Direct Mail Offers – lead offers, order offers, traffic offers, donor offers

Nothing affects your response rate more than the direct mail offers you use.  This is a critical, but often overlooked, step in the planning of a direct mail campaign.  Direct mail offers not only have an impact on the response rate; they also determine the quality of your response. 

The power of direct mail offers

The offer is the secret sauce of direct mail. Other than lists, nothing in your campaign will affect response more than direct mail offers.

Too often though, the offer is treated as an afterthought. All of the effort is put into the creative process – the writing and design of the mailer – only to realize in the end that they need an offer.  This is a mistake.

The offer should be your first discussion topic and the entire mailer should be built around the offer.

When you understand the offer – and all its nuances – you are on the road to success in direct marketing.

Defining the offer

In direct mail, you hope and expect to generate a response.  (That should be your hope and expectation with advertising too, by the way.)

But people won’t respond to you just because they liked your mailer.

They only respond if you have something to offer – and they are willing to pay you to get it.

In some cases, payment is financial.  In most cases, though, payment is simply a willingness to turn over your email address or other contact information.  (Even free offers aren’t entirely free.)

In many ways, the offer is like a contract in which two parties agree to an exchange with specific terms.  When you change those terms, even in the most minor ways, you have changed that offer.

Different types of offers

Lead generation offers
Lead generation offers are typically free offers designed to get respondents to raise their hands and say “I’m interested!”

The most common lead generation offers are white papers, special reports, information kits, brochures, booklets, catalogs, newsletters, videos, cds, dvds, webinars and seminars.

We also call these lead generation magnets.

Order generation offers
Order generation offers are paid offers. When people respond to these offers, they are using their credit card, writing a check or committing to pay at a later date.

Trial offers
Trial offers are used as a way to get a prospect to get on board with a product or service without making a complete commitment.

Trial offers are presented in different ways.  How you structure your trial is important. Some trials are pure trial and do not require a credit card for later purchasing.

Others are negative trials in that you must cancel after your trial or you will be billed for subsequent months.

Continuity offers
Continuity offers go hand-in-hand with trial offers where products are sold on a monthly basis.

Common examples are magazine subscriptions, membership organizations, book-of-the-month clubs and health clubs.

The offers used for these types of companies are usually free trials for a period followed by an agreed-upon monthly billing.

Traffic building offers
Traffic building offers are most often used by retailers who want to see their stores filled with customers.

The most common traffic building offers are discount coupons or free event promotions.

Traffic building offers are also used for trade show to encourage attendees to visit your booth.

Fundraising offers
Fundraising offers don’t sound like offers at all because it seems like a one-sided proposition. But not really.

Yes, you are asking for a donation. But in return the donors enjoy a feeling of satisfaction for donating to a cause that is important to them.

How you structure your “ask” amounts would be considered the offer.

To provide additional incentives, fundraising promotions can benefit from premiums (free gifts) sent to the entire list (front-end premiums) or only to those who donate (back-end premiums).

The structure of the offer

While the offer itself is critical, how you structure your offer will also have an impact on response.

For example, if you are using a white paper for your lead generation offer, your response will vary depending on how much contact information you require in order to obtain the white paper.

You would need an email address at a minimum, but you may also want complete addresses and telephone numbers.

In order generation, you might be offering your software product for $99, but if you allow a “bill me later” option, you will increase the number of orders you receive (albeit with more bad debt).

If you include a 30-day guarantee, that’s good, but a 90-day or lifetime guarantee is better.

The point is that every offer needs to be treated like a contract with specific terms.  And every time you change those terms, you change your offer.

Get started or learn more

So what’s your next step?  If you’re close to making a move, we’d love to talk.  Call Bob McCarthy at 508-473-8643 or send him an email at

If you’re not there yet, let’s stay in touch.  Please join our mailing list and get all of our updates and articles.

Of course, if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to call.

If you’d like to discuss an upcoming campaign – or if you’re looking for ways to improve an existing mailing program – call us and let’s schedule an introductory call.