Sales Tip...Choose Bonus Gifts Carefully

The Success Margin

Thursday, July 27, 2006


It was almost impossible to find direct marketing
mentors when I started in business. Therefore,
much of my education was by necessity trial and

One of the many marketing blunders early on in
my career was this.

A book I published through my company,
Enterprise Publishing, that was written by a
prominent lawyer was my first big flop. Of
course, I had lots of remaining copies in the
warehouse. And this was after I had tried several
different copy approaches to sell it.

So, I came up with what I thought was a brilliant
idea. I would beef up and enhance the offer of a
very successful $70 book I was then marketing.
How? By simply adding a free copy of the failed
$25 book. My assumption was overall sales
would be even stronger than without the free gift.
Of course, I wrote some sales copy.

Much to my amazement, sales not only didn't go
up. They went down by more than 33%!

Tip: The important marketing lesson is this. If
you can't sell it, you can't give it away
successfully either. If people won't buy it when
offered in an appealing way, they don't want it,
free or not. Period.

Lesson learned: With any failed product, after
you have gone back to the drawing board and
exhausted every creative approach you can think
of and it still doesn't sell, get rid of it. Write it
off. Burn it or toss it if you have to. Just
don't try to sell it, or try to use it as a free
bonus gift. You will waste lots of time and

I was again reminded of this important marketing
principle above just recently.

A big client of mine who is highly successful
catalog marketer asked me to take a look at three
recent covers of his catalogs (I write all the copy
for this entrepreneur, but I haven't always chosen
his free bonus gifts which are featured on the

He informed me that sales response was down on
these particular catalogs and asked me to please
take a look and comment as to what may be the

When I looked at the covers, everything looked
really good. The headline and subheadline copy
(which I wrote) as well as the photos were well
done graphically.

But there was one glaring problem that popped
out to me. The free bonus gifts featured on the
cover complete with photos were not at all
appealing. Therefore, there was little or no
added inducement to order from that particular
catalog. (Actually, a company employee in the
marketing department purchased the three free
gifts because she was offered a special low price
by the supplier. It's easy to see how the decision
to choose them was made.)

Tip: To do its proper job of increasing sales,
what counts is not your cost of a free bonus gift.
The key is that it must be appealing enough to
your customers to induce an order, especially
from "fence sitters."

I'm sure with better selection of bonus gifts
(that I have now been asked to approve before
use) my client's future catalog sales will
undoubtedly be much more successful.

Tip: To increase sales on any offer, add the
incentive of free gifts. Everyone likes free
gifts. I've never seen any offer that didn't get
a more successful response when the inducement
of appealing free bonuses was added. In fact,
many offers today online and offline will not
succeed or even cover front-end costs without

By all means use free bonus gifts. But choose
them carefully. They can be terrific sales
builders. I've seen sales double on a previously
successful offer simply by adding hot bonuses.

As always, here's to your greater success, which
is always in the margin.

Your correspondent,

Ted Nicholas

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© Copyright 2006 Ted Nicholas