early responders. To get the desired result, the early bird offer must be a compelling, significant savings such as "Reply within the next 14 days and save 25 percent." This provides added urgency to overcome inertia without closing the door on stragglers. Hint: If someone calls in a late order, have your telemarketer point out the missed savings, then provide the savings anyway with a whispered "Don't tell anyone." Customers love that.

26. Offer similar products as a low-priced package. People love to buy sets of items these days: a three-tape set of Clint Eastwood movies ... a boxed set of Stephen King thrillers ... a suite of software products from Microsoft. Packaging makes your offer more exciting and helps you move more merchandise faster and more efficiently.

27. Resurrect old products and sell them at a discount. A software company recently reissued games it used to sell years ago, all packaged in one box with an "own the entire original collection" theme. Nostalgia plus low price got me to buy. Dust off your old products, repackage them and sell them at bargain-basement prices.

Now if you'll excuse me, my office is vanishing before me, and I believe it may be time to move to a safer location. If I'm not buried in the rubble, I'll continue next time with a look at guarantees.

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