Let’s clear up a point of confusion for folks who aren’t professional marketing copywriters: “The Offer” versus “Your Service Offering.”

They sound alike, but In the direct response copywriting world, the offer isn’t that thing you sell on a daily basis (i.e., your widget). The offer is the limited-availability deal in your sales copy that prompts the reader to say yes and take action immediately, such as “buy one widget before Friday, get one free.”

If you want to see offers in action, a great place to look is late-night TV. Every infomercial includes at least one offer if you “call now.” Get a free book light when you order a Snuggie. Get a free masque and priority shipping when you order ProActive Solution in the next 10 minutes. Get a second box of Lipozene free, plus free shipping.

The point of the offer is to get a cold lead to take their first step into our sales process at what they perceive to be no risk or a very low risk. It is also often the first yes in a “yes set,” which is a rapport-building technique we marketers have borrowed from the psychotherapy world.

Why is it important to come up with a killer offer?

Because it’s responsible for about 40% of your response. (The quality of your targets—your list or your traffic—is worth about 40%, meaning that the copywriting and design are only responsible for about 20%.) If you make an irresistible offer to the right person, they’ll say yes—even if that offer is written in crayon on the back of an envelope.

So, what makes a good offer? Any offer that causes your ideal client to say yes is a good offer, from a copywriting perspective.

Last month I was in a part of town I don’t go to often, picking up some building supplies. I had lunch at a new Chinese restaurant that had just opened. After I paid, the cashier wrote something in Chinese on the back of the restaurant’s business card. She said, “Come back discount.” It was literally all in Chinese except for “10%”! And even though the restaurant is out of my way, I’m going back…because 10% off. And I’m bringing back that business card…even though I can’t actually read what it says.

Related Offers

Some persuasive offers are related to the service offering. That 10% discount off my next visit to the Chinese buffet is an example of related offer. Other examples of related offers could include:

  • Buy 3 snow tires, get one free
  • Buy a jar of mustard and get a free recipe booklet
  • Sign up for an estate planning session and get free will preparation

Related offers can be really effective, because they would presumably be as appealing to your target audience as your widget itself is. Related offers help you reinforce your service offer’s desirability and relevance to your Avatar (ideal client persona).

Check out this example of a related offer from a classic Lipozene commercial:

Unrelated Offers

Not surprisingly, unrelated offers are things that don’t necessarily have anything to do with your widget. If you were a housewife in the 1950s and 1960s, you saw a lot of unrelated offers in the laundry detergent aisle at the Piggly Wiggly. If you bought enough boxes of Duz detergent, you could assemble a full set of “Golden Wheat” 24-karat-gold-trimmed dinnerware. Other soap brands offered steak knives, kitchen towels or glassware when you bought a box.

A 24-karat-trimmed glass tumbler isn’t related to laundry detergent. It was, however, coveted by the midcentury modern housewife, which made it a compelling offer. So compelling, in fact, that you can still find Golden Wheat dishes and glasses in thrift stores seventy years later.

Shared on Facebook, author unknown.

More recent examples of unrelated offers include:

  • Buy copywriting services valued at $995 and up, and get a free resort vacation voucher (coming soon to this blog!)
  • Open a business line of credit and get a free high-end Yeti cooler (this offer is on the radio as I speak.)
  • Register for a webinar and be entered to win a free iPad (Note: 2012 called—they want their offer back.)

Yes, unrelated offers can be just as effective as related offers. However, they’re not fool-proof. Our job as marketing copywriters is to sell the offer, not the widget. That means that sometimes, a person who takes you up on your offer has no intention of becoming a regular widget customer.

Remember our definition of a good offer? Any offer that causes your ideal client to say yes is a good offer. A better offer is one that reinforces your brand, demonstrates your USP, or generates buzz.

As you make your way through your day today, pay attention to the number of offers you’re exposed to…and which ones you find irresistible.

Kathleen Hanover
Certified Go-Giver Speaker and Copywriting Trainer
Kathleen Hanover helps entrepreneurs tell their story, attract their ideal audiences, and persuasively communicate their value. As a highly-regarded marketing copywriting trainer, she teaches persuasion psychology and the magic words that build rapport and sales. And as Ohio's first Certified Go-Giver Speaker, Kathleen shares the Five Laws of Stratospheric Success from the international best-seller, "The Go-Giver," by Bob Burg and John David Mann, with business and community audiences alike.
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