Upon occasion I guest lecture at some NYC area universities and colleges. I talk about direct marketing and entrepreneurship and ask the students which is most important in direct mail – Creative? List? Offer? Do you know? All are important but not equally important. I’ll reveal the standard a bit later on but will focus on offers. Smart marketers know good offers motivate and compel action. But what about lukewarm and even lousy offers?
There are marketing efforts don’t make compelling offers. But they make them anyway. Take Lyft for example. I am not a regular Lyft user. I expect that I have less than 20 Lyft rides in a year. I expect that Lyft (a service I prefer over Uber for several reasons), has all the data on me from all my rides on Lyft over the past few years. Yet the offer Lyft continually makes (to me at least), is 10% off on up to 10 rides in the next week or two weeks etc. As if that would motivate me to choose Lyft rides more often. If my average ride is $10.00 Lyft’s offering me a whole dollar off is entirely un-motivating. For me it seems even a little desperate. My hope is that Lyft has evidence that this works with other riders, motivating them to choose Lyft either over Uber, a taxi or some other ride service, but call me skeptical.
What could Lyft do offer-wise that would be motivating? How about take 5 rides and the 6th one is free? Or 3 rides and the 4th one is free? And give me a month to do it since my behavior shows that I am unlikely to go from 1 ride a month to 10. If the idea is to get me to be a more regular rider something more compelling has to be put in front of me.
Hotels are not particularly good at making compelling offers either. Giving me a ‘free night’ after I’ve spent 3 or 4 nights isn’t an awful offer as potentially ‘saving’ more than $100 is attractive. Until you remember that you’ve already spent several hundred dollars at a non-discounted rate to get that deal. I don’t remember ever jumping at an offer for a ‘free’ night as almost all the time it’s not the best deal available.
Less than great offers do not reflect well on brands. I feel that if a compelling offer is not on the table, most brands are better off not making an offer at all. Deliver a great customer experience on all counts, don’t promise more than you can deliver (over-deliver as my colleague Brian Kurtz will tell you), and let the chips fall where they may.
And the answer to the question is – list always takes precedence over creative and offer. You can have a great offer or deliver great creative to the wrong people and it will most likely fail.
Offers that don’t motivate are not worth making.