Marketing, Sports

The Deal: With Six You Get Egg Roll


In spring, a young man’s fancy turns to…testing.

It’s a sure sign that Spring is on the way. The March issue of Golf magazine arrived, and after the most dismal stretch of dull weather in recent memory, the green pastoral images of fairways and beach-like bunkers beckon irresistibly.

But among those pages floats another stimulant. Golf blew in 4 different subscription order cards. These 4 x 5-1/2 reply cards exemplify the art of mail-order merchandising.

One would ask, why do we need any cards? I am already a subscriber!

Golf Tees

 It’s all in the numbers.

True, for the longest time I used to let my subscriptions expire so that I could re-up and get the free gift. In the past our home was filled with calculators, phones, binoculars, hats, world maps and globes… all manner of stuff with somebody else’s logo on them. Not only did we like the goo-gaws, but it was fun to get them in the mail.

But Golf’s four order cards demonstrate the great science of offer testing. And there is practical beauty in that:  when you understand what excites the buyer’s brain, you make more money.


Each of the cards has exactly the same deal. One, two or three years for hefty discounted pricing off of newsstand. With each, the same gift premium is offered: a “Golf Distance Finder”.

I couldn’t use the distance finder. It would be perennially set at “Too Far” with only occasional gauging at “Fat Chance”.

Anyway, the cards are all different.  The result of long, worried debates in Golf’s conference room about how to best wring a dollar out of a new sub, there are four gradations.  Each effort targets a different dark corner of the golfer’s bunkered mind.

Card One: It’s blue, with giant GOLF titling.  In simple fashion it provides the basic deal with a mention of the discounts off newsstand price.

For the unassuming habit-driven: "yep, sure, whatever."

For the unassuming and habit-driven: “yep, sure, whatever.”

A small un-captioned picture of the gift is featured with, “yours free”. This card is the control sample, and wins or loses on brand loyalty.  Ideally suited for the unassuming, doubtless, committed player.

Card Two: It’s grey, with a smaller GOLF title, same deals but highlights “Your Price $16.00”. Understanding that some may not know what the gift is, “FREE Distance Finder” is inserted below the picture.

"The distance between me and the cup, and between me and Jupiter is negligible."

“I may never hit the green, but I can see Jupiter.”

This card is for the cash-strapped grinder who is figuring one year is just long enough to suspend the inevitable realization: golf is just a good walk in the wilds ruined. Or they figure $16 bucks is the right price for a telescope.

Card Three: It’s powder blue and screams to the wealthy and permanently, irrevocably, hopelessly optimistic, driven player: “Tomorrow will be a better day and the BEST DEAL! is a 3-year commitment.”

"This will be my year. Well, maybe, then again, sometime in my lifetime."

“This will be my year. Well, maybe, then again, sometime in my lifetime.”

The distance finder is featured, but it’s the 83% discount that grabs.

Card Four: This is the gutsy guarantee card. “Lower Scores. Lower Price.” is for the duffer who has journeyed through four painful levels of acceptance and will now  admit they couldn’t hit a basketball with a broom in a closet.

"This year I will not tear up my score cards."

“This year I will not tear up my score cards.”

They figure literature, technology and a little learnin’ might be the answer. If that still turns out to be a whiff, then they are ready to go for the money refund.


At the end of the test, which could go on longer than the season, the Golf sales department will look at the results for each card, which got the most orders,  which deal worked best for each card, which got the most email addresses, and which got the most money up front.

This is not a double eagle fantasy for statisticians.  Rather, the results of this inexpensive test will predict which offer is worth rolling out in other media with the promise of the highest return on investment.

While solo direct mail may be proud of a $20 cost to get a new subscriber, the numbers may dictate that direct mail is still stronger than web display ads, email or simple on-page advertising.   Knowing which deal is strongest can shave a few pennies off acquisition cost.

Long ago, we used to puzzle over the best offer: “buy one get one free” vs. “two for the price of one” vs. “50% off”.

It isn’t easy, but you can test.

Thanks for reading!   Direct marketing tests are a way of life, and you never know when a new angle won’t build your margins unexpectedly.  I swing at the ball with the same giddy optimism.

direct mail, Sports

The Irresistible Offer, and Making Money

Golf 2014-11-19 739 short

There is no shortage of advice for this game.

The mailbox is a limitless supply of surprises. Today, it presented a special offer from Golf Magazine, one that I could not refuse.

In direct mail, there are offers, but more important, there are deals, and Golf’s latest was a doozy.
This simple envelope expressed a blunt sentiment: ONE TIME ONLY!

Golf 2014-11-19 740 deal

“April is 5 months off, but we want you NOW.”

Does that sound like something your parents would have said?

How about Golf’s business manager, in response to the giddily optimistic circulation manager who came up with the crazy deal?

Golf 2014-11-19 740 six free

Half a year in the upper midwest is golf-free, so why not?

This was in fact a renewal letter. An advance renewal, 5 months out from April 2015, which is the last issue date.
So here’s the deal: 12 issues for a year, PLUS six more issues, for $10.  Basically 63 cents an issue.


Digging through my recycle bin, I found a September Golf blow-in card offering 12 issues for $16. That’s 75 cents each.

Golf 2014-11-727 yellow deal

Relax, there’s always a better deal coming.

At this juncture, one could decide to defer, just because, who knows, golf may never occur again on the planet due to snow, so what’s the point?

But then the real deal emerges. In addition to the 6 free issues, the renewal also came with a 90-page expert guide: “The Best SHORT GAME Instruction”. Downloadable with paid order. Sweet!


Lining up the three wood for a water hazard.

Let me perambulate for a moment to say that I play the short game very well.

I can shoot a 56, +/- 2 strokes in 9 holes consistently. I don’t need to play 18 holes to break 72. I can do it in 12, no sweat.

But maybe the book could offer some consolatory advice.

The question we should ask, is how can Golf make any money giving away the magazine almost for free?

Golf 2014-11-19 738

The circulation director shuddered with this deal.

As it turns out, Golf needs me as much as I need their Instruction book. You see, they promise to their advertisers to deliver 1,400,000 magazines a month to avid readers like me.

Looking at Golf’s 2013 rate card, one will find that a full-page color ad goes for $207,100. That’s about the price of a house trailer in Fort Myers.

There are lots of angles in buying ad space, but at the end of the day, a 125-page Golf Magazine carries about 40 pages of color ads, generating $8,300,000 in sales.   About $5.92 per reader.

Golf 2014-11-19 739

The essential irresistible offer: FREE advice.

The magazine may cost as much as $2 to print and mail, so that leaves nearly $4 left to create, write and photograph.  Should be enough!

And what about my $10?  Where does that go?   Well, assuming they wrote to 120,000 subscribers with an April 2015 end-date, their mailing cost is about a dollar each, all in.  $120,000.  Odds are, about 15,000 may renew, which is $150,000 to cover the mailing with something left over for the gent who wrote the SHORT GAME guide.

IMG_1141So that excited Circ manager maybe isn’t so crazy after all.

Now we’ll see if the guide can make my game any shorter.



Thanks for following the math on this.   If you have any tips on improving my game, just write!

direct mail, Marketing

Victoria, Golf and Testing

Golf 2011-11-734

Every magazine’s sales tool: the “blow-in” card.

The beauty of direct mail is that you can test to find out what works.

So that is why Victoria’s Secret and Golf Magazine enjoy your attention today.

Victorias 2011-11-735

“Pretty” is nice, but in direct mail it’s the offer that counts.

Opening the December issue of Golf Magazine, 4 different blow-in cards fluttered onto the kitchen table.

Why 4?   Because there are a number of triggers to test on the reader.

Golf 2014-11-726

This card focuses on the discount off regular price.

Golf 2014-11-728

The FREE gift is the sales incentive here.

Golf 2014-11-729

Buy one, get one free for a friend, plus a FREE gift.

As it turns out three of the cards have identical offers, but each with a different deal. Or look. One will feature the discount off the cover price. Two will bathe the reader in yellow ink, but one of those is really pushing the FREE gift–a really cool Golf Distance Finder, with “BEST DEAL!” screaming to check the top box. The fourth card is a gift sub card, making a two-for-one deal, plus a very classy Free Gear Bag.

Each card is key-coded to track which works best. Kudos to the subscription manager who recognizes that one deal does not suit all people.

Based on response, you can bet they will tweak the next set of cards, but odds are, they won’t reduce the count: four.

Now turn to Victoria’s Secret, where we get two mailers within the same week, each taking pre-eminent positioning at the kitchen table during lunch.

Victorias 2014-11-733

The mission of these cards is to drive traffic. At least one will snag the reader.

May I note that the “staff” over at Victoria’s don’t probably enjoy lunch?

Fortunately, they do get full, heated-room privileges, which accounts for their restive, but somewhat hungered composure.

The two mailings are spectacular for their origami and construction. Best of all, each mailer contains 4 different mini-cards with specific deals.

Each card’s mission is to entice the shopper to get to the store.
If the Free panty doesn’t do it, the Free Tote Bag will.

Victoris Secret 2014-11677

The advantage of personal direct mail– the ability to track and analyze.

The production on these pieces is clever. One is a 10-page booklet, with 4 mini-cards attached to one page. The back of each card has a live bar code on it. Meaning they can track response to the mailing, the offer, and yup, to the shopper too.  Yikes!

Victoris Secret 2014-11676

Four cards in a 10-page mailing: unstoppable!

The cards themselves are 24 mil, meaning for you lay folks, thick enough to jimmy a hotel lock.

But they are small, demanding less space in your wallet or purse.

I recall as a small youngster having a wad of direct mail coupons which I pretended were dollar bills….kept them in my plastic wallet. I liked flashing “money” when shopping with my mother. I don’t think she would have gone for the Victoria’s cards so much.

Testing through direct mail offers the luxury of control: distribution, offer, targeting and tracking.   When done well, marketers can get the most for their dollar spent.  That means they learn to send you things you like, and don’t send you things that turn you off.

Sharing testing strategies across different media, like mail and magazines is also productive, and enhances perspective.

Gee Dad

“Gee Dad, it looks better over here!”

So I wonder, could we test the FREE Golf Distance Finder with Victoria’s Secret?


Thanks for reading this far!   I hope your mail box provides as much enjoyment as does mine!