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The Guide to Crafting the Performance Marketing Offer Step By Step.

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The old joke was:

Now you can borrow enough to get completely out of debt! – sign in window of a Chicago loan company

This sign makes an offer that is difficult to refuse, particularly if you aren’t very smart and are in debt up to your ears. It’s still a great offer and great offers have paved the way for great success in performance marketing.

The word offer as herein used means something presented for sale for acceptance or rejection by the recipient. The more believable the offer, the more likely it will be successful.

A highly desirable product improperly presented can fail. The offer can easily spell the difference between success and failure. Always remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Whether you’d like to start a Facebook ad campaign driving traffic to your landing page, have a e-commerce promo or email blast to your customers list or a short telemarketing campaign, you always need a good offer.

Defining an Offer That Wins Customers

In order to define an offer you need to examine various price and copy variations. Each variation will help you determine how best to present the product or service.

Among the most important elements is price. But it is by no means the only consideration. Benefits that satisfy either real or perceived needs are very important components of an attention­-getting and action-inducing offer.

It is important to keep in mind that the bigger the “bargain” you offer, the more apt you are to attract deadbeats and persons having a record of slow-pay, no pay or being a hustle customer service-wise.

Here are some frequently used methods of formulating an offer. Notice that each of these use a different strategy on which to build the performance marketing offer:

  1. Discount the basic price for a limited time.
  2. Consider a special introductory offer, such as “Buy One, Get One Free”.
  3. Offer a special “add-on” feature, normally costing “X” dollars, FREE for a limited time.
  4. Consider price increase threats. They can work wonders. “Buy now and save $50.00 before price boost on September 1st!”
  5. “Order now, we’ll bill you later.”
  6. “Send no money now, just let me know you are interested by completing the enclosed order form.”
  7. Here’s a great one: introductory offer, “get first 30 days coverage for $1”. Any kind of financial commitment is better than no commitment.
  8. This one works for high-ticket equipment: “You get a one month FREE trial.”

Payment Options

Another important consideration in formulating your offer is how you wish the customer to pay. Indeed, the “pay option” is almost as important as the “how much” option.

This is particularly true if the price is high enough that it creates buyer resistance. Here are some options to consider:

  1. Cash on delivery (C.O.D.). This is huge in European and Asian markets despite its costs.
  2. Buy now, pay later.
  3. Bill me. This works not only for publishing. Especially good for B2B services where getting the invoice first may mean sale or no sale.
  4. 30-day free inspection / free trial.
  5. Reduced initial payment, i.e. “Special Introductory Offer”.
  6. No down payment, up to 48 months to pay.
  7. No carrying charge for first 90 days.
  8. “Pay only $19.95 each month for only three months.”

The offer may include any other device that will induce the prospect to respond, such as:

  • Limited Enrollment Period.
  • Join Today, Get Your Choice of Any Three Books for Only $1.
  • You May Have Already Won.
  • With Your Permission I Will Send You…
  • 30 Days Coverage Only $1.
  • For a Limited Time Only.
  • Now You Can Be Your Own Boss.
  • Make Big Money in Your Spare Time.
  • Earn $50 to $65 per Hour Right at Home.
  • Save for the Things You’ve Always Wanted.
  • Once in a Lifetime Opportunity.
  • Yours to keep, even if you decide not to keep the…
  • Please Reply by Monday (or include date if possible).

Nearly all of these offers have the same objective: overcoming inertia and getting the prospect to act. In other words, an offer works best when the reader is given an incentive to do it now.

The Introductory Offer

One of the best offers used in performance marketing is the introductory offer.

Tests show that the longer the introductory period, the more apt the customer is to keep the product. The 30-day introductory offer will not convert as well as the 60-day, 90-day or 6-month offer.

This technique takes advantage of human inertia. It’s easier to keep than to cancel. It also increases the feeling of being obligated and increases the chances that the recipient will keep the product.

The shorter introductory period will not pull as many responses up front as the longer introductory period, either.

The introductory offer is not unlike the book and record club continuity offers of the past. Think of Spotify, Netflix or HBO trial a.k.a. introductory offers that all take advantage of human inertia.

Never, never overlook the strongest motivating word in the English language: “FREE!”, preferably with the exclamation mark. It obviously ignites the greed factor in most everyone, rich or poor.

Free Anything Drives Prospects Crazy

In the food industry, it is unbelievable what people will do to get something free. For example, a supermarket needed to build more store traffic. So, a promotion was arranged with several food brokers to provide pancake mix, sausage, orange juice and coffee for a free breakfast in the store’s parking lot.

In exchange, the brokers got featured position in the supermarket’s ad as well as an in-store display of the contributors’ products. The brokers provided the workers to prepare and dispense the food. People drove 30 miles to eat the free pancakes.

They were not homeless poor. Their demographic profiles ranged from “Joe Six-Packs” to conspicuous consumers driving Cadillacs.

The offer of a “Free gift, yours to keep even if you decide not to keep the product” being proffered works very well. This offer also capitalizes on greed and encourages us to get something for nothing.

Most of us seem to forget that “there’s no free lunch.” While on this subject, keep in mind two gifts usually work better than one. Some companies offer three or more gifts.

A variation on the free gift idea employed by book and CD clubs of the past or current subscription box businesses is the loaded “front-end” offer of three products for only $1 if you buy one at the regular price. This is the bait on the hook to recruit members for continuity offers of a subscription box every month, forever.

Finally these words are also magic when properly used in presenting an offer: “LIMITED” is almost as good as “FREE.” “ENROLL” is better than “APPLY.” “JOIN” is better than “APPLY.” Remember, the key to a good offer is keeping it simple, easy to understand and above all, believable.


One of the most popular of all offers is the sweepstakes. It is a prime example of capitalizing on greed to secure a response. Sweepstakes were in widespread use in the publishing industry (Reader’s Digest and American Family Publishers come to mind).

Nowadays they’re used both in retail and mainstream marketing (both directed to consumers and B2B prospects). But the heaviest user of all are affiliate businesses (“Win iPhone Now” type of offers).

Sweepstakes encourage people to buy things they probably would not have purchased otherwise. The most apparent reason for their success seems to be a widespread belief that if you don’t buy something you will automatically be excluded from the drawing, despite the assurances given in very fine print that all respondents will have a chance to win.

An alternative to sweepstakes are prize competitions requiring the entrants to (formally) “compete” in a creative way so that the winners are not random making the whole thing not a lottery. It’s especially popular in heavily regulated jurisdictions (i.e. most of Europe).

Price Setting: Making the Offer Irresistible

Price setting is an important marketing tool and can make or break certain offers. Here’s a good example:

Pork’n Beans – a 1 lb. can only 25¢

Most people will see a low priced product as an inferior product. They automatically think, “cheap product, cheap price.”

Pork’n Beans – Four 1 lb. cans Now Only 99¢

Same product discounted one cent on four units is perceived as a bargain by most people. Perception of quality becomes much less important.

Here’s another example: A company was offering a single collector quality pocket knife for $39.95. Sales were poor. The seller then offered this same knife in a collector’s set of 10 knives in a walnut case for only $395.

He sold out. The case only cost him $10.

Two things are at work here. The first one is that collectors will buy a set of anything faster than a single item. The reluctance to buy just one knife may have been coupled with that psychological block.

The second seems to be that an individual item priced in a collection overcomes the price resistance of buying a single item.

Repositioning an Offer – Or Recycling A Stale Offer So That It’s Fresh (And Desirable) Again

The use of positioning broadens the possible starting points for your selling message. Most of us assume that our product fills a need, so we focus on fulfilling that need, selling competitively and overcoming inertia.

Such an approach often works, but after a time results may begin to fall. By repositioning offer, copy, graphics, price and audience, success can sometimes be achieved by creating a need where none had been previously perceived.

Example: A fine art print publisher trying to sell reproductions of famous natural history prints wasn’t having much success trying to sell framed prints for $125 each to the retail market.

Cost of marketing and shipping problems were terrible. He switched to the wholesale market, selling unframed prints to galleries and picture framers, with considerable success.

His shipping and bad credit problems all but disappeared. His marketing cost was substantially reduced. His volume of sales and net profit were significantly increased.

This can be done by careful product evaluation focusing on other uses or other potential markets having different needs that can be fulfilled by your product.

Such activity points up the need to keep testing different offers, products and markets, any one of which may open up a whole new market and direction for your company.

Don’t forget that after target audience selection and product selection, the other most important contributor to your success is the manner in which the offer is presented on your landing page, mailing piece or any ad in any medium.


Present the offer in a short, easy-to-understand statement. If people don’t understand the offer and what they have to do to get the product or service offered, the whole exercise is a loss.

First in importance is the product or service being offered, followed by the payment options and what you have to do to get the offer.

With such importance attached to the offer, careful consideration must be given to it if you are to be successful.


  1. To explore various options on how best to state the offer.
  2. To state your offer to give it maximum advantage over your competitors.
  3. To reinforce the offer with a free gift if possible.
  4. Payment options are an important part of the offer.
  5. Length of time the offer is available can be used to encourage a prompt response.
  6. To carefully consider price as an important component of your offer.
  7. If your offer fails to attract enough buyers, reposition price, unit of sale and market if necessary. This is why it is important to test more than one offer, one price, different audience and different landing pages or ads with a new product.

If you like this blog post and want more expert advice on performance marketing, direct marketing, direct response advertising, please share it. Thank you!

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1 comment

  1. […] in The Guide to Crafting the Performance Marketing Offer Step By Step you were reminded that the principal motivators in advertising are grounded in need, greed, fear […]

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About Me, Rafal Lipnicki.

the direct / performance marketing consultant with a strange sounding name


Not your usual "guru" but a real-world performance marketing & innovation consultant based in Europe and an experienced senior executive at leading multinational companies.

What and Where.

I am a consultant for hire, working remotely and on-site all over the world (but Europe is always preferred). See my consulting services page for details.


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