Secrets of a Master:
What You Can Do As a Copywriter when It Comes to Writing Offers
Coming up with powerful offers … appealing deals … and persuasive negotiations is an art form all by itself.
Books could be written on it.
Some have. For instance, Dr. Jeffrey Lant wrote a good bit on writing offers in his 1989 book, "Cash Copy."
He even gives us a formula for the perfect "giveaway" deal: Successful Premium Offer = FREE + limited time + stated real benefit
Wait a minute? Formulas? Could it really be that easy?
You better believe it.
The truth is, while copywriters get most of the "creativity" credit, unless somebody's been creative with the offer beforehand…
Copywriters are left with little to work with.
Unfortunately, as a writer you may not have control over how the product offer is structured.
Fortunately, experienced marketers have often tested offers more than any other element in their promo campaign. They often know what works.
What's more, by knowing how offers work yourself, you can sometimes suggest alternatives that will help promos you write work even better.
Below are some of the offer structures Lant suggests, followed by a little explication alá moi, and some examples of what you could do with the options you have before you. As follows:
The Tension Buster:
Challenge: By the time your prospect gets to the sales close, what's he worried about? He wants to know (a) if you can solve his problems the way you say you can, and (b) if you can't, can he get his money back?
Marketer's Solution: Money-back guarantees are standard fare for all kinds of product offers. Trial samples work here, too. Personally, I prefer strong guarantees to weak ones. Clients sometimes fear a flood of refund requests. But when you're working with good products and honest sales promises, that shouldn't be as much of a problem … right?
Copywriter's Technique: I usually push for the strongest guarantee possible. See if you can get permission to offer 100% of money back, even 110% back for dissatisfied customers. For the extra 10%, maybe you could tally that up in the form of freebies the refunded customer gets to keep.
Make it look substantial, too. Certificate borders help. So can signatures and a photo next to your guarantee copy. Also, try putting a strong testimonial in your P.S. or on your reply device.
The "Instant Gratification" Offer:
Challenge: Immediate action-takers want immediate results. They want to see the benefits as soon as possible after deciding to buy.
Marketer's Solution: Bill-me-later options, installment payments, and trial offers can help scratch the "instant-satisfaction" itch.
Copywriter's Technique: Emphasize ease of ordering and speed of delivery with simple phrases like: "You pay nothing up front. Just let me know where to send your trial sample, and I'll rush it to your mailbox." Tell your customers what they'll get and, if possible, when.
The Coupon-Clipper's Delight:
Challenge: Even with good copy and a good product, sticker-shock can be a problem.
Marketer's Solution: Quantity offers, limited-time offers, and trade-in deals are a good way to show prospects that they're getting a good deal.
Copywriter's Technique: Emphasize the discount with call-out boxes. Do the math in $$ if the savings is a percentage discount.
In the body of the sales close, try showing the cost and efficiency of your product compared to similar, more expensive products.
If you can make the offer time-limited, do so. And put that deadline in a call-out box on the reply page, too. Another device: Try emphasizing the savings by creating a "price-off" coupon that gets sent back in along with the reply card.
The Ticking Timer:
Challenge: If you don't get immediate action on a sales decision, you probably won't get the sale at all.
Marketer's Solution: Seasonal offers have a natural time limit. But contrived time limits can work just as well. The "speed-reply" bonus is also a common device.
Copywriter's Technique: If there's a limit on the number of customers who can sign up, write about it. Give specifics:
"Frankly, after these 2,000 slots are filled, I'm going to have to close the doors. If I don't hear from you by then, you'll be turned away. I'll have no choice. Which is why I hope to hear from you soon."
Emphasize benefits that a prospect sacrifices by waiting too long.
Fax and toll-free ordering can be used to help speed up orders too: "If you want to get started immediately, call or fax your order to…"
The EZ Offer:
Challenge: Even eager customers can get confused by complex order forms, missing BREs, elaborate information requests, and worse.
Marketer's Solution: Multiple ways to place an order help. Though more than three options (fax, phone, mail … or … phone, mail, e-mail) is probably too much. These days, the ability to take orders around the clock is a big plus.
Copywriter's Technique: Try numbering the steps: "(1) Fill out this invitation below; (2) Put it in the envelope provided; (3) Drop it in your mailbox."
Add this phrase here and there too: "It's that simple."
And if you've got the leisure of a toll-free number, be sure to put it where the prospect can see it. Make it large. Make it easy to find. And put it on every piece in the envelope.
The Private Deal:
Challenge: People like to feel like they're getting privileges. "In a world where everyone is as important as everyone else," says Lant, "people are dying to feel more important than everyone else."
Marketer's Solution: Create limited editions, clubs, and "societies." Frequent-flier miles and favored-customer incentives work on this principal too.
Copywriter's Technique: Use design to make the invitation look exclusive. Write in "whispered" tones. The reply device could be constructed like a real "R.S.V.P." document.
When you start the sales close, make sure you summarize the benefits in the form of privileges for exclusive invitees.
The Bachelor's Offer:
Challenge: Some people fear commitment.
Marketer's Solution: See above for talk about "no-money-down" offers. But for real fence sitters, consider collecting contact details for future use. E-mail is great for this. Give non-committal free information up front. Then use regular contact to deepen the relationship and set the groundwork for a future sale.
Copywriter's Technique: Here's where emphasizing freebies can come in handy. Especially if there's little or no other commitment. But remember, it's not worthwhile if (a) the freebie has no benefit to the prospect and (b) you fail to collect personal information for future contact.
ONE OTHER THING: I learned to write copy from someone who had perfected the art of the "back-door" sales lead. We always left the guts of the offer for the back of the promo. And we managed to make it work.
But Lant has a different theory.
He states, "If you want your prospect to regard your offer as important – treat it like it's important – lead with it."
"And remember," he adds, "free by itself is almost never the strongest possible offer you can make."
Good to know. Added evidence: Many of the most successful direct mail letters of all time lead with a strong sales offer. The majority, in fact.
You'll limit yourself if that's the only kind of lead you learn to write. But it's definitely something to consider next time you're not sure where to begin.
Lant's book, by the way, credits our prolific pal Bob Bly as a source for his "offer" chapter. You can find Lant's book at amazon.com
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