Category: offers

Five Tactics for Offers in Your Direct Marketing Campaigns

In an earlier blog post Using Offers in Your Marketing Strategy we talked about the direct marketing offer: “What we’re gonna give you.” The offer can be a product or a service, and it can cover price, discounts, demos, upgrades, guarantees, shipping, and premiums – free items to lure prospects in.

Here are some tips on using offers in your B2B direct marketing campaigns:

  • Offers must create involvement – both physical and emotional. By physical involvement, we mean: get their hands moving. Make the prospect take action. Whether it’s clicking a link, tearing out a coupon, keying in info, calling an 800 number, completing a reply card, or sending a text… the ultimate purpose of the offer is to generate a response.
  • Don’t get trapped into thinking that businesspeople are a different species. Certainly, offers must be geared toward their thinking in their job function, but they still want to save time, reduce effort, eliminate stress, and look good in front of their peers. Does your offer fill at least one of these motivators?
  • Consider when to use a soft offer, and when to use a hard offer:
    • Soft offers don’t require a purchase now – they’re used in a two-step approach. Examples are free gifts, more info (like ‘Click to this landing page’), or a limited-time trial.
    • Hard offers ask for the immediate order: Save $75 by ordering online -- get free shipping with a 2nd item -- save 10%.
  • Do the math! Offers must make profitable marketing sense, so you need to do a break-even analysis. On a higher ticket item ($995 software) you can afford a $50 premium. But on mid-ticket items, while a $50 premium would generate plenty of response, would you spend more than you’d gain?
  • On that note – be careful your offer isn’t too good and either attracts the wrong audience or turns off the right audience. For example, a niche software company once ran a campaign offering a free iPod, simply for requesting more info. They spent a fortune sending the expensive offer to unqualified prospects, and their sales force quickly burned out after wasting time with uninterested prospects. On the flip side, something that appears to be ‘too good to be true’ can also deter someone from responding, since they might think there’s a catch in there somewhere.

As you develop the offer as part of a B2B marketing campaign, use these tips as a checklist in both development and as a final check to develop an effective campaign. By considering your entire process of nurturing prospects, including in-depth industry knowledge and vocabulary, competitors, and pain points, you will be able to develop an offer that benefits the right target and supports the sales cycle.

Have you ever seen an offer that you thought was unbelievable because it was too generous? Or too insignificant to be bothered with? Or, how about offers that you’ve jumped on right away and have been pleased with the results? How do your own experiences reflect the tips above?

The Offer is 40% of Direct Marketing

Direct marketing experts isolate three vital components in developing marketing campaigns: Creative, Database, and Offer. Yet contrary to the popular image-advertising notion, ‘creative’ should not be the dominant factor. In the book Direct Marketing: How You Can Really Do It Right (1990), late marketing great Ray Jutkins introduced the formula that is still considered the standard today for campaign success:

  • Database accounts for 40%
  • Offer carries 40% weight
  • Creative is only 20%

In other words, great design and brilliant copy crafting won’t do much good without an offer and list optimization for the right people. Here's how to relate offers, as part of a complete process, to the other two components of your direct marketing campaigns:


When developing offers, relate them individually to the targeted database. If you were to sell a piece of custom software to dentists and lawyers, you would offer different promotions to each, tailored to each industry.

But that's not all – be careful when you’re addressing different targeted job functions within the same industry. For example, you would want different campaigns targeted to decision-influencers (at the fabrication shop level), decision-makers (mid-managers), and decision influencers from the top (CEOs, CFOs, CIOs). You wouldn’t want to make the same offer to the big boss that you’re making to the lathe operator.

Once your database is segmented into different demographic groups, you also need to keep an eye on psychographic (different perceptions about the benefits or value of your product affecting motivation) considerations. That means taking note of the place each individual – and his or her mindset – occupies within your database or sales cycle.


Certain phrases will mean more to the machinist than to the quality control chief, so you should use different language in approaching them. Overlay the offer onto the creative. For example, for the end user, a free trial means a chance to get a feel for the product and determine if it is useful, while for the middle manager, the trial is a way to mitigate risk and/or cut expenses. For both individuals, the free trial is the same exact offer, but subtle changes in copy can calibrate the benefits of the promotion for the right audience.

Once you’ve specified the lists, determined the offers, and created the creative, it’s time for one final overhead look to make sure each piece works well with the others. This may sound simple, but you’d be amazed how many times a good list, seemingly-good offers, and good-looking creative fight with each other – because they weren’t developed with the others in mind. The three components of direct marketing, when developed as a complete process, work together to make a campaign a success.

David's blog

Using Offers in Your Marketing Strategy

With all the marketing messages bombarding our senses these days, it’s interesting that the vast majority don’t contain an offer.

Offer-less ads may serve some purpose in a consumer packaged-goods world, where your branding is your only advertising strategy – but unless you’re positioning Pepsi against Coca-Cola, an offer is a critical component of your campaign.

Offer Defined

An ‘offer’ means: “What we’re gonna give you.”

A one-step offer means a direct sale right now. “Order the device today, get $50 off your next order.”

A two-step offer means generating a lead now (to close the deal later) – such as a free 30-day trial.

Offers can be products or services. They can cover price, discounts, demos, upgrades, guarantees, shipping, and premiums – free items to lure prospects in. Smart B2B offers can leverage the value of information, such as free industry reports (salary or performance data), customized services (assessments, evaluations, or a needs analysis), SIC-specific case studies or white papers, and live webcasts.

An added bonus of info-based offers: they provide a branding benefit. It’s an opportunity to be seen as an expert in your field, since you are providing high-level business intelligence.

Incorporating offers into your strategy

An offer does not stand alone. It should not be an afterthought, or something to just plug into an already-completed copyblock, and it won’t be effective unless it’s considered a crucial element from the very beginning.

Before developing offers, consider the entire process of nurturing prospects and customers: understanding their industry, talking their language, feeling their pain, and providing solutions that benefit them. During this broad-brush process, planning offers makes sense since you’re asking, at each stage, “How does this offer support this strategic step, as it relates to that person’s wants?” In other words, think like your client.

Through this lens, for instance, you’ll offer engineers a custom app to ease their compliance headaches rather than an easy-to-plug-in discount (which may be a decent offer, yet not nearly as strong).

Next week, we'll move from looking at the big-picture strategy behind offers to discussing specific tactics you can use to develop offers for your prospects and customers.

David's blog

Building Compelling Offers

Learning opportunities. Gifts. Promotions. Incentives. These are all examples of offers -- those items that compel prospects to pay attention to you. Offers should be a core piece of every marketing campaign. Yet, as marketers, we often struggle to find compelling pieces or consider them an afterthought.

Bring these items front and center by taking the time to build up a strong offer sheet. This way, you'll have a substantial selection of pieces that can be used throughout your campaigns, on your website, and in sales calls.

Start by creating an inventory of your current assets. Make sure you identify separate offers for different stages of the sales cycle: for earlier in the sales cycle, learning opportunities (such as educational articles) offer your prospect something that can keep them engaged and open to your messaging. For later in the sales cycle, consider offers that aid in the decision-making process -- trial offers and assessments, as well as pricing and financial incentives.


  • Create high value offers for the highest value prospects. For example, send your best prospects that hot new business bestseller.
  • Focus on educational timesavers: how-to guides, articles, and survey responses.
  • Hire a freelance writer to create pieces for you. Consider creating a back-catalogue of content that you can use over the course of long term period.
  • Put value behind your service offers. For example, a free assessment is generally perceived as a sales call, and therefore wouldn't necessarily qualify as an effective offer.
  • Avoid gifts and trinkets as a call to action. Real prospects generally won't take an action to win a chance at a free iPod or other item. Instead, use these items at trade shows, raffles, or events.
  • Buy offers when you don't have them. Sources like Harvard Business Review have white papers and articles available for download.

David's blog