By Jim Ackerman and Paul B. Furse, Ascend Marketing — As a marketer of boating equipment and accessories, you have two tasks … 1) Educate your prospects as to why they should do business with you, and 2) Ask them to do business with you. That’s it! That’s your job! Just as there are ways to build boats with smooth sleek lines, there are smooth and sleek ways to ask your prospects to buy. Discover them now, as we examine the anatomy of offers.
If you have ever been through any kind of sales training, you know that the number one mistake sales people make is failing to ask for the order, but have you ever examined your marketing and advertising to see if it is equally guilty? If it is, it is easy to correct — once you know how.
You’ve seen those ads (or worse, run one yourself) that simply show people in bathing suits sitting in a stunningly beautiful boat, and at the bottom corner there’s a store logo, address and phone number? This is a classic “failure to close” ad. There is no call to action — no offer. We call this a tombstone ad.
Almost as deadly is the generic “Come on in!” close. Again — no discernable offer. Nothing specific nor compelling to engage your audience and entice them to act now. Maybe you can get away with that if you’re Budweiser, but when you’re an individual dealership/retailer, and you have to make payroll and turn a profit by Friday, you need sales NOW, not whenever.
Another go-nowhere offer is the 10% off ploy. C’mon! Would you even pick up the phone for 10% off, let alone drive out of your way to go get it? Trying to sell merchandise that way is like wakeboarding behind a ‘55 Aquasonic – it ain’t pretty! Ask yourself, “If it won’t move me, what makes me think it will move my customers?”
Every good offer is a combination of conditions and appeals. The combination is designed to be compelling enough to get your prospect to take the next step in the buying process. That may be to buy, but it may also be to come in, or at least contact you.
Conditions are the parts of the offer the customer would rather live without, but she understands they’re a part of doing business. Basically price and terms. Up front cost is a condition, as is an expiration date, or limited supply. Terms include things like credit worthiness, installment agreements, and forms of payment, among others.
Appeals, on the other hand, are the ways you “sweeten the pot” for your customers.
A discount is one kind of appeal. But far too many retailers rely almost exclusively on discounts. They just don’t know any other way to do it. Sad, because discounts cost you more and may be substantially less compelling than the other kind of offer … the Value-Added offer.
For example, say you have a killer factory rebate on the remaining “last year’s model” units. Rather than give the whole rebate to the customer, you might consider offering a room at a lodge on Lake Powell, or Lake of the Ozarks, or some other cool destination for a major purchase, like a new boat.
Other possibilities include offering screaming deals on commonly requested accessories, play tubes, etc. as a “reward” for making a purchase. And remember, it’s often highly effective to limit the offer – “… but hurry, I only have 14 rooms reserved. When they’re gone, they’re gone!” Such offers have generated thousands of dollars in sales. They’re simple, value-added offers, but they’re highly compelling. Let’s dissect it and see how it works …
First, notice that no discount is offered. You get full retail for the boat when you figure in the factory rebate. Second, with a little effort, you can usually get very favorable pricing on the lodging, paying far less than its value from the concessionaire. But your customers will appreciate it at its perceived retail value, making the offer even more attractive. Third, co-op money may be available from other accessory suppliers, too. The strong tendency is that the new boat owner won’t stop with just the “special deal” accessories either. They almost always buy more, depending on their interests and your add-on selling efforts.
In these examples, the lodging and accessories are premiums. If you place no limits on the number of people who could take advantage of them, they are “regular” premiums. If you only reserve 14 rooms at the lodge, that would be considered a “self-liquidating” premium. When they’re gone, they’re gone.
There are three other kinds of appeals.
Bonuses are a more-of-the-same addition. If you say, “Buy two PFD’s and get a third one free,” the third one is a bonus. Bonus offers can be very attractive. Three for two is far better than 33% off. It’s more compelling to the consumer and less costly for you. Remember, when you offer a discount, you lose every dollar you take off the selling price. When you offer a bonus, you increase the value of the offer by the retail value of the bonus item, but it only costs you the wholesale price, or even less with co-op money.
Free trials are an excellent appeal. Consider “loaner” or inexpensive rental units.
Of course, there must be safeguards, but once the teenage kids have fallen in love with wakeboarding, it’s a lot tougher for dad to simply return the unit! It’s the old “puppy dog” close. A 30-day “approval” period would also fall into the free trial category. You see these kinds of things all the time at car dealerships. It may take some doing to put it together, but the effort can pay off handsomely.
Finally, guarantees can be very effective in lowering the barrier to entry for consumers. If you offer a guarantee, talk about it aggressively. If it’s a substantially better guarantee than your competitors, talk about it even louder.
Of course, the more of these appeals you can combine with conditions that urge your prospects to act quickly, the more compelling — even irresistible — your offers become. And when they can’t say no, you’ve got a smooth and sleek offer that’ll make waves for you!