If you're using direct marketing to sell your products and services, then you know that it's all about making an offer.

But are you testing your offers to find out what work best?

Did you know there are many ways to present an offer that can boost your response and increase your sales?

There are hundreds of offers and thousands, perhaps millions, of offer variations you can test. However, some offers are proven winners. Here are 59 of them.

1. Free Trial. This may be the best offer ever devised. People can try your product for free and without obligation for 10 days, 15 days, 30 days, or more. The time frame should fit the product. This offer removes risk for the prospect and overcomes buying inertia.

2. Money-Back Guarantee. This is perhaps the second-best offer. A customer pays up front—but if dissatisfied can return the item for a full refund. Like the free trial, this offer removes risk but allows you to use customer inertia because only a small percentage of people will take the trouble to return something.

3. Free Gift. When you offer a freebie that your customer wants, your offer will usually outpull a discount offer of similar value. That's because a gift is a more tangible benefit.

4. Limited-Time. An offer with a time limit gets more response than an offer without one, especially when you give a specific deadline. It forces a decision, and the faster a decision the more likely it will be in your favor.

5. Yes/No. You ask your prospect to respond positively or negatively, usually by affixing a Yes or No stamp, checking one of two boxes, returning one of two reply forms, etc. This offer creates involvement and usually pulls more response than an offer without a No option.

6. Negative Option. This option is generally used with a free trial. You allow your prospect to try your product for free and then you bill (or begin repeated automatic shipments) unless the prospect specifically refuses the order within a certain timeframe. Often the result is higher returns and a few more irate phone calls, but the negative option pulls better up front and can produce higher overall sales.

7. Credit-Card Payment. Nothing is easier than paying with plastic. These days, there's no reason not to accept credit cards, whether by phone, mail, fax, or the Internet.

8. Sweepstakes. You can dramatically increase your order volume. Just remember that running a sweepstakes can be a pain, sweepstakes customers are seldom loyal, and many marketers find that once they start using sweepstakes it's hard to go back to more-traditional offers.

9. Double-Your-Money-Back Guarantee. Since most people never make a return, this is a simple way to dramatize both your offer and your guarantee for low-priced items.

10. Long-Term Guarantee. This is another way to dramatize your offer and guarantee. Instead of a 30- or 60-day guarantee, you offer a one-year, multiyear, or lifetime guarantee. If you can reasonably expect your product to last, this puts inertia and forgetfulness on your side because few people will take advantage of, or even remember, your guarantee later on.

11. Guaranteed Buy-Back. This is just another way of offering a standard money-back guarantee. You offer to "buy back" the item if your customer is not satisfied. It is often used with collectibles and durable goods.

12. Guaranteed Acceptance. If people usually go through an application process to use your product, access your service, or join your club, you can provide a guarantee to accept them. You'll often see this offer with credit-card or financial products.

13. Limited-Time Introduction. This lets prospects try something with little risk before making a greater commitment. "Try 13 weeks of The Wall Street Journal for only $34.00." You must track responses, though, and be sure your conversions justify the lower price.

14. Yes/Maybe. This is another way of making a low-commitment or no-obligation offer. You're happy to get the maybe response, which could be for a free trial, product information, an introductory offer, etc. And if you get some yes responses, that's gravy.

15. Dollars Off. You offer a certificate or coupon with a dollar value that may be redeemed toward a purchase. Or you simply show the original price, cross it out, and offer a lower price. However, test carefully, because a free gift of equal value often works better.

16. Refunds and Rebates. With a refund, you may ask $3 for your catalog and send a $3 discount certificate to be used on a first order. With a rebate, you offer a delayed discount, which encourages a purchase, and then you send a check or coupon with a particular value.

17. Sales. A seasonal sale is a trusty standby to raise volume. A "reason why" sale is similar but gives some explanation for lowering the price, such as going out of business, inventory reduction, or overstock.

18. Introductory Price. This allows people to try something at a reduced cost for a short period. You can use this to get new customers, though it may annoy loyal customers who might feel they should get the best price.

19. Relationship Discount. This is the opposite of the introductory price. For example, new customers pay $30, while regular customers pay just $25. The goal is to reward current customers, not get new customers.

20. Group Discount. To target certain markets, you can offer a special discount exclusive to a type of profession, industry, club, etc. For example, an investment magazine can offer a "professional discount" for accountants.

21. Quantity Discount. The larger the order, the better the deal. For example, if your customer orders five books, you provide a 5% discount, or you offer a lower per-issue price for a two-year subscription than for a one-year subscription.

22. Step-Up Discount. This resembles the quantity discount but is based on the incremental dollar amount. For example, a 5% discount for orders over $50, a 10% discount for orders over $100, and a 15% discount for orders over $250.

23. Early-Bird Discount. This encourages more and faster orders. Make sure the discount is a real discount. Don't just raise prices for those who order later.

24. Price-Matching. If you compete on price, you offer to match any competitor's price. The idea is to assure prospects that you offer low prices.

25. Trade-In. You offer dollars off when a customer trades in a previous model or version and buys a new one. The trade-in can be your own brand or a competitor's.

26. Last Chance. This is usually a reminder that you've previously made an offer and time is running out. If you say "Last Chance," mean it.

27. Limited Edition. This works well for art, plates, coins, special book printings, and other collectibles. The item is special in some way, and there is only a limited number available or there's a time limit on the item's availability.

28. Enrollment Period. You establish a "window of opportunity" when prospects may enroll for insurance, home study, business services, etc.

29. Pre-Publication Offer. This is a popular offer used by book publishers, especially for expensive reference works. You need to plan your print run, so you offer a special deal to reserve copies. Readers are guaranteed a copy and save money, usually 10% or 15% off what others will pay. Actually, you could use this for anything that is "published," such as software, but you'll need a different explanation.

30. Price-Increase Announcement. Announce price increases ahead of time so people can take advantage of the old prices one last time or can stock up.

31. Charter Membership. You offer the chance to be one of the first to subscribe to a publication or join a club or an organization. A special introductory price, gift, or other incentive is usually included.

32. Payment With Order. This is not a motivating offer by itself, but it is simple, straightforward, and easy to understand. It's often used with a money-back guarantee and sometimes with other incentives, such as a credit-card-payment option or a premium.

33. Bill Me Later. You get some of the promotional power of a free trial offer but with a stronger sense of obligation. This appeals to the modern consumer who has been trained to postpone payment until the last possible moment. It can double response over a straight cash-up-front offer.

34. Installments. This offer takes a larger price and divides it into a set number of smaller monthly payments, usually with no interest. This makes a high price less painful. It's most effective when you highlight the installment amount and de-emphasize the total price. You can come up with your own name for it, such as "Value Pay."

35. Positive Option. This is the reverse of a negative option: The customer must take some action for an item to be billed or shipped. Response to this offer is lower than it is to a negative option, but overall customer quality is often better.

36. Reservation Option. You offer to reserve or set aside an item that will soon be announced to the general public and which may sell out. You may also give a special price or a premium as a reward for responding by a certain date. It's similar to the pre-publication offer but has more urgency.

37. Free Shipping. People are used to paying extra for shipping and consider it a necessary evil. But you can offer it free as an unexpected and inexpensive incentive.

38. Gift-Shipping Service. A customer sends you a gift list, and you send the gifts directly to everyone on the list for free or for a nominal charge. It's convenient and generates a lot of orders simultaneously.

39. Rush-Shipping Service. You promise to ship an item overnight or within a shorter time period than normal shipping. As with gift shipping, you can offer this for free or for a small additional charge to cover the extra cost of FedEx, UPS, or other service.

40. Free Keeper Gift. This encourages prospects to make the decision to try your product or service. You offer a gift, and they can keep it even if they change their minds later on.

41. Free Gift With Payment. This encourages prompt payment, increases cash flow, and helps reduce instances of no payment. You can give a gift for every paid order or for orders of a minimum value. You can offer one gift or multiple gifts.

42. Choice of Free Gifts. You offer a choice between two or more gifts. Though this seems very appealing, it's less effective than offering a single gift, since the choice may create indecision and inertia.

43. Stepped Free Gifts. You reward customers based on order size. The more they order, the more gifts they get or the higher the gift quality.

44. Two-Step Gift. The customer gets a small gift for taking a first step and a bigger gift for taking the next step. For example, you can offer a freebie for trying your product and then another freebie for buying the product.

45. Cumulative Incentives. This is a reward for customer loyalty, such as points for buying books, frequent-flier miles, or every 13th rental free. This approach works best when the customer can see the value increasing. For example, you can provide a running total of points earned on each billing statement or order form.

46. Deluxe Version. You offer a second version of the same item, but with enhanced features, for a little more money.

47. Good-Better-Best. This gives your prospect a choice of quality. It also subtly urges people to spend more than they might if you can demonstrate that the "best" choice is the best value. Ideally, you should show more features for higher-quality items.

48. Load Up. In a continuity series, you send all the items in a series after the first few are paid for, allowing your customer to continue paying month to month. Or you might offer a certain number of items for a low price with a commitment to buy a certain number at the regular price within a certain time frame.

49. Membership Fee. You ask your prospect to pay a onetime fee to become an exclusive member of your club or organization in return for reduced prices and other benefits not available to the general public. The fee can be assessed yearly, or it can be a larger, onetime, lifetime fee.

50. Ship Till Forbid. This is often used with continuity programs, business services, or perishable products. Your customer gets the convenience of regular shipments and the option of canceling those shipments at any time while you get regular orders.

51. Free Information. This is the ideal offer for identifying interested prospects for a sales staff, making two-step sales, creating a list, and initiating a first contact for a long-term relationship or sales cycle.

52. Free Samples. If you have a good product, it can sell itself if you can get a sample into a prospect's hands. You can offer a free sample or charge a nominal fee (which may encourage the prospect to try it).

53. Free Gift for Inquiry. You offer a gift as a reward for requesting information about your product or service. As you might expect, this can boost the number of prospects who inquire but lower their quality.

54. Sales Call. Your prospect asks for a salesperson to call and set up an appointment. This produces high-quality leads, but a much lower overall response. Generally, those who want to talk to a salesperson are ready to buy.

55. Free Survey of Your Needs. You offer to analyze your prospect's requirements with no obligation. When the prospect responds, you show how your product or service can fulfill those requirements.

56. Free Demonstration. This is especially good for new or complex equipment. You offer to bring the item to the prospect or invite the prospect to a particular location for a demonstration. You can also send a free CD demo or offer a demo version of the product.

57. Free Estimate. For businesses that get bids or analyze costs carefully, this a good first step for getting a foot in the door.

58. Free Subscription. You offer a subscription to a newsletter, journal, or other company publication to educate prospects and build your database. It should include valuable editorial material, not just promotional puffery.

59. Member-Get-a-Member. You give your customer a free gift for providing the name of someone else who may be interested in your wares. This is a good way to build your customer base.

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If you think your offer lacks the energy it needs, try something new. Testing new ideas can electrify your offer and give your business the spark it needs to boost sales and profits.

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Dean Rieck is a direct-marketing copywriter and consultant (www.directcreative.com), and publishes the popular Direct Creative Blog (www.directcreative.com/blog) and Pro Copy Tips (www.procopytips.com).