July 2006 - Media Matters

Make ‘Em an Offer They Can’t Refuse

By Gene Silverman

When the fictitious Godfather, Don Corleone, made his business associates a proverbial offer that they couldn’t refuse, he usually got the deal that he wanted. Or else!

But in the world of DRTV, we don’t have that kind of Godfather response “guarantee.” Simply put, 99 percent plus of all consumers viewing your TV commercial will refuse your offer. Nevertheless, the Holy Grail of DRTV is crafting that one offer that no sane person could possibly refuse. The history of “hot” offers that burst into the marketplace reveals a fascinating “evolution” caused by fundamental economic forces and psychology.

Total Gym Risk-free, 30-day trial for $49.95, no S&H. You can return within 30 days for a full refund. Then, 16 payments of $99.90.
Bowflex Xtreme Call now for free informational DVD, or order now for no money down and as low as $19/month.
Ab Lounge 30-day trial for $14.95 plus S&H. Return within 30 days, and $14.95 refunded. Call now for free S&H.
Hip & Thigh Sculptor 30-day trial for $14.95 plus S&H. Return within 30 days, and $14.95 refunded.
TreadClimber Zero down and as low as $72/month.
Tribal Fitness 30-day trial for $9.95 plus S&H. An additional $39.95 is due after 30 days.
Winsor Pilates 30-day money-back guarantee. $9.95 for
free trial. If you don’t lose a dress size, send it back, but keep the Winsor Circle. If satisfied, pay $49.95 plus $6.95 S&H for DVDs.

In the late 1980s, most fitness products, such as muscle building machines, treadmills, ski or bun and thigh equipment, were presented in terms of total cost, which might be one payment of $299.99. That style of price presentation quickly morphed into the “easy payment” plan type of offer, such as six payments of $49.99.

In the mid-1990s, we began to see an offer structure where, “if you call within the next 30 minutes, we’ll make one payment for you” accompanied by a graphic tease of crossing one payment off to make the “six” payments become “five” payments.

We are now seeing direct marketers creating more seductive offers, attempting to remove all reasons for consumers not to try their products. Over the past three years, the “risk-free 30-day trial offer” and “no money down” offers have taken the marketplace by storm.

The chart at left shows today’s consumer is now getting an opportunity to try a wide variety of fitness products with little or no risk. This is clearly a much better deal for the DRTV audience than it is for the DRTV marketer, now having to deal with delayed cash flow, increased bad debt and a longer time period before determining offer success or failure.

All in all, the evolving DRTV marketplace requires that direct marketers have confidence in the efficacy of their products and that customers will like the product, keep the product and make the payments as promised.

But how far can this offer evolution go? Can we possibly make it any more attractive to the consumer than “try it for free?” It’s hard to imagine, but will an intrepid DRTV marketer someday be so bold as to actually “pay” consumers to try his or her product? Now that would be an offer hard to refuse.

Gene Silverman is vice president of marketing services and account management at hawthorne direct inc., a full service direct response marketing company based in Fairfield, Iowa. He can be reached at (641) 472-3800, or via e-mail at [email protected].


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