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Get Smart

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When it comes to direct marketing, the list is important. The creative is important. But, the offer is king.

Basically, the offer spells out what the customer or prospect needs to GIVE and what he or she will GET in return.

We call this the Give/Get Ratio. And, an offer is only as good as the recipient perceives that ratio to be. If you aren't asking them to GIVE much and you've convinced them that what they'll GET is worth more than they have to GIVE, you have a compelling offer.

For example, when we used to work in cable television, a typical offer to a new subscriber might be: "Free Installation and $4.95 for 250 channels your first month." 250 channels sound like a lot, don't they? And, $4.95 doesn't sound like too much. So, the prospect thinks "I'm being asked to GIVE $4.95, and in exchange I'll GET 250 cable channels. Gee!" Assuming they watched television, this was a strong offer.

When choosing and articulating an offer, you always want to make it sound like the customer is getting the better part of the deal. But, did you know that you need to think about the Give/Get Ratio before an offer is even made? At every milestone of your campaign, your audience has a choice to continue or to abort. You may not have asked for money yet, but you are asking them to give their time and attention. They have to believe they will GET more than they GIVE every step of the way.

Think about a typical direct mail package ...

When they pull your piece out of their mailbox, they have to decide whether to open it or send it directly into the nearest wastebasket. Does the envelope tease them with product benefits or part or all of a special offer? Is it intriguing? Is it amusing? Is it mysterious? The person who just received your mail has other things to do. Chances are, they would just as soon throw your hard work away. What can you do to make sure it gets opened? In other words, what will they GET in exchange for GIVING your mail piece some consideration?

Next, the letter. By this point, you should be making a strong case for the product or service you're marketing. But, many people won't read your letter word for word. Can you encourage them to do so with an intriguing Johnson Box or sidebar? Can you challenge them to read on? Can you use typography to call out specific benefits or promises? If they GIVE you the time to read your letter, what will they GET in return?

If you include a brochure, you're asking for even more time and attention. What can you do to make the brochure look like it will be an easy and pleasant read? Are you using photography or illustration to guide your audience through? Are you telling a story? Or giving them valuable information that they can use — whether they respond to your offer or not? It's the same exchange: How hard to they have to work (what do they have to GIVE) and what will they GET in return?

Finally, with the offer card or response mechanism, you have a chance to spell out the Give/Get Ratio of the offer you're making. Are there ways you can articulate it to make the GIVE seem minor and the GET seem major?

"For the price of a cup of coffee each day (minor), you'll have the satisfaction of helping a child in a developing country go to school and ensure a better future for herself and her family (major)."

"For less than $5 (minor), you'll have hundreds of channels to choose from including exclusive programming for every member of your family! (major)"

The truth is, no one is sitting around, crossing their fingers, and hoping they'll get a nice direct mail package from you. (Sorry.) Each recipient is looking out for him or herself.

Your mission (if you choose to accept it) is to convince them at every stage that what they'll GET is worth more than they're being asked to GIVE.

We call that being GET smart.

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