Give Customers a Reason to Act: Use Soft Offers

Jan. 1, 2005
The Mousetrap Series is about helping you sell more mousetraps, no matter what the mousetrap is that you sell. I don't care how good your mousetrap is,

Note: The Mousetrap Series is about helping you sell more mousetraps, no matter what the mousetrap is that you sell. I don't care how good your mousetrap is, few people will buy it if you do not market it well.

The Mousetrap series is a must for small business owners. Today’s message focuses on stimulating people to take action and on using soft offers to test media. Why do you need to stimulate people to act now? How can you stimulate people to act?

I’ll explain.

A sale cannot be made until an affordable solution meets a need or desire. The need or desire can exist for years and an array of affordable solutions can also exist, but the sale won’t be made until the former smashes headlong into the latter. Even then, the sale is uncertain. The problem is inertia.

Life is not as simple as it once was. People are busy. They’ve a lot going on. It’s getting rarer for people to take the initiative to find solutions unless they have no choice. The marketer’s job is to bring the solution to the prospect and then, to give the prospect a reason to act now. This is the premise behind many, if not most promotions.

For example: people need clothes. During the year, they buy them. Yet, some people are too busy to mess with it. Rather, they don’t make time for clothes shopping. They’re busy. They find clothes shopping distasteful. They would rather do other things. So stores hold sales.

Save 20% if you buy this weekend, the marketing screams. The marketer is attempting to give the prospect a reason to act. Sooner or later the prospect knows he has to buy clothes. He might as well do it now when he can save a little money. Thus, the sale provides him with a reason to act.

Sales aren’t the only motive to act. The Service Roundtable put together a direct mail letter explaining why August was a great time to replace an air conditioner. Normally, August is a terrible month for discretionary air conditioner sales. If you’ve made it to August, you’re going to try and make it through the rest of the season.

The letter was an attempt to change that. The reasons cited for replacing in August included:

  • Installation crews were still available and working at the top of their game,
  • The selection was still good but would start to thin in the fall as the industry geared up for heating season
  • The seasonal price increases would not taken effect until the end of the year.

Roger Costner with Brothers Air and Heat took the letter and turned it into a newspaper ad that he ran in late August and September. The phone immediately started ringing as soon as the ad hit. Costner gave people a need to buy now. He turned a slow time of the year, with few discretionary sales, into a sales rich environment.

What reasons can you give for people to buy now?

Include Soft Offers to Better Test the Media

Marketing fails when you have the wrong audience, timing, or offer. Unfortunately, you often don’t know what is causing the failure. A soft offer can help. Soft offers are low level offers that don’t cost you much money and are no-brainers to the buyer. They are “can’t lose” offers.

An example of a soft offer used by Ahron Katz in Dallas was a free carbon monoxide detector. Katz gave people the same carbon monoxide detector that pilots use (i.e., the button type). They cost a few dollars when purchased in bulk and it gave him a chance to see if his media was working, while also building his customer list.

If the soft offer works and the regular offer does not, it’s a sign that the media is good, but the offer or timing is not. If the soft offer fails, it’s an indication that the media was wrong. Soft offers provide a diagnostic element to your marketing.

Here’s a brainstorm question for you: what kind of soft offers can you provide?

Next: How Long Should Your Copy Be?

Matt Michel spoke at HVAC Comfortech 2004 on marketing This rant was solely the opinion of Matt Michel, CEO of the Service Roundtable (, an organization dedicated to helping contractors prosper. Matt is also the publisher of Comanche Marketing, a free marketing e-zine. Subscriptions are available at You can contact him directly at [email protected]. Or send your comments to Contracting Business at [email protected].

About the Author

Matt Michel | Chief Executive Officer

Matt Michel was a co-founder and CEO of the Service Roundtable ( The Service Roundtable is an organization founded to help contractors improve their sales, marketing, operations, and profitability. The Service Nation Alliance is a part of this overall organization. Matt was inducted into the Contracting Business HVAC Hall of Fame in 2015. He is now an author and rancher.