Category Archives: offers

Vote for me or pay $927.55


Whatever your politics, you have to admire the U.S. Senate campaign for Linda McMahon, which is warning Connecticut voters that they’ll pay $927.55 more each year on utility bills if they don’t vote for her. That’s the allusion, anyway, in a polished direct mail piece cautioning about proposed cap-and-trade legislation. McMahon bases her claims loosely on two studies, one by the conservative Heritage Foundation that suggests braking pollution could cost the typical American family of four $829, and a more optimistic outlook by the Congressional Budget Office which puts the impact at a few hundred dollars per family, with households in the bottom income quintile even saving money.

Truth aside (this is politics so let’s not worry about that), the piece is brilliant. McMahon is tapping our desire for facts with a hard numeric offer that appeals to human psychology. Direct marketers have known for decades that including a “hook” with a number is one way to boost response rates; consumers are more likely to pick up a mail piece to try to puzzle out whether the deal has positive transaction utility (that is, a good value), and then upon reading it are more likely to take action. Numbers give credence to claims, perhaps because as humans we are overloaded with informational stimulation from the outside world, so we instinctively latch on to any data points with hard clarity. Numbers are filters that help us make judgments by limiting our decision pathways. If we said we were brilliant, you might doubt us, sniffing BS. If we said we had an IQ of 133, you’d likely believe it. Like tall tales about emissions costs, the question is, why does any numeric claim seem more likely to be true?

Please, make us an offer


Ad design gets creative types in sneakers. Schedules get media planners in slacks. Direct mail gets analysts with calculators.

So who is managing your offer?

The “offer” in the ad message often falls between the cracks, because too often there is no clear party responsible for managing it. Creative shops do brilliant design and out-of-the-box thinking, but aren’t pricing strategists. Media planners focus on making advertising targeted and efficient. Call center managers, marketing managers, direct mail agencies, customer analytics teams all have pieces of the marketing puzzle.

And the offer often touches on all, and yet none, of these disciplines.

So take this litmus test of your advertising “offer.”

– Who is responsible for the offer?
– Does it target profitable customers?
– Is your offer aligned with the creative design and media plan?
– Will it generate sales at an acceptable acquisition cost?
– Is it structured to encourage repeat sales in the future from the same customer?
– Or will the offer discourage repeat sales by customers who remember the initial discount?
– Is there a plan to test and refine the offer?
– If you currently have a good offer in place, are you actively testing future offers for improvement?
– Has your call center received deep training on offers in place, and how to sell them verbally when prospects respond?
– Do you have measurement systems in place to monitor any adverse impact of the offer (customer confusion at the call center, perhaps)?
– Are all channels aligned, or do different offers in sales, web, media and direct marketing undercut each other?
– Are you watching competitors’ current offers, and their response to yours?

Yeah, it’s complex. So put a team in place. And make them an offer.