“What’s In It for Me?” The Importance of the Offer

“That ad is driving me nuts,” I remarked at dinner the other night.

My husband was out of town so it was just my kids and me. The new phone book had arrived earlier in the day, and someone (probably me) had left it face down on the dining room table. “Why?” asked my son Isaac with a grin. He knew what was coming. At 14 ½, he’s deep into the let’s-dissect-reality stage. Even though he’s not into advertising, he enjoys the process of picking ads apart.

“Because there’s no offer,” I said.

The ad in question was for a home improvement magazine, and occupied the entire back of the book . Prime real estate. Not cheap. It was eye-catching in its simplicity: a logo, a tagline, a graphic of the magazine, and – way down at the bottom and contiguous with the border – a URL.

“What do you mean, ‘offer’?”

“It doesn’t give you a good reason to buy anything,” piped up my daughter Clara. She’s 11, and loves advertising. Mostly because she loves to shop. “Not like the Highlights ads. They’re always saying, ‘go here, win this, get that.’ It drives me crazy, ’cause I end up wanting everything. “

“Right,” I said. “What if these guys offered a free trial issue, don’t you think they’d get more people going to their website and ordering? And then they’d have names they could keep selling to. If their magazine is any good, a lot of those people would end up buying a subscription.”

“Yeah,” Clara exclaimed. She was getting excited. “Or they could have a contest.”

I have to admit, my daughter can be brilliant.

“Oh, yeah!” I said. “They could have people sign up for a chance to win a whole year’s subscription. It would cost less than sending everyone a free issue. Bet they’d get ten times more people to their site, too. Heck, I might even sign up.”

Out of curiosity, I visited the site. And there it was. Not obvious, but definitely present: an image of their magazine cover, and in small print on the corner, ”Click Here for your Issue.”

They had an entire issue posted online, for free! Couldn’t they have mentioned that in the ad? I clicked. To my amazement, they didn’t even ask for my contact information. Just gave it to me. Some pretty nice stuff, too. Video, even.

Hey, we just happen to be remodeling our house. My husband is a real do-it-yourselfer. (I’m not a bad hand with a cordless drill myself.) In many ways I’m a prime prospect for these folks. But the only reason I left the dinner table to visit their site was to take a look at their marketing strategy. Had I been a normal person, would I have bothered?

Without a stronger incentive than a picture of their pretty covers, not likely.

Pass the potatoes.

Folks, never assume your prospect is going to be interested in you. Even if you’re perfect for them. Even if they really, really need you. It’s up to you to catch their interest and lure then in. And that means think the way your prospect thinks, not the way you do.

What about your last ad? Did you give your prospect a real reason to look you up? Or did you just feature what you found exciting? How did your prospects respond?

Anne Michelsen helps Green companies build sustainable connections with their customers with her dynamic sales copy and marketing expertise. Visit GreenInkCopywriting.com for a free copy of her report, “Making Sense of the Green Sector: What Every Marketer Should Know About Selling Sustainable Products and Services.”


  1. says

    Brilliant concept giveaways. I plan to do some prize giveaways at speaking events to those who buy my book coming out in August. Everyone who buys a book gets a ticket for a drawing for a free t-shirt or mug with the book cover art on it. The last event that I attended the author – and all of that attended were fans of hers – gave raffle tickets for a basket of her books and for everyone that purchased a book she gave away a candle that was tied in to the cover art. Very clever! So is your daughter…

  2. says

    Thanks, Loni! (Sometimes she’s too clever!);-)

    Another fun idea I picked up at the last conference I attended: place little stars or stickers on the backs or arms of some of the chairs. Then at various times during your presentation, or between presentations if you’re the MC, announce that whoever has, say, a green star on the chair back in front of them has won a prize. It’s not really an offer but it does spice up your presentation and is a great way to advertise whatever it is you’re giving away. (The my-neighbor-won-one-so-I-want-one-too effect.) And you could certainly turn it into an offer by announcing a discount on the item after the presentation for anyone who didn’t win one.