THE LEVISON LETTER
Action Ideas For Better Direct Mail,
E-mail, Web Sites & Advertising
Ivan Levison, Direct Response Copywriting
Volume: 21 Number: 5
Make them an offer they can't refuse
The Godfather knew how to get what he wanted.
If you didn¹t accept his offer you¹d wake
with a horse's head in your bed.
Though as a copywriter I do everything
possible to motivate prospects, sadly, I don't
have the Don's persuasive incentives at my
Nope. All I have to offer are White Papers,
Information Kits, free downloads, and
So what's a copywriter to do? The answer is,
think creatively about what offers are
available, and then work hard to find the most
motivating way to present them.
Let me give you an example. A while ago, my
copy of Forbes arrived in the mail. I shook
out the four blow-in cards (those annoying
little cards that tumble out of magazines) and
saw that Forbes was running a subscription
All four cards offered the exact same terms
but were expressed very differently. Below,
you will find my summary of the offers. (I
have stripped out all the selling language so
you could look at the offer in its purest
form.) NOTE: if you do the math and compare
offers, they won't be the same. That's because
Forbes is playing with different subscription
terms which muddies the waters. However, all
rates DO work out identically: $59.95 for a
one year sub. $79.95 for a two year sub. Here
are the offers:
Cover Price: $4.99
YOUR Price: $1.54
Cover Price: $129.74
Your 1YR Cost: $59.95
You Save: $69.79
It¹s like getting 14 Issues Free
Which offer did best? I have no idea, although
if I were a betting man, I would vote for
"Save 53%!" The beauty of the four-way test,
of course, is that it doesn't depend on
anyone's guess. The marketplace provides the
definitive answer and all Forbes has to do is
roll out the test winner.
This begs the important question, what should
Here are three significant variables, other
than the phrasing of your offer, that you
might want to consider testing:
1. The offer itself.
As Bob Stone, the dean of the direct response
business put it, "The propositions you make to
customers can mean the difference between
success or failure. Depending on the offer,
differences in response of 25, 50, 100 percent
and more are commonplace."
2. Your list.
Rather than mail to everyone on a single list,
rent the minimum number of names on a few
lists and test an identical package with each
one. Once you've selected the winner, you can
roll out in force.
3. Your media buys.
How do you know which publications are exactly
right for your product or service if you don't
give them a try? Remember, you can always test
a small-space ad in several publications as a
measurement tool. After you determine the
magazines you want to be in, you can go full
page, full blast. Also, don't forget to
experiment with different ad sizes. Starch
INRA Hooper testing proved that one-third page
ads can actually score higher than their half-
The take-away message this month? It doesn't
always make sense to "go with your gut" and
make key business decisions based on instinct.
If you possibly can, do some testing first and
then make them an offer they can't refuse.
How To Get In Touch
Direct Response Copywriting
14 Los Cerros Drive
Greenbrae, CA 94904
Phone: (415) 461-0672
Fax: (415) 461-7738
Web Site: http://www.levison.com
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Copyright 2006, by Ivan Levison, All Rights Reserved.
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