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Attributes that define a good or bad offer

Posted by Sheera Eby on November 14, 2013

One of the core principles of direct marketing is provide a reason to act NOW. Many marketers are not fully leveraging offers or incentives, which are a proven technique to increase response. Utilizing offers that are time-sensitive and provide reasons to act now can drive response and deliver marketing channel effectiveness.



Offers and incentives are one of the most critical levers that can impact click-through and conversion rates in email or response in direct mail. More often than not, offers and targeting will define the success or failure of a marketing communications effort. The reality is that creative isn’t nearly as critical of a factor in driving response as offers and targeting. Here are 7 attributes that define an effective offer or incentive.



1. Offer is a motivator.
Ensure your offer is motivating to take a certain action. One of the core attributes of an effective incentive is offering something that the recipient will find motivating to drive them to sign up or take the desired action. It should be clear that in order to receive the offer, the recipient must take an action.


2. Incentive has perceived exclusivity and requires action.
Establish the perception that the offer isn’t available to just anyone and that an action needs to be taken to receive the benefit. If the offer is available to anyone, regardless of purchase, it isn’t really an incentive to respond.Red carpet with velvet rope and stanchions. This is one of the key reasons that sweepstakes aren’t great motivators and are seldom recommended to be utilized as an incentive. A sweepstakes can’t be contingent on purchase; therefore, it doesn’t meet this core attribute of a good offer.

Techniques that help deliver on the exclusivity attribute include leveraging a limited timeframe, limited availability or limited quantity of participants. All of these techniques help deliver the ideas of exclusivity and accessibility, a core direct marketing best practice.


3. Clarity and simplicity in offer structure.
Simplicity in offers and incentives is vital and a core direct marketing best practice. Don’t make it complicated or in any way a challenge for the target to understand your offer or incentive. One of the core direct marketing best practices is to make it as easy as possible for the recipient to respond. Requiring someone to really concentrate on evaluating the incentive is a complete derailment, can lead to procrastination and ultimately suppress response. Ensuring offer simplicity and clarity is critical in getting respondents to “yes.”

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4. Offer needs perceived value.
An incentive needs to have perceived value. In other words, if the incentive is a bunch of products that didn’t sell well, there is a good likelihood the offer won’t be well received. Although dollar value offers tend to perform the strongest, that doesn’t rule out the use of product/merchandise offers. Just ensure the product or merchandise has a genuine value and is perceived as a motivator and incentive to get the target to “yes.”


5. Don’t forget expiration dates.
One of the fundamental proven direct marketing best practices is to provide an expiration date. Why would someone act now when procrastinating is so much easier? If the offer doesn’t have an end date, it simply won’t be as effective. Due dates are a critical element in response marketing. An expiration date ensures the recipient knows when they need to take action by or risk not being able to take advantage of that offer.


6. Ensure proper integration with the call-to-action.
Calls-to-action should be tied directly to the offer or incentive. The reader should believe that there is a sense of urgency that is tied directly to signing up or taking the action requested. The trick is finding that optimal language to describe the offer as it relates to the call-to-action.


7. Don’t fall into the one-size-fits-all offer trap.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking one offer will work the same for everyone. Tailoring and relevancy are some of the most prevailing themes in marketing today. Consider how to tailor offers and incentives for different groups. This can be employing value-based offers based on differing spending levels or merchandising incentives based on different buying behavior.

11.14 3Relevancy is becoming the defining characteristic in marketing channel effectiveness. This year, J&C conducted several communication preference research studies. And we have universally found that customers prefer and have come to expect personalized communications.

Targeted marketing channels such as direct mail and email allow for testing. A direct marketing best practice is to utilize segmentation, targeting and personalization to deliver relevancy. Offer tailoring should be considered for testing. Incentives are an element that can be easily evaluated to determine if the cost and time investment provides a positive return on marketing investment.





Offers are one of the most critical contributors to marketing channel effectiveness and a direct marketing best practice. In reality, the same core direct marketing best practices can be leveraged across a number of different channels, including direct mail and email.

Topics: Email Marketing

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