How to get people to buy from you, right now

qin_terra_cotta_armyI’m going to tell you one of the Great Marketing Strategy Secrets to Still Making Sales, Even in This Crazy Economy.

It’s not copywriting. Or art direction. Or social media, video, or SEO strategy. (Although all those things can help.)

Ready?

It’s the offer.

Offer something of value to your customers, something they really want, and they will buy it. Simple marketing strategy. Works every time.

Case in point.

I just helped Mountain Travel Sobek, a leading adventure travel client “get the phones ringing off the hook” with a good, old-fashioned offer.

Normally, this travel company mails one big, 200-page catalog of all their trips, once a year, along with a handful of smaller books. It’s an expensive proposition. Now, especially because of the economy, their business was down a significant percentage, as was the rest of the industry. And this was after continuing growth over the past few years. They were ripe for something new and ready to try it.

When they brought me in, they were planning to mail one of their regular mini-catalogs and thinking about testing different creative approaches—tone of voice and visual style. Despite the economy, there was a chance that it would bring in some business. After all, getting out there with some frequency can be better than not at all.

But times are tough right now. Travel is particularly down. And my client’s in the high-end. Their trips start in the $2,000 range, without air travel.

The better marketing strategy, I suggested to them, was to include a compelling offer.

If you know direct marketing, you’ve heard that a successful campaign is something like 40% offer, 40% list, and 20% creative.

They already had a plan to test a rented list against their own house list. And a good idea. Why not see if going out to some new names can bring in business if you can rent a good-quality list? (BTW, I know the person in charge of their list management and there’s no way it wasn’t going to be a good list. If you need list help, I’ll give you her info.)

So we talked long and hard about offers. Especially about what kind of offer wouldn’t diminish their brand, since they’re known for quality.

Fortunately, as it happens, they’re celebrating their 40th year in business. So I suggested an offer that’s easy to understand and had a lot of punch. 40th anniversary, 40 free trips. I mean, who doesn’t like to travel for free?

They decided to go for it. We structured the giveaway as a buy-one, get-one free. When you purchased one trip at the full price, you got a free companion ticket.

There was no social networking. No blogging. All promotion was done with direct mail via an 8-page catalog. Plus a restatement of the offer on their website, where a ticker counted down the number of trips remaining vs. the number of days left.

To meet their lead-time for July 1st bookings, we had to move fast. The catalog was at the printer just 10 business days after our first conversation, then out into the mail soon after.

We crossed our fingers.

Then, something amazing happened. After less than one week in people’s homes, the catalog was not only selling trips, it was selling A LOT of trips. In fact, they sold out of all 40 within two weeks of the mail drop.

How did this happen?

A great offer. One that’s easy to understand. One that people want to buy. That’s it. Simple marketing strategy.

Want more proof?

Take a look at Restaurant.com’s recent, ongoing promotions. Normally, they let you buy meals at participating restaurants for 50% off. So you pay $25 and get a certificate worth $50 at the restaurant.

For weeks, they’ve been sending me offers for 50%, 60%, even 70% off their certificates. So I was able to snag $25 certificates for my favorite restaurants for just $3 each. Which I did. And no doubt, other people did, too.

Restaurant.com has been sending me these offers every week for a month. In my experience, that may be a little too frequent. But if it’s working, why not? After all, the restaurant industry is also down. If this is getting people in the doors, do it.

Hopefully, Restaurant.com is doing the smart thing and tracking each of these offers. And even better, sending different ones out simultaneously to really test which work. That’s another key marketing strategy–always test your offers.

Intuit had a similar idea. On April 1st, they offered 50% off all their major QuickBooks and Quicken products, just for the day–and just in time for Tax Day, when accounting is top-of-mind. That’s a great deal, easy to understand, great timing. Did it work? Wish I could tell you. I can say, if it comes up again, we’ll have our answer. (They won’t do it again if it didn’t generate revenue. Or, at the very least, they’ll change the discount.)

So yes, the economy’s difficult. And yes, there are a lot of new tools for reaching people. Lots of new techniques to engage them. And lots of ways to track what they’re doing and where they’re going.

But the fact is, if you have customers, you already know you have something someone wants. The power to drive more business is in your hands. Give your customers and prospects a deal they can’t resist.

You can do it, no matter which industry you’re in, whether you’re B2B or B2C, or what size your business.

Email me and let’s talk about what you have to offer.