Last week, my friend Kate e-mailed me a "friends and family" offer from the shoe company she works for. “That’s nice,” I thought. I can always use an extra pair of sneakers or comfy shoes.
So I downloaded the certificate and went to the company's website. Lo and behold there was the very same offer, available to just anyone.
Like me, you’ve probably felt mildly miffed in the past because a "secret" deal turned out to be nothing special. And you might wonder why a company would dilute the value of an offer that’s ostensibly for its best customers. To avoid having your loyal customers feeling unloved, here are some tips on crafting the perfect offer that will spur them to buy.
Make them feel important. The people who understand the value of an offer best are the folks who develop direct mail and e-mail programs. Without an offer, the mailing is just an expensive retail ad. Most good direct mail is a one-to-one communication, and ideally, it should make the recipient feel important. For example, “Because you’re a Club Member, I’m sending you this special gift.”
Make them act fast. Getting recipients to act is an art, because most of them are sitting at home and probably not in a buying mode. The offer is a "call to action" that gently nudges them to buy or risk losing the deal forever. You don’t have to do this with a shopper in a store, who is already in buying mode.
Create deals that are believable, relevant and involving. Believable means, for example, that if you buy a new computer printer, you get two boxes of paper (which is also relevant), free. Involving means that you’re not offering the same old add-ons. Yesterday I saw a TV spot offering a FREE iPad when you buy a new Honda. It’s involving in a way an $800 discount on a new car is not.
Get creative. Cosmetic companies do it well. If you’re in Macy’s and you see a fabulous designer cosmetic bag filled with goodies that are free when you buy something worth $30, you can’t resist. The bag is unique and perceived as high value. Another way the company wins is that it also gets you to test its products.
Test your offer. Direct mailers have learned that an offer is responsible for 40 percent of the success of a program. So it’s a good idea to test at least two offers–half of your list gets one offer, and the other half gets a second one. Then see which pulls a higher response, and roll out with the winner next time.
A quick and inexpensive way to test your offer is through the U.S. Postal Service's program for local mail. It’s called the “Every Door Direct Mail Program.” You can test 2,500 names with one offer and another 2,500 names with the second offer.
Generate leads. Your best list, of course, is your own database of your customers’ and prospects’ names. Try to get as many new names as possible from your website or brick-and-mortar store, as they’ll always work better than a random list.
Remember to make your offer unique so that the only way to get it is to respond to the mailer. It will help you track responses and make prospects and customers feel special.
And if you try a "friends and family" offer, make sure it’s available only to friends and family.
What offers have worked for your business? Which ones haven’t?
Lois Geller is president and owner of Lois Geller Marketing Group and headed agencies in New York and Toronto. Lois taught direct marketing at NYU. She’s the author of five marketing books, including Response: The Complete Guide to Profitable Direct Marketing. Follow @loisgeller on Twitter and visit her blog Joy of Direct Marketing for more marketing tips.
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