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Eight Proven Offers to Raise Response

Offers are the heart of all direct response advertising. An offer is not just a statement of your price, it is the deal you're making — what the customer gets plus what the customer has to do or pay to get it.

By making an offer, you are saying, “You do this for me, and I'll do this for you.” Naturally, the better your offer is, the better your response will be.

Here are eight offers that have proved themselves over the years. They almost always will raise your response rate:

Free trial — This may be the best offer ever devised. A customer can try your product free and without obligation for 10 days, 15 days, 30 days or more. The time frame should fit the product. This offer removes risk for the prospect, overcomes inertia and works with just about any product.

Money-back guarantee — This is perhaps the second best offer. A customer pays up front, but if dissatisfied can return the item for a full refund. Like the free trial, this offer removes risk but allows you to use customer inertia to your benefit, since few people will take the trouble to return something.

Free gift — When you offer a freebie your customer wants, your offer will usually out pull a discount offer of similar value. That's because a gift is a more tangible benefit. It's an extra. This also has the advantage of not devaluing your product with a price reduction.

Limited-time — An offer with a time limit gets more response than an offer without one, especially when you give a specific deadline. This forces a decision, and the faster you can force a decision the more likely it will be in your favor.

Yes/No Offer — You ask your prospect to respond positively or negatively, usually by affixing a “yes” stamp or a “no” stamp or by checking one of two boxes. This offer is involving and usually pulls more response than an offer that does not offer a “no” option. It works because it clarifies the need for a decision.

Negative option — This pulls better than positive option offers. It's often used with book and CD clubs, where the merchandise will be shipped automatically unless the customer takes action to refuse the order by a specified date.

Credit card payment — Nothing is easier than paying with plastic. These days, there's no reason to not accept payment this way — by telephone, mail, fax or the Internet.

Sweepstakes — This increases your order volume if you're selling easy-to-understand impulse items. However these customers aren't loyal and you may find yourself forever trapped in an endless cycle of contests.

Raising response is not your only concern, of course. It may be more profitable to get a lower response from a more loyal group of buyers, for example. Or you may want orders to come in faster. Or you may need to lower your cost per sale.

In most cases, though, it's best to start by getting your response rate high, then adjusting your offer over time to maximize your profits. Every offer you make has different characteristics. So, it pays to test, test, test.

Dean Rieck is president of Direct Creative, Columbus, OH, a direct marketing creative firm. His e-mail address is [email protected]

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