By John Eberhard

The essence of marketing, advertising and promotion is and always has been getting people to respond and then buy your product or service. And where the rubber meets the road, and where it has to meet the road, is when someone actually buys something and pays money for it.

One of the most important decisions in marketing has to do with the offer you present, and the desired action you want the person to take. These are kind of two issues but they work together.

With offers, marketing expert Bob Stone says that the offer is one of the most important factors in determining your response rate to a promotional piece. By “offer” we mean, what are you offering to the person? It could be:

  1. Buy the product now
  2. A free consultation
  3. A free estimate
  4. More info on a product or service
  5. Some kind of free information product, like a free report, white paper, etc.
  6. Newsletter subscription
  7. Free software utility or program
  8. Free giveaway item like a t-shirt or pen
  9. Sweepstakes entry

These offers form a scale, from what we call “hard offers” to “soft offers.” The hard offer is more toward having the person reach for a sales interview right now. The soft offer is more geared towards putting a person onto an email or street mailing list where they will receive more sales oriented offers. Often a soft offer is vital with higher ticket (more expensive) items. I have written a white paper on hard and soft offers.

Similar to an offer, we could make a scale of desired actions, or what we want the prospect to do as a result of the promo piece. These could include:

  1. Buy a product directly online
  2. Request a consultation or sales appointment
  3. Call for more information on the product or service
  4. Fill out of a form for more information
  5. Subscribe to a newsletter
  6. Install an app
  7. Like a Facebook page
  8. Follow someone on Twitter or some other social media site
  9. Like or comment on a post on social media sites like Facebook or LinkedIn
  10. Viewing a video
  11. Request a free giveaway item such as a t-shirt or pen
  12. Enter a sweepstakes

So deciding what your offer will be and what desired action you are going for is vital in putting together any marketing campaign. A softer offer will almost always result in a higher percentage of people responding, and the idea is that you are getting people to respond who aren’t necessarily going to buy something right now, but who would be prospects for purchase later.

But the thing is that a soft offer or softer desired action, to be viable, must lead eventually to people expressing interest in the product or service and buying the product or service. So if you go with a softer offer, you have to track how this goes and how well it leads to actual sales.

Years ago I worked as an employee for a home improvement company. Previous to this, I had worked for some other companies where we had used soft offers very successfully. This home improvement company’s offer was basically, “call us or fill out this form to set up an appointment with a rep at your home.”

I thought a soft offer would increase the response level, so I convinced the owner to offer a free DVD which we would mail out to people, showing the company’s products. So we offered the DVD, and responses did increase. But I was embarrassed to discover that very few of those people ended up setting an appointment. And the owner wanted “appointments, right now.” So we of course switched back to offering an appointment.

What I learned coming out of that experience was that 1) a soft offer isn’t necessarily right for every type of business, 2) the bullseye is and needs to be leads and sales, and 3) humility (one of the hardest things to learn if you’re really seeking results).

For home improvement companies especially, a free appointment, or a free consultation, or a free inspection, is most often the best type of offer.

Today, we have many desired actions that marketers are going for, such as video views, engagement on social media, liking a Facebook page, installing an app, or following someone on social media. But two important things to remember amidst all this are:

  1. Are those desired actions leading to actual leads and/or sales?
  2. The answer to that question will vary greatly according to what type of product or industry you are dealing with

It is vital to look at what type of business or industry you are dealing with, and vital to track whether your offers lead to actual sales.