Years ago, I had a client who sold utility software for IBM mainframes.

He would send out a letter with a technical description of the software and its function. He would offer to send the software on magnetic tape for a “free 30-day trial.” That was (and still is) an industry standard.

One day, he made a minor change to his offer. Instead of “a free 30-day trial,” he said, “Use this software free for 30 days.”

Much to his amazement, response to all his mailings increased by 15 percent.

When he asked his buyers why this made such a difference to them, they explained that the word “trial” was a turnoff. It made them think of all the extra work they would have to do in order to try out the software for 30 days. They would have to come to the office late at night, take systems offline, interrupt service, and possibly lose files.

But being able to “use” the software at no cost was immensely appealing to them.

What can we learn from this?

1. The wording of your offer is important — not a trivial afterthought.

2. You never know which offer will pull best unless you test several different ones.

3. If you can’t understand the appeal of the winning offer, talk to some of your customers and find out what it is. You might learn something that will help you make your offer even stronger.

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.

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