Your Marketing Offer Sucks (and so does your headline)

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So often, as marketers, we get our marketing strategy priorities wrong.

Brand stories have taught us that the best way to tell a story about a brand is to make the customer the hero, not the brand.

Customer journey data taught us that we’re trying to get married to prospects on a first date.

Research shows the headline is the most important part of a story, but copywriters see it as an afterthought.

And now marketing offer experts like us are telling marketers like you that you must do better than offer your potential customers a “10% off your first order” low value discount coupons as the call to action.

Your team worked hard to create a compelling sales message for your marketing efforts, but then you just threw in some standard business offer that anyone can get if they try.

Then, when the marketing campaign fails to hit your specific goals, you blame the tactic and try something else.

Sound familiar?

How does this happen?

Everyone thinks writing is easy, so skilled writers that use best practices to move the needle become an undervalued skill.

Many marketers and brand protectors worry that direct response offers will make their marketing “too salesy” or “cheesy” in the eyes of their target market prospects. So they opt for straightforward, boring sentences that don’t pique the reader’s interest instead of an effective marketing offer that can ultimately build the customer base.

A marketer often spends the most time toiling away at entirely different things, like the content marketing assets, graphic inside an educational ebook, the email sequence, or the color choices in a high quality brochure. Then, the headline becomes an afterthought. Sometimes, it’s hard to give the important thing, that little sentence, the attention it deserves when we’re done with the heavy lifting.

Mentally, it’s hard to justify that it takes as long to write ten words as it did 1,200. We treat the headline like any other sentence in the content post and feel like that’s enough.

Mentally, it’s hard to justify that it takes as long to write ten words as it did 1,200. We treat the headline like any other sentence in the content post and feel like that’s enough.

Yet, ironically, the things that trigger action—like a strong headline and a great marketing offer—are treated as afterthoughts. They take up a small amount of real estate, so they are sometimes overlooked within a campaign.

Think of the headline and offer as Manhattan

Think of the headline and the offer as Manhattan and the four boroughs that make up New York City on a U.S. Map. Geographically, it looks tiny and unassuming and not that important. But when you realize the impact of the 9 MM people living in those 300 square miles, you get the importance of that tiny space:

  • .008% of the U.S. land mass
  • 2.7% of the U.S. population
  • 8.27% of the U.S. GDP

Manhattan (technically, the New York metro area) is a tiny area that takes up little physical space. Yet, it is an example of one of the world’s most important commercial, financial and cultural centers.

Your ideal headline and irresistible offer are your campaign’s Manhattan.

Sure, if your eBook is weak or the body of your email doesn’t reinforce your product benefits, you might not get action either. But if you don’t get attention (headline) or close strong (offer), no one will see your materials anyway.

Different ways to write headlines that pique interest at the right time

Direct response guru Frank Kern suggests looking at monthly magazine covers for inspiration. Their headlines make or break impulse purchases at the cash register. There you will notice that most follow the same patterns, including:

  • How to
  • The secret behind
  • Why
  • What you need to know about
  • X ways to
  • X tips to
  • Don’t

Overall these headlines intrigue and entice you enough to want to know more. They speak to you. They compel you to buy the magazine to discover the secret. Or at least read about it while you wait in line. Your headline should do the same. You need to look at what you’re offering and make sure that you’re giving your prospect a compelling reason to stop and read your information. Write multiple headlines and filter them down to the strongest ones. Use compelling, action words. Then, if you’ve got the bandwidth, test multiple headlines to see what resonates best with your prospects.

Do better than “save time and money”

Nearly all solutions save time and money. If you want to grab someone’s attention, you’ve got to be more compelling. One way to do so is to get more specific. How much money? How fast? Another way is to go deeper into why that matters to your target audience. What could they do with that extra time or money that would be meaningful?

6 reasons why your marketing offer probably sucks

Your offer was an afterthought. You know you need a call-to-action, but you don’t have the time to think of any more effective ways to engage than a 10% off purchase coupon. And since that generic offer for new customers has already been approved, why not use it as the CTA?

You’re moving too quickly

Your offer might not align with the step in the customer journey. To generate the best results, each CTA and corresponding offer should align with where your prospect is at that specific point. At the top of the funnel, when you’re trying to generate leads, your prospect is busy learning about the problem, and the solution is first-date territory. You want to give them a reason to commit to a second date, not marriage, a mortgage, timeshare, and two kids.

Starting with the lead generation process, reward your prospect for taking a step toward further engagement. In exchange for doing what you want (like downloading a piece of gated content or completing a survey), show your potential customers some appreciation with a good offer. Think about the customer experience. Give your prospects a chance to win a prize, or give them something useful or valuable, such as access to a current state of the industry report your company commissioned or online access to a senior management presentation on their area of interest. Keep in mind what motivates your audience and the assets you have.

Your reward is too generic

Rewards work when they strategically attract your target audience while repelling all others. For instance, if you were targeting lawyers and offered mugs or t-shirts with a clever legal message, the value of your offer would only appeal to lawyers. Conversely, if you give away Amazon gift cards or iPads, your reward is too generic and may attract those only interested in the prize.

You didn’t make your marketing offer engaging

If you decide to give away only a few prizes (like a sweepstakes instead of a free gift reward), there are seemingly endless ways to execute such a program. The most straightforward (boring, non-engaging) way to structure giveaways is to say, “we will randomly select x winners to win y.” This approach works, but you’re missing an opportunity to be more engaging, create a more successful offer, and build your brand’s reputation.

Gamification is a great way to make marketing activities like giveaways more engaging and fun. You can create a customized digital game like a match and win, spin wheel, scratcher, or slot spinner to make your sweepstakes more sticky and help your prospect better remember your brand.  Gamification is an effective marketing strategy to use on social media, on your website, in email marketing, ad campaigns and more.

You didn’t reinforce a key brand benefit

Look again at the point in the customer journey when you’re delivering this message. What are you trying to tell the prospect about your product or service? What problem will it solve? You can use the offer to reinforce that message. To drive engagement in a loyalty program we developed for Rain Bird, called Fields of Green, our marketing tactics included offering participants a chance to win a trip to the Super Bowl by regularly participating. The prize reinforced the theme but also appealed to our contractor audience. We could have offered tickets to a concert or basketball game, but it wouldn’t have also connected with the brand.

You didn’t offer a reward for non-winners

If you’ve engaged your prospect to play your game, the least you could do is to offer them something if they didn’t win the big prize. Again, it’s all about fun, engagement, and building the relationship through a positive user experience. So what’s a good consolation prize? It’s up to your imagination to create great ideas. For some clients, we’ve offered a mid-funnel demo reward (“oh snap, you didn’t win, but you can get this if you’re interested in a demo”), and in other cases, we’ve entered them into a “second-chance drawing” for any unclaimed prizes. Depending on how you set up your giveaway game, you may not have distributed all your prizes, giving you another chance to reward those interested.

You can also take this moment to try to engage the prospect with another touchpoint—such as another piece of content, quiz, ROI calculator, or assessment, depending on your assets. Always consider the entirety of the journey and what happens as the prospect engages with your campaign when trying to build a successful marketing offer.

Your compelling offer doesn’t have a deadline

Target customers need a deadline. Whether you’re offering a free trial in the middle of the funnel or a money-back guarantee with purchase, you must frame it as a limited-time offer. The good news is that you can save a lot of time by creating a good marketing offer with a small incremental bonus benefit for taking action now. For example, if your standard offer is a 30 day free product trial, you can add a hour of support, and access to an online course, or some other benefit if a prospect signs up before the offer expires at the end of the month. Then, next month, you can alter the bonus but keep the core offer intact.

Give your stellar marketing assets the support they deserve

Do you have a great product or service that can solve a problem for your ideal customer? Then give it the attention it deserves by spending more time and effort piquing the interest of that audience and closing with a compelling the call-to-action. Rethink each touchpoint encounter. Consider that each one is deserving of an interesting headline, and every action worthy of a great offer that encourages a specific action. Then, measure your results.

Accelerate Your Updates with an Expert

If you know your headlines and marketing offers need work quickly, but are overwhelmed at the thought of tackling the task, reach out to us today. We can accelerate your updates and help get your metrics on track before the end of the quarter.

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