Importance of the Offer in Direct Mail
Putting a direct mail package together takes more planning than most people realise. It has to capture the imagination, look attractive, interest your audience and hold them for more than a second. Depending on the media used, the envelope design, postcard or letter has to be simple but attractive, and not look like typical direct marketing. The copy has to be compelling enough to interest the reader, and to call them to action as well as highlight the benefits of the product or service.
While all those elements are important, they aren’t why the prospect is going to contact you, or buy from you. In the end, clever written copy, a well designed card, letter or the personal touch will be forgotten in seconds once their attention shifts.
What are the two most important words in direct marketing? "The offer.”
To have any success at all, any direct mail package has to have some kind of hook. An offer that gives the reader a reason to buy, something to make them think they are getting a good deal, and a reason to choose you over the competition.
There are many varieties of offer, and all have their place if the product or service supports it. The trick is to choose the most appropriate one in each case.
"The First Few” is a classic direct marketing offer. "The first 50 replies will get half price.” It implies speed is of the essence and is a classic call to action.
Hard offers are currently the most popular. These consist of a specific deal for the product such as a low price and a money back guarantee. While guarantees have an administrative overhead, not many people exercise that right even if the product isn’t suitable, unless it’s a high value product of course.
Soft offers are more indirect offers like "First month free,” "Free trial,” or "Free Preview.” These are regarded as soft because they are more indirect, and offer a cushion to the prospect.
Yes, No, Maybe is another direct marketing strategy that seems to work well when coupled with a suitable product. The idea is to have three boxes on the return card or website. It’s a variation of the soft offer, but cleverly worded to offer more options. Something like "Yes I do want a copy of the magazine, free for the first month.” "No” is "No thanks I don’t want a free magazine, send it to someone who will appreciate it.” Here, hoping they will return the card anyway, possibly with contact information on it. Lastly, the "Maybe”. This will read something along the lines of "I’m not sure, send the free magazine anyway and I’ll return it without further obligation if I don’t want it.”
The practiced eye will notice the Maybe option is exactly the same as the Yes option, but cushions the prospect with a surety they can try without spending any money.
Direct mail marketing is about the offer. Package it how you like but without the hook, people won’t convert.