Digital MarketingEmail MarketingThe All-Important Offer

The All-Important Offer

The offer: what it is and why it matters to your email campaign. But first, the winner of our April Fool’s Day contest!

I hope that you guys finally finished your taxes and Uncle Sam rewards you with a fat refund.

Speaking of rewards, before getting down to business we have an April Fool’s contest winner from my last article. I received a ton of submissions for the most entertaining prank. Thanks, everyone. I had no idea so many of you are such jokesters. Good to know you’re a fun group!

It was an agonizing choice. So many of the entries were incredibly amusing and devious.

And the winner is… (drum roll)… Lynda Partner, CEO of GotMarketing.

Are you ready for this? Lynda’s story (in her own words):

When you sign up to use our permission-based email marketing software (Campaigner), you agree in the End User License agreement not to use email for inappropriate purposes, which include campaigns using inappropriate content or images, etc. We have an automated filter feature that sets off a warning if the content includes any of a few selected words. This permits the campaign owner to double-check the use of the software and adherence to the license agreement.

On April 1, one of our largest customers called to say his campaign had not gone out. It was stalled at our end because it contained the name “Dick Jones,” and the word “Dick” was being caught in the filter. Then the customer support manager came in to tell me what was going on.

First, there was the sound of a jaw (mine) hitting the desktop, “What the?”

Then, confusion. “Not possible. The product doesn’t do that! Not possible!”

Then, there was the inevitable, carefully worded question to the development team: “What the #*$&#* is going on with the product???”

Then, a flurry of checking and double-checking. The QA guys were desperately trying not to smile as they solemnly created and sent test campaigns that included every inappropriate word they could think of. “Well, it might be a particular combination of words that’s stopping only some campaigns.” The flurry of testing became a storm, muffled chuckles continued to float over from the testing group. Email campaigns, the likes of which you’ve never seen before, were sent to selected internal people judged strong enough to take it.

Eventually, suspicion set in. Ultimately, they were laughing so hard it could not be kept secret any longer.

I was completely taken in.

Great story, Lynda! You are the lucky winner of “Permission-Based E-Mail Marketing That Works!

The Role of the Offer

OK, down to business. I’ve had several emails from readers requesting we write an article about the offer: what it is, its role in email promotion, and how to develop an offer that’s compelling. Your wish is my command.

Before we go into the specifics of developing an offer, let’s review why an offer is needed in email communications in the first place.

Essentially, as we’ve stressed in past columns, email marketing is direct marketing. It’s important to keep that in mind when you put campaigns together.

What Is an Offer?

An offer is the carrot, or incentive, you give your target audience to incite them to action. The offer can include price but encompasses more than that. Compelling offers make your email message stand apart from the clutter.

The best email promotions usually contain primary and secondary offers.

The primary offer is created to appeal specifically to your defined target audience. The secondary offer comprises your brand, your services or products, and everything else that is your business.

Motivating Your Target Audience Through Assumptions

To understand what motivates your target audience, it’s important to make some assumptions about their pain points.

What’s a pain point? Something that weighs heavily on your target audience’s mind. Are they worried about saving money? Time? Do they need to win admiration from others? Affection? There are so many angles — the only limit is your imagination.

You may have heard of Victor Schwab, the famous direct marketer. He came up with a list of strong emotional appeals for an intended audience. This list is timeless and should be reviewed when making your assumptions:

  • People want to gain health, popularity, praise from others, pride of accomplishment, self-confidence, time, improved appearance, comfort, social and business advancement, money, security in old age, leisure, increased enjoyment, and personal prestige.
  • They want to save time, money, and work.
  • They want to avoid discomfort, risks, worry, embarrassment, and doubts.
  • They want to express their personalities, satisfy their curiosities, appreciate beauty, win others’ affections, resist domination by others, emulate the admirable, acquire or collect things, and generally improve themselves.
  • They want to be good parents, creative, efficient, recognized authorities, up to date, gregarious, leaders, sociable, hospitable, proud of their possessions, and influential over others.

Once you review this list, you’ll probably have some good ideas about what assumptions you can make. Don’t forget to bear your competitors in mind.

Put your thoughts on paper. Write a comprehensive communications brief on the subject. There are many different opinions about what should be incorporated into a brief, but important elements include:

  • A summary of the project, including background information and goals of the communication
  • A summary of the target audience: who they are, what they do, age, gender, and so on
  • An overview of the target audience’s key state of mind
  • How you want your target audience to respond to your communication
  • Communication strategy: how you convince your target audience
  • Competitive positioning and general information
  • Targeted message you want to convey, with offer details described above
  • Mandatory inclusions, such as the logo and toll-free number

This overview should give you the basics of an offer’s role of in email marketing and how to make it motivating to your target audience. For more on the communications brief, check out my article on that subject.

Drop me an email with your thoughts and suggestions. I always love to hear from you!

Best regards,


Related Articles

What does the future hold for email? We asked our readers

Email What does the future hold for email? We asked our readers

8m Rebecca Sentance
Round-up: The Future of Email

Email Round-up: The Future of Email

8m Rebecca Sentance
How these 11 brands are nailing cart abandonment emails

Email How these 11 brands are nailing cart abandonment emails

8m Tereza Litsa
Inbox innovation: The tools and technology powering the future of email

Advanced Email Marketing Inbox innovation: The tools and technology powering the future of email

8m Chris Camps
4 ways to make sure your email technology is mobile optimized

Email 4 ways to make sure your email technology is mobile optimized

8m Rebecca Sentance
Do brands still need bulk email software?

Email Do brands still need bulk email software?

8m Al Roberts
How fashion brand Thread is delivering hyper-personalized emails at scale

AI How fashion brand Thread is delivering hyper-personalized emails at scale

8m Chris Camps
How rich media can bring your emails to life

Email How rich media can bring your emails to life

8m Clark Boyd