Here's One of the Most Powerful
(and most ignored)
Marketing Strategies You Will Ever Find
By Ben Hart
Your offer is the most important element of your marketing campaign.
A great offer will succeed even if you write a very poor letter. But the greatest sales letter in the world cannot sell a lousy offer.
This is just another way of saying "Our customers are not idiots. They do their math. They weigh the cost against the benefits they'll get if they buy."
Now start paying very close attention.
And read every word of this article as if your life depends on you understanding it. Read to the very end, or you’ll miss the big point.
You'll find a ton of solid gold marketing secrets in here that can make you a pile of money if you act on them.
Okay, now back to main theme of this article.
So . . . what exactly is an offer?
An offer answers the "How much does it cost, and what am I buying for my money?" question. It's the "getting down to brass tacks" part of selling. It's the part where you are trying to persuade your prospect to pay, to part with cash.
This is the part of the transaction where both buyer and seller get their calculators out, put their green eye-shades on, put pencil to paper and decide if the transaction makes economic sense.
If someone offered you a Mercedes for $10, you would take it. No sales presentation needed.
That's an offer. But you'll go broke if you make offers like that.
The trick for a business is to construct irresistible offers that don't cause you to go broke.
The way you do this is to deliver a product that has enormous perceived value to the customer, but that does not cost you a lot to produce.
That's a big reason "information products" are so good. Information products are very cheap to produce, and can have enormous perceived value to the buyer.
How much would you pay for a weekly one-page newsletter from Bill Gates on how to build a profitable business?
How much would you pay for a one-page monthly newsletter from Warren Buffet on what stocks to invest in and why?
Probably a lot, even though a one-page newsletter does not cost much to produce.
Overcoming The Toughest Hurdle In Selling
Now, the toughest part of any sale is to persuade your prospective buyer to part with cash.
Your prospect must be absolutely convinced about the value of the product before any money will exchange hands.
That's why people much prefer to pay later. No one ever wants to pay now. Of course, people prefer not to pay at all, but they also know that's not the way the world works.
With this principle in mind, let me outline for you one of the most powerful offers I have run across in my 20+ years in direct marketing.
There are four basic reasons people do not get their pen out and write a check to you in answer to your offer:
1) They have no interest in what you are offering.
2) They don't want to pay what you are charging, or can't afford to pay.
3) Your offer did not get your reader's attention, so they never considered your offer.
4) Your reader does not believe your claims.
The fourth reason is usually the biggest stopper for getting the sale.
I say this because, as an Inner Circle member, you are now an expert target marketer. So this means you are only marketing to people you know have an interest in what you are selling and can afford to pay for what you are selling.
You have also packaged your mailing in such a way that it stands out in the mailbox, gets attention, and can't be missed. So your letter does not look like any of that other junk mail that shows up in your mailbox every day.
So, now the only remaining question is, "Will my reader trust what I say to be true?"
The biggest challenge we face as marketers is persuading our target audience that we are not lying, that we are not exaggerating our claims.
Today, more than ever, people are skeptical of the claims of advertisers.
People just don't trust your promises and claims. They don't believe you.
So, what is the best way to persuade our skeptical reader that what we are claiming is true, that we are not blowing smoke?
The best way is to let them try it for free . . . for a while. Maybe for 15 days, or 30 days or 45 days.
And once they’ve had plenty of time to try your product and have determined that your product does what you say it does and that you are not a liar, you send them an invoice.
That’s what Rodale Publishing does. And their sales are in the hundreds of millions of dollars a year. That's also what Time, Newsweek and the big magazines do.
They let their customers "pay later."
When Rodale sends out a direct mail offer, they don't ask you to pay anything in advance. Instead, they just include an order form that you sign and return to them if you want the book or the magazine.
The order form says something along these lines:
"Please send me the xyz book. I will then decide if I am satisfied with the book within 30 days. If I am happy with xyz, I will then pay for it when your invoice arrives. If I am not satisfied, I will return the book to you and owe nothing."
These are not the exact words, but you get the point.
Rodale gets about a 75% “pay-up” rate.
Some books are returned. Some books are just kept and never paid for.
But 75% are paid for.
But here’s the rub.
This offer will generate at least 300% more “YES” answers (orders) than if Rodale required payment with the order. I won’t bore you with the math. You can do it yourself.
But the math works out to approximately a 100% increase in profitability if you don’t require payment up front – but instead just offer the “pay later” plan . . . and only if completely satisfied.
This is a little like a guarantee, but it's far stronger than a full money-back guarantee because no cash is required to order.
Remember, everyone hates to part with cash.
A "Money-Back Guarantee" does not address this key objection.
The big magazines use this same basic offer. "Try Newsweek for three months free. If you don't like it, just write cancel on the bill we'll send you in 90 days."
It is very difficult to sell any kind of subscription without this offer.
Now for a word of caution about following this "pay later" formula . . .
You must be able to afford to wait for your money. Rodale, Newsweek and Time have very deep pockets and have been around for a very long time. Plus, these institutions have enormous customer lists of proven buyers of their books and magazines. And they have an endless stream of follow-up products to sell to their list of buyers and subscribers.
In addition to that, Rodale, Newsweek and Time have many decades of experience with this kind of offer. So they know exactly how this offer will perform every time because they have tracked their results for decades . . . and have no doubt tested this offer against every other conceivable offer. They are direct marketing powerhouses.
So I’m not necessarily suggesting this is the right formula for you.
But you can strive to approximate this offer.
So here's one good variation. It's called the“30-Day Hold” offer. I got this idea from the late Gary Halbert -- who was one of America's most famous direct mail copywriters.
Here’s how it works.
You ask people to send a check or their credit card information and you promise not to do anything with it for 30 days or 45 days, or whatever the case might be.
Somewhere near the instructions on how to order, you have prominent copy that reads something like this:
"We are so confident you will love xyz that we won’t deposit your check for at least 30 days. That way, you will have plenty of time to try xyz, examine it, and see for yourself how much money it will save you.
If xyz does not exceed all your expectations by a very wide margin, you can return xyz to us and we will send you back your check.
If you decide to use your credit card to order, we will not bill your credit card until after your 30-day FREE trial period is up.
If you decide to return xyz, we will never charge your card and we will shred and destroy all your credit card information."
You could even put this text again on a stand-alone certificate, much like you see with guarantees.
Admittedly, this is not as strong as the "bill me later after I've had 30 days to try it" offer. But it will cause you fewer sleepless nights because you now have the checks and credit card info in hand, even if you can’t get the money for 30 days.
So you don’t have to hunt people down for the money.
Even a stodgy bank will probably finance your receivables if you have orders and uncashed checks in hand and if you really need your cash before the 30 days are up. And a factoring company certainly will finance your receivables.
I have found even this watered down version of the "pay later" offer boosts response to my sales letters by about 200% over what I would get with just the usual money-back guarantee, but requiring immediate payment.
People like this offer because they can always put a “stop payment” on the check – which almost never happens, unless the product is dreadful. But people are reassured by knowing they can stop payment if they want to.
One somewhat amusing side note . . .
I persuaded a client of mine to try this “30-Day Hold” offer I’ve just described to you. He complained about the few “stop payments” on checks.
He grumpily showed me a small stack of these bad checks where payment had been stopped by dissatisfied customers.
“How profitable is the campaign?” I asked.
“Very,” he answered. “It’s doing very well. But it would be even better if I did not have all these voided checks, bad credit cards, cancelations and returned merchandize."
So he then went ahead a tried the mailing without the “30-Day Hold” offer, thinking he knew better. The client always thinks he's the smartest person in the room.
The mailing bombed, of course. It brought back just one-third the orders that it had with the “30-Day Hold” offer.
Don’t worry for him. He could afford it. His company generates $50 MILLION a year in sales.
Needless to say, he’s now a big believer in the "30-Day Hold" offer and "pay later" offers. And he now does exactly what I advise him to do in every area of marketing.
So really this is just a "Free Trial" offer, but with a slight twist.
It's a free trial that obligates the buyer to pay unless she takes an active step to cancel. But what makes it work is that no cash payment is needed now.
Another variation is the offer you see from book clubs. "Pay 10 cents and choose any of these bestselling books."
By doing this, you are enrolling in a "book-of-the-month" type program. What happens then is that a new book arrives each month unless you take an active step (send back the form) to tell the book club either 1) to send a different book than the one you'll be getting by default; or 2) not to send any book next month.
What happens, of course, is most people don't bother sending back the form each month, and so they end up getting, by default, whatever the book club wants to send them, and then they are obligated to pay for whatever book arrives (unless they return it unread, which rarely happens). This is sometimes called the "negative check-off" option.
That's when you must take some specific action to stop something from happening.
But the big principle here is to require "no money now" -- or, in the case of the book club offer I just described, to ask for a token payment of 10 cents or $1 in exchange for something that 's obviously worth a whole lot more than that -- the "I'll give you this Mercedes if you pay me $10" offer. But then they are enrolled in your program.
So you end up building a enormous list of customers, people who you know with 100% certainty are very interested in what you are selling and who have either agreed to pay you if they are satisfied with the product they received from you, or who have paid something, even if it's only a token amount like 10 cents.
Now, this is very important.
What you are doing with offers like these is essentially paying for customers.
This won't work very well if you only have one product to sell. You need a near endless stream of follow-up products to sell to your customer list -- products that are very similar to the first product they bought from you.
Take Gevalia coffee. I'm enrolled in that program.
This is essentially exactly like the "book-of-the-month" program I just described.
You get a new shipment of your favorite coffee every month. The first month is free and you can cancel at any time. Same with Omaha Steaks. Your first month in the program is free, and then you get a new shipment of steaks every month that you agree to pay for, unless you take an active step to cancel.
Same with gym memberships. The first month is free, then you agree to allow the gym to bill your credit card unless you take a active step to cancel.
That's the offer Bally's gives us. Gold's gym messes up the offer by requiring you to sign a one-year contact. Once my year at Gold's was up, I swiched to Bally's where I can cancel at any time (which I probably never will).
By the way, 90% of gym members rarely, if ever, use the gym. But they keep paying their gym membership anyway because canceling would be to admit defeat, to admit that they will continue for the rest of their lives to look like Jabba the Hutt.
Think of how you can apply these kinds of offers to your marketing challenges, not just your sales letters -- but for all your selling. Require no cash up front; allow your customers to pay later after they've had plenty of time to try the product, and only if they like the product and want to keep it.
If you are selling flat-screen plasma TVs, or copiers, or dishwashers, consider allowing your prospects to try it for a month FREE. If they don't return the item, they then agree to pay for it. I doubt many would return these enormous items. Can you imagine lugging the dishwasher back into the store? Easier just to keep and pay for the danged thing.
Of course, you need to test and establish a track record for these kinds of offers. Over time, you will learn the exact percentage of customers who return the items or cancel out of the program. You will then learn the exact average value of an inquiry and the exact value of a customer.
By using these kinds of offers -- offers that require "no money now" or "10 cents for any four books of your choice" -- you will almost certainly triple your sales.
Happy Improved Marketing,
Your 21st Century Marketing Coach
because everyone (even Tiger Woods) needs a coach
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