I have a confession to make.

Although, as a businessman, I’m a direct marketer … …as a consumer, I make it a regular habit to rip off direct-marketing companies.

And if you follow the advice I’m about to give you, you – as a consumer – can get some of the greatest deals on Earth … by “rippingoff” direct-marketing companies like I do.

But much more important, by following these strategies as a marketer, you can generate truckloads of orders and sales … by making offers that seem so irresistible to your potential customers that they feel as if they are taking advantage of you!

Now, when I say that I have “ripped off” direct marketers, I’m not talking about illegal or immoral rip-offs, such as ordering a product and then not paying the bill. I mean taking advantage of direct-response offers, keeping the premium, and then immediately canceling or returning the product … just to get the free gift!

For instance, there’s a company that makes the most incredible offer you can imagine. You sign up for their monthly coffee-delivery service and get the first shipment of two boxes of coffee for $10 … plus a free coffeemaker!

Well, I took the bait. And, sure enough, I got two boxes of delicious gourmet coffee – well worth the $10 in itself – plus a beautiful coffeemaker.

I immediately canceled the service … so the whole kit and caboodle cost me a grand total of 10 bucks – including the coffeemaker!

Where else can you get a deal like that?

And what’s the lesson here for you as a marketer?

It’s this … Direct-marketing companies routinely make overly generous offers on the “front end” to get you in as a customer – giving extraordinary value worth far more than the nominal price they are asking.

Why are they so generous?

Not for reasons of altruism. But because they know that a large number of people who take the bait will stay to buy more … and so the offer will be profitable in the long run.

Yes, a few consumers will take advantage and respond with no intention of retaining their subscription, membership, or monthly deliveries. But savvy direct marketers know that this is merely part of the cost of doing business.

These marketers precisely calculate how much they can afford to give away on the front end (based on customer lifetime value) to maximize response while maintaining a good ROI. In fact, they want people to take advantage of the offer and send for their generous freebies. And here’s why …

Even though many consumers may respond just to get the free coffeemaker – once they taste the delicious coffee, a large percentage of them will remain with the program … buy expensive gourmet coffee month after month … and spend a lot of money with that company.

Though I responded to the offer just to get the coffeemaker, the company still made money on the deal. I told several friends about this great offer, and two are now regular buyers.

Another example of a direct marketer whom I have greedily “ripped off” is a publisher that offered a leather-bound edition of Moby Dick … for just $5.95. (The average price of their leather-bound classics is around $50.) I accepted the offer – and then immediately canceled out of their continuity program (“The 100 Greatest Books”).

Why did I cancel? I love books. But I didn’t want most of the volumes selected for their “100 Greatest Books” series. So in this case, it was a matter of not being offered the right choice of product.

But … they kept sending me more mailings for other series and single books that are more to my taste. Beautifully illustrated mailings – irresistible to a book lover like me.

(That’s another direct-marketing lesson, by the way: The people who bought from you most recently are the ones you should be mailing to most frequently.)

And now there’s a pile of about $400 worth of gorgeous leather-bound books on the shelves of my home library – and countless hours of enjoyable reading ahead for me.

So, who’s really coming out ahead here?

Well, I love the books. And this publisher now has a regular customer – even though I didn’t intend to become one. So it’s a win-win scenario for both of us.

The bottom line is this:

The goal of direct marketing is not just to make money on a first sale … although that’s nice to have. It’s to get as many customers in the door as possible at a positive ROI – based on average lifetime customer value, not the size of the first order.

So the most profitable testing you can do is on your front-end offer. And often, the more generous it is (to a point, of course), the more money you as a marketer ultimately make.

[Ed. Note: Bob Bly is a popular Early to Rise columnist, self-made multi-millionaire, and the author of more than 60 books, including The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Direct Marketing and The Copywriter’s Handbook.]

Bob Bly

Bob Bly is an independent copywriter and consultant specializing in business-to-business and direct marketing. He has been hired as a consultant by such companies as Sony, Chemical Bank, J. Walter Thompson, Westinghouse, and Prentice-Hall. Bob is also the author of more than 50 books including The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Direct Marketing (Alpha Books), Targeted Public Relations, Selling Your Services, How to Promote Your Own Business, and Keeping Clients Satisfied. A phenomenal public speaker, Bob will share with you how easy it is to start your own business. Whether you’re ready to quit your job or are just looking to make a little money on the side, you’ll want to hear Bob’s advice.