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Business Copywriting: “The Offer”; Part 4 of 5: Incentives

Incentives, Have you tried the “Carrot on a stick approach”?

Sometimes we need a little nudge to act, something to motivate us. The right incentive can sometimes make all the difference. Publisher’s Clearing House has used sweepstakes for years to encourage people to buy magazines through them. Car manufacturers offer rebates, buy one get one free, discounts, Ginsu Steak Knives with your order, all of these are “sweeteners” for motivating response.

Incentives should be matched to your audience, what are they interested in, does it compliment the main product? You also need to be careful, you can also make the incentive too good. If you are giving away something free with each offer, and then add a “yours to keep, even if you return our product”, you may find a large amount of returns or cancellations if people order just to get the free item. You should also test your incentives to see what works best…are there a couple of different items you can try giving away? Which works best? If offering a cash discount, you may find in testing that $50 off doesn’t increase response anymore than $25 off does.

Some ideas for incentives:

1. Free Samples

“FREE” is the most powerful word in marketing! You find FREE samples in the grocery stores every Saturday and you get them in the mail. You can use them to get current customers to try new services, for example a pool chemical company may send out an offer for a free pool cleaning to help people know that they offer the service and to get them to sign up. Once someone has experienced your product or service…they are more likely to buy if the appreciate the value.

2. Introductory Offers

Health Clubs do this all the time, “3 months for $9.99”, cable and phone companies also use this trick. Some may even offer the service for free for a period. Software companies do this all the time with their “trial” or “light” versions. They know that once you try it there’s a better chance that you will buy it!

3. Free Gifts

This is different from a free sample. There is a whole industry (that I am even part of) that deals in advertising specialty products with your company logo on that you nearly always give away for FREE. People love FREE! Trade Shows are chock full of them. You see it constantly in the commercials, with my personal favorite line “order now and get a free set of Ginsu Steak Knives!”. Buy One Get One Free (or BOGO’s as their frequently referred to) are common. Or for larger products they will give away complimentary items, like buy a guitar and get a free case, buy a grill and get a free set of grill accessories. I even just heard a car commercial this morning that when you buy a new car they will give you a $1,000 Gift Certificate for Christmas Shopping!

4. Coupons

The simple discount has always been a great incentive, and the plus with coupons is that they are one of the easiest promotions to track…just count the coupons redeemed to find out how successful your campaign is.

5. Rewards Cards

These use the “FREE Stuff” approach with an extra loyalty feature. My wife loves her AMC movie rewards card, she will make me go stand in the customer service line to get the points on it if she forgets to pull it out when we buy the tickets. As we purchase more we get free drinks, popcorn and even tickets. We also have a VISA that we specifically use because of the rewards program. It may be harder for the small business to have an actual card program, but that shouldn’t stop you from applying the principle to a rewards program…every time a customer hits a different sales level there may be a gift or discount that they receive.

6. Drawings and Sweepstakes

Sometimes a little incentive to get people to give you their email address and permission to email them can be worth a giveaway. One of my customers just won our national giveaway of a iPad just for going to a website and registering. You know you’ve done it, answered a survey for a chance to win, or again, gone through a bunch of stupid stickers and instructions to send in your Publisher’s Clearing House sweepstakes for that chance to be a millionaire. Look at how much people drop on lotteries…they are PAYING money for a chance to win.

Don’t just blah blah about your product or service, you need to get creative to get people to take action. Sometimes an incentive is the best way!

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