Quick, which offer will pull better: 50% off or Half Off?
Should you offer something FREE or Complimentary?
Buy One Get One Free or BOGO?
If you answered “It depends” to the questions above, you’re right. That is why we test.
The purpose of direct marketing copywriting (and design) is to develop and fine-tune a sales message until it hits that sweet spot with an audience and makes them want to get up and buy what you’re selling. That fine-tuning happens as part of a testing process (for example an A/B split test). In simple terms, two different messages, e.g. 50% Off or Half Off, are sent to two different audience samples, and the results can confirm which offer gives your mailing a lift or pulls greater response. Then it gets rolled out to a larger sample.
Test, Learn, and Repeat
Unlike a softer branding sell, direct marketing is a hard-working discipline, persuading and encouraging immediate action. But we don’t always know the most powerful way to pitch a product or service because one person’s perception may not be another’s reality. What’s more, really effective direct marketing copywriting hits people’s emotions, promising some kind of gain or easing some kind of pain or fear.
Emotions Speak Louder Than Stats
Successful direct marketing hooks people’s self-interest. So you’re almost always better off choosing an emotional approach (“Be debt-free by the end of this year”) instead of asking them to do math (“Get a $15,000 loan at 12.9% APR to pay off your credit cards”). Here’s one last golden nugget: Direct marketers have learned via trial and error that changing a single word can make a measurable difference in positive or negative impact on a promotion. For example: We recently tested a top-line offer of “Consolidate your bills” vs “Consolidate your debt” for a financial services client. The “debt” version pulled better. One word change, better pull.
Smart Direct Marketing Copywriting and Testing Lead to Better Results
Here are some truths that come to us from testing direct marketing copy, according to Wesley Sparling, VP of Marketing Strategy at IWCO Direct:
- Be Specific. People generally respond better to seemingly random specific numbers, such as “Save $156.50” vs “Save $150.” Why? Exact numbers suggest calculation which reinforces credibility.
- Percentages Inspire Action. Percentage discounts above 20% generate better response. Anything less usually fails to motivate.
- Use Numbers Instead of Letters. Offer language of 50% Off vs Half Off needs to be tested because their pull varies among audiences. When you’re unable to test, the general rule is that 50% Off pulls better.
- Make it Matter. There is one constant: To engage and feel motivated to act, people need to be convinced and believe they’re getting a good deal. Powerful tools used by direct marketers include testimonials, evidence-based arguments, and guarantees that a prospect will a) get ahead, b) feel happy and safe, and/or c) be protected if they’re not happy.
Now, about those questions above:
- “Free” is the most powerful word in the English language. “You” is likely a close second. Use them wisely or lose trust.
- Avoid confusing your prospect! Buy One Get One is clearer than BOGO. Best to make it explicit what the offer is, e.g. Buy One Get one FREE or Buy One Get One Half Off, etc.
- Worth noting: 50% Off, Half Off, and BOGO are essentially all offering the same thing. But BOGO will outpull the other two almost every time. Why? Because people emotionally complete the thought with “FREE,” even if that’s not the exact offer.
IWCO Direct Offers Clients a Full-Service Creative Partner
We love it when our clients come to us and ask (in no particular order): “Can you write/design/create a new direct mail package or campaign to help us be more successful in this channel?”
The answer is yes, we can do all those things. With a roster full of creative talent, including designers, writers, and production artists, our creative group works closely with strategy and account teams to produce strategically smart, sharply produced, and thoughtfully targeted direct mail. If it’s copywriting you’re after, our team has years of experience writing in long and short-form marketing, from direct mail and print to digital advertising and broadcast media.
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