Category: B2B Marketing copywriting

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.

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