10/14/2013 08:40 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

Make Me an Offer I Can't Refuse

It's not as though the right information and advice is hard to find. Hundreds of great direct response marketing tools -- books, newsletters, DVDs, and white papers -- have been published over the years that contain the correct information in them. These resources explain the fundamentals of direct response marketing, the tried-and-true strategies and proven methods that have been making sales for decades.

Of course, this body of work includes the masterpieces written by the original masters like David Ogilvy, Claude Hopkins, Dick Benson, Robert Cialdini, and Eugene Schwartz.

Well, guess what? It is a whole different ballgame when you are actually responsible for growing a business. When you are the one to brainstorm, test, and roll out real marketing campaigns. When you are the one to either hire the copywriter or write the copy. When you craft an offer and select the media.

Art and Science Equals Great DRM!

All of your direct response marketing campaigns should be a mixture of art and science. The art is in writing a sales letter and crafting an irresistible offer. The science is in tracking responses and using statistical computations to plan future campaigns.

Writing successful sales letters is a creative process -- a matter of figuring out the market and devising a new promotion based on the customer's current concerns. List and media testing and analysis, by contrast, are left-brain activities -- tracking responses accurately and running them through statistical models to determine future mailings.

To be successful, an entrepreneur needs to get both sides of their brain working: the creative and the analytical sides.

Although entrepreneurs should be comfortable with both sides of the marketing process, most tend to favor one side or the other. Those who are more mathematically inclined tend to focus on lists and media, while those who feel more comfortable as communicators pay attention to copy.

Today, let's focus on a critical -- yet sometimes underestimated -- element of any marketing campaign: the offer.

It is vital that an entrepreneur understand how to create an offer. Here's why: A good offer can easily double response rates. A bad or botched offer can easily kill a campaign that would otherwise be profitable.

The Offer: What Is It Good For?

The offer is the deal you make with your customer and the terms of that deal. The offer lays out what he gets for what he gives you. It includes the product or the service, all the promises made about the product or service, the price you're asking, any bonuses you're including with the product or service, and the guarantee.

The offer also includes the transactional details such as how the customer can buy the product, like an 800-number, "order now" button, or "send payment to" address.

All these details are important, and all of them should be spelled out in the sales copy and in the order device. Failing to spell out these details properly and fully could be a costly mistake.

Your Offer Must Be "Hercules" Strong

Every direct response marketing campaign should contain a strong offer. The offer should include an incentive or reward that motivates prospects to respond to your campaign, either with an order or with a request for more information (depending on your goals).

To be effective, your offer must pass the "10 tests":

Test 1: Is your offer specific? Will the prospects understand exactly what they get and how to get it?

Test 2: Is your offer exclusive? Are you making your offer only to a select few (and making them feel that they are an exclusive bunch), or are you making your offer to everyone?

Test 3: Is your offer valuable? Will your prospects perceive your offer to be of value to them? Your offer may be inexpensive for you to make, but it must have a high perceived value to your potential customers.

Test 4: Is your offer unique? Is the deal you're offering only available through your business?

Test 5: Is your offer useful? Your offer can be exclusive but useless, or unique and useless. Make sure your offer helps your prospects save money, save time, do their jobs better, or something else just as helpful.

Test 6: Is your offer relevant? Do prospects want what you are offering?

Test 7: Is your offer plausible? Some offers are too good to be true, and others are just plain silly. Either way, your offer needs to be credible.

Test 8: Is your offer easy to acquire? The harder you make it for your prospects to obtain your offer, the lower your response rates will be. So make your order forms clear, simple, and short; your toll-free telephone number obvious on the page; and your terms and conditions of purchase concise.

Test 9: Is your offer urgent? Are you clear about the deadline of your offer? Is it an early-bird special or are you limiting it to only the first 250 people who respond?

Test 10: Does your offer have a guarantee? Did you strengthen your offer with a money-back guarantee? Perhaps you could even allow the subscriber to keep all bonuses and/or issues up to that point, or make sure the prospect knows that there is no risk whatsoever.

Take a moment now to go look at the offers of all your current marketing campaigns.

If you are just starting out and do not have any of your own campaigns, look at offers that you have responded to, either in the mail or online. Examine each piece and circle how many of the above tests the offer meets.

Be conscious of the "10 Tests" while going forward. You will find that the more often you see an offer repeated, the more of the above components it contains. That's because promotions that are getting responses and making money are the ones you see over and over again.