Ivan Levison —
Direct Mail, E-mail and Advertising Copywriting

How to create a winning offer.
A quick look at three instructive software ads

When Computer Associates introduced their financial management product, CA-Simply Money, they made a giant splash by giving away more than a million copies "free."

Of course, they collected over $10,000,000 in "Shipping and Handling" charges (at $9.95 a pop) but let's be fair and give them their due. Computer Associates had the guts to try something really new and grabbed substantial market share and incredible media attention in the process.

Now, I'm not recommending that you do what Computer Associates did. (Not all software publishers have such deep pockets!)

What I am suggesting is that, like CA, you make a serious effort to create irresistible offers that build profits fast.

Let's take a look at a few offers appearing in recent magazine ads, and see what we can learn from them.

We'll start with an Intuit ad for QuickBooks and QuickPay. It ends with an order box that says:

"Try QuickBooks & QuickPay
Now For Just $9.95.
If you decide to keep using it after 30 days pay just $138.95.
It comes with a no-risk 60-day
money-back guarantee.
Call 1-800-796-2600"

The details of the offer aren't spelled out for the reader in the ad, but, as always, Intuit has thought things through very carefully. Here's how the ordering process works . . . People dial the 800 number and give the operator a credit card number. If they like the product and do nothing, the additional amount ($138.95) is billed automatically at the end of thirty days.

If customers are unhappy during the thirty-day trial period, they call up and say so, or send a card that rides along in the box. That's all there is to it. They don't owe a penny more and don't even have to return the software, the manual, or the packaging.

How come consumers don't rip Intuit off by the hundreds of thousands? Because the software only works twenty-five times and then locks up. Customers who pay get the magic number that removes the protection and lets them use the software.

Now that's a nice offer! The customer gets to try the software for just $9.95 and receives a 60-day money-back guarantee if they order. Intuit gets top dollar -- not the lowest street price. Everybody's happy.

Let's take a look at another "try it free" ad with a twist -- an extra incentive that in this case isn't sold properly. I'm talking about Symantec's full-page ad for ACT! At the end of the ad, Symantec says:

"Try ACT! free for 30 days and receive
the Taxi Online Entertainment Guide
(a $39.95 value) free."

What is the Taxi Online Entertainment Guide? I haven't a clue. There is not a single word of explanation, let alone some persuasive selling copy. Unless you happen to know what the Taxi Online Entertainment Guide is, you are totally in the dark! This serious mistake will undoubtedly cost Symantec sales which is a pity. ACT! is a nice product.

The bottom line here? If you are using a bonus item, sell it properly or forget it. The whole point of a bonus item is that it gets fence-sitters moving. If you confuse people, you're really killing the sale!

Finally, let's look at a Microsoft ad for FoxPro 2.6. The headline reads:

"Microsoft FoxPro 2.6 brings
your dBASE files forward.
Or your money back.
$99 Risk free."

With this approach, you forget about a trial period and try to sell right off the page. Obviously, this is the way to go when you have an outstanding, irresistible offer and Microsoft definitely has one. Hey -- $99 for a product with an SRP of $395 is a terrific deal and I'm sure Microsoft is pushing a ton of product out the door. (Again, deep pockets are nice to have!)

I particularly like the headline here. It's fun, but to the point. The "forward/back" theme isn't forced. It relates very directly to the offer and is nicely executed.

The reason for all this analysis is to underscore a very important point -- the way you handle your offer is absolutely critical to your marketing success.

© 2013, Ivan Levison & Associates. All rights reserved.