May 2010
Copywriting Curiosities
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Creating Offers That Don't Suck
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Dear Robyn,

My favorite type of client is one who is willing to take chances and try something different. How do I know if the client is serious? The easiest way for me to gauge this is by discussing the offers they're willing to provide to their customers and prospects. The companies I work with are the ones who understand "no offer" is better than an offer that sucks.

But how do you avoid creating bad offers? That's the theme of this month's newsletter.

Enjoy the issue, and hit me back with your comments.

Robyn (The Copy Bitch)
Creating Offers That Don't Suck 

You've probably heard the buzz phrase "customer engagement" bantered about over the last few years. It's not a new concept: if you keep customers engaged with your company, your products, and/or your services, they will remember you, stay loyal to you, and even refer you to their colleagues, family members, and friends.

How do you keep 'em engaged? More and more businesses provide some sort of "offer," usually something for free or at a discount--a coupon, a thought paper, a subscription--you get the idea. But the thing you need to keep in mind is that simply having an offer isn't enough. It needs to be the right offer for your audience.

So how do you create the right offer--offers that foster customer loyalty, referrals, and everything else that goes with an engaged customer? The formula is simple. It's the execution that often trips people up.
  • Think about your customers' pain points.
  • What can you do to alleviate--or even eliminate-- their pain?
  • Make that your offer.
So why does the execution so often fail? There are many reasons. Some companies have a hard time justifying offering anything at a discount or--dog forbid--for free. Some companies don't put as much effort in their offers because these offers might not generate any (immediate) sales, so why should they waste valuable resources on a freebie? Some businesses create offers that make sense to them, but not their customers. Some companies fall victim to the "build it and they will come" philosophy. Even the best offers need initial promotion--yes, great offers can go viral, but they need to start somewhere.

Here are some tips to help you create (and execute) offers that don't suck:

Offer something of value.
In the end, people don't remember "free" or "discount." They remember, "Wow, this [insert offer here] really helped me with [pain point]." Offering something of value will cost you time, money, maybe both. But check out these important benefits:
  • Branding your company in the customer's mind. If you give people something that's valuable (in their eyes--remember, perception is reality), you stand a much greater chance of being remembered when the customer needs a service or product like yours.
  • Creating potential viral activity. If you create something of value that's useful to me, I'll be telling my friends, family, colleagues etc. If they partake in the offer and have a similar experience, they'll likely do the same thing.
  • Doing something good for your customer or potential customer. I realize you are in business to make money, but that doesn't mean you can't help people while you're at it. (Yes, really.)
I work closely with a marketing firm called Precision Marketing Group, and one of its clients designs corporate mentoring programs. The client's website has multiple offers. Two of the most popular include a "Sample RFP" that we created that people can download and customize and a white paper that gives people practical, doable ideas for leveraging their corporate mentoring program across different media so that the company gets the biggest bang on its ROI.

Be genuine.
The best offers come from the heart, which I realize might sound difficult to do, at first blush, especially if you're a faceless company. But before you cast aside this idea, consider Domino's "Pizza Turnaround" promotion. Part of the company's promotion of their newly formulated pizza was offering a total refund to people who didn't like it. Their commercials emphasized their commitment to this offer. The pizza maker at the end of the commercial said that they were serious about refunding the whole amount, not just a partial amount.

Offer something unexpected.
When you offer something unexpected, you stand an even greater chance of lingering in people's minds. One of my favorite charities is Smile Train, and last year, it sent me a free DVD of an Academy award-winning movie (Smile Pinki) based on its organization. Seth Godin sent me a free copy of his latest book, Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?, since I'd purchased his box set collection last year. The beauty of these unexpected offers is that I remember them, I talk about them, and I can easily share them with others.

Test your offers.
Like everything else you do in marketing, test, test, test. Ask your customers what they want (social media channels, like Facebook, are a great way to survey your customers). You might be surprised what they find of value. I worked in radio for over a decade, and what people would do for a key chain always surprised me.

Be strategic in what you offer "free and clear" and in what items you require people to fill out a form.
On the one hand, you want to get people's info so that you can keep marketing to them (since they've shown an interest in what you have to offer). But sometimes it makes sense to give things away free and clear. How do you determine which strategy is best for your business?
  • If you have the type of business where you have multiple offers going on at the same time, decide which ones will be free and clear and which ones will require some sort of action on the customer's part (e.g. sign up for our newsletter).
  • If you're experimenting with an offer for the first time, or you're just focusing on one offer at a time, I do recommend requiring the person to provide some sort of information--even if it's just name and email (B2B companies might want to add company name and phone number fields as well). These offers are also a great place to ask people if they want to sign up for your email list.
An example of a company that does both: HubSpot. HubSpot is all about helping businesses create a successful online presence. You can download their webinars, thought papers, reports, etc. Some are free and clear, and others require you to fill out a brief form.

Quick-hitting ideas for some businesses (off the top of my head) and examples of real-life companies with great offers:
  • Acupuncture: free booklet of recipes to help with a specific ailment (e.g. stress, PMS, chronic pain)
  • Computer companies: free step-by-step "tips" sheet on specific computer maintenance (e.g. "How to defrag your computer")
  • Diners/restaurants/coffee houses: frequent customer card
  • Valued customer vendor programs: as a valued customer, here are discounts to other companies/organizations you might like (AAA does this well--I was able to get a discount on my cat's insulin by flashing my AAA card at the pharmacist)
  • Email club offer: become part of our email club, get a coupon (retailers like Gap do this well)
  • Service companies: "Refer a Friend" programs--the customer gets a discount if their friends sign up for your service
Do you need help coming up with a great offer for your company--and executing it so it goes off without a hitch? That would be a perfect project for Rent My Noggin. Check it out and contact me today.

Have a wonderful and safe Memorial Day Weekend. See you in a month.

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