Direct Mail Offers: Eight Steps to Making them Effective

Alan Sharpe

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Every direct mail package you drop in the mail should contain an offer. The offer is the incentive or reward that motivates prospects to respond to your mailing, either with an order or with a request for more information. “Subscribe to Hook, Line and Sinker today and save 45% off the newsstand price” is an example of an offer. To be effective, your offers must pass eight tests.

Test 1. Is your offer specific?
“Visit our website for more information” is not an offer. Your offer must be specific and tangible.

Test 2. Is your offer exclusive?
Are you making your offer only to a select few (and making them feel that they are an exclusive bunch), or are you making your offer to everyone and his dog? For example, is your mailing envelope addressed to “Occupant”?

Test 3. Is your offer valuable?
Will your prospects perceive your offer to be of value to them? Your offer may be inexpensive for you to offer, but it must have high perceived value to your potential customers. For example, a $100 gift card to The Home Depot has high perceived value to your prospects, but is inexpensive for you to offer if it lands you a sale worth $5,000.

Test 4. Is your offer unique?
Is the deal you are offering only available through your business?

Test 5. Is your offer useful?
Your offer can be exclusive but useless (an engraved pet rock). Or unique and useless (a bag of dust from Mars). Make sure your offer helps your prospects save money, save time, do their jobs better or is something else just as helpful.

Test 6. Is your offer relevant?
You could offer a 40% volume discount on laptop computers to both travelling salespeople and to computer retailers. Both groups buy laptops, both groups appreciate a discount, but only one group buys in volume.

Test 7. Is your offer plausible?
Some offers are too good to be true. Others are silly. I received an email from a spammer, offering me one million email addresses in electronic format for only $240. “Order now. Quantities are limited, ” he said.

Test 8. Is your offer easy to acquire?
The harder you make it for your prospects to obtain your offer, the lower your response rates will be. So make your order forms clear, simple and short, your toll-free phone number obvious on the page, and your conditions of purchase few.

Alan is a business-to-business direct mail copywriter and lead generation consultant. As President of Sharpe Copy Inc. ( ), Alan specializes in helping businesses generate leads, close sales and retain customers, using cost-effective, compelling direct mail and email marketing. Alan also uses his direct mail advertising services to help charities raise funds and raise awareness of their causes, using fundraising letters.


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