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What’s Your Incentive?

Girl with CashAny good direct mail or multi-channel marketing program includes a call to action. You want the recipient to make a phone call. Visit a website. Make a donation or request a sales call. But unless recipients have an immediate need for your product or service, they may need something other than a well-designed mailer and a two-week deadline to get them to pull the trigger. This is why marketers add incentives.

At the same time, an incentive that works for one target audience may not work for another.


Let’s look at five incentive categories and see which ones make the most sense for you.

Free Trial

Everybody likes to test things before they buy them. Plus, marketers know that once consumers have things in their hands, they aren’t likely to give them up.


Not everyone is motivated by a chance to win a monetary prize, so match the value of the prize to the target audience. It might be hard-to-get tickets for an upcoming local concert or box seats to the local baseball team’s opening game. Maybe it’s a signed guitar by a well-known local musician. Give prospects something they really want and can’t get on their own.

Referral Rewards

New customers are more likely to try your product if it’s been recommended by a friend.

Instead of trying to incentivize potential customers yourself, try motivating and encouraging your current customers to refer others to you. Offer discounts, “one month free,” sweepstakes entries, and other things of value to them.

Points Programs

Customers like to be rewarded for their loyalty. Given a choice between two otherwise equal options, they are more likely to choose the one that pays them back. Points programs don’t have to be complicated — a punch card with your logo and numbers to be knocked out with each purchase is a simple solution.

Additional Chances to Win

Want your promotion to go viral? Tap into social media sharing and give your customers additional chances to win prizes or obtain discounts if they share your promotion via Twitter or Facebook. When Calvin Klein wanted to promote a new line of jeans, it created a compelling billboard with a QR Code and easy mobile sharing options. The social media component lifted its reach by 27%.

When creating incentives, ditch the generic. Think about your target audience and what really motivates them. Every audience is motivated by different things. Use starbursts, bright colors, and other graphic elements to really draw their eye to the value of what you are offering. Be sure to test different offers to see which ones work best at different times and in different segments.

Be Creative!