Sales Tip…Choose Bonus Gifts Carefully

The Success Margin

Thursday, July 27, 2006


It was almost impossible to find direct marketing mentors when I started in business. Therefore, much of my education was by necessity trial and error.

One of the many marketing blunders early on in my career was this.

A book I published through my company,Enterprise Publishing, that was written by aprominent lawyer was my first big flop. Of course, I had lots of remaining copies in the warehouse. And this was after I had tried several different copy approaches to sell it.

So, I came up with what I thought was a brilliant idea. I would beef up and enhance the offer of a very successful $70 book I was then marketing.How? By simply adding a free copy of the failed $25 book. My assumption was overall sales would be even stronger than without the free gift. Of course, I wrote some sales copy.

Much to my amazement, sales not only didn’t go up. They went down by more than 33%!

Tip: The important marketing lesson is this. If you can’t sell it, you can’t give it away successfully either. If people won’t buy it when offered in an appealing way, they don’t want it,free or not. Period.

Lesson learned: With any failed product, after you have gone back to the drawing board and exhausted every creative approach you can think of and it still doesn’t sell, get rid of it. Write it off. Burn it or toss it if you have to. Just don’t try to sell it, or try to use it as a free bonus gift. You will waste lots of time and money.

I was again reminded of this important marketing principle above just recently.

A big client of mine who is highly successful catalog marketer asked me to take a look at three recent covers of his catalogs (I write all the copy for this entrepreneur, but I haven’t always chosen his free bonus gifts which are featured on the cover).

He informed me that sales response was down on these particular catalogs and asked me to please take a look and comment as to what may be the reason.

When I looked at the covers, everything looked really good. The headline and subheadline copy (which I wrote) as well as the photos were well done graphically.But there was one glaring problem that popped out to me. The free bonus gifts featured on the cover complete with photos were not at all appealing. Therefore, there was little or no added inducement to order from that particular catalog. (Actually, a company employee in the marketing department purchased the three free gifts because she was offered a special low price by the supplier. It’s easy to see how the decision to choose them was made.)

Tip: To do its proper job of increasing sales, what counts is not your cost of a free bonus gift. The key is that it must be appealing enough to your customers to induce an order, especially from “fence sitters.”

I’m sure with better selection of bonus gifts (that I have now been asked to approve before use) my client’s future catalog sales will undoubtedly be much more successful.

Tip: To increase sales on any offer, add the incentive of free gifts. Everyone likes free gifts. I’ve never seen any offer that didn’t get a more successful response when the inducement of appealing free bonuses was added. In fact, many offers today online and offline will not succeed or even cover front-end costs without them.

By all means use free bonus gifts. But choose them carefully. They can be terrific sales builders. I’ve seen sales double on a previously successful offer simply by adding hot bonuses.

As always, here’s to your greater success, which is always in the margin.

Your correspondent,

Ted Nicholas

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