Offer, List, Creative. Which One Wins?

By  •  Updated: 02/15/18 •  3 min read


Those three words, in that order, used to be drummed into every direct response marketer form the day they were allowed to even look at a campaign.

This was in the days when DM was expensive. You needed stamps, printers, huge machines to process the data that cam in on tape reels as big as pizzas.

You didn’t get to send out mailings big enough to do tests on until you were 100% sure you had an offer people wanted.

Now, people get confused about this so let me explain a bit further.

You need all three. 

With no offer, you’re not asking for any money.

With no list you have noone to talk to (or audience would be a better term – you can get a response from a TV ad)

With no creative you have no way of carrying your message to your audience. Writing the offer on the back of a napkin would still be a creative. A shit creative, but with a good offer and to the right person, you can get a response.

With me so far?

OK, so what we’re looking at is  how much impact can you make by improving each of these elements?

Those in the know, will argue that the Offer is top of the tree.

With a great offer that targets a universal human emotion, you can pick names out of the phone book as your list and make a profit.

If you’ve spent any time at all in the direct response world, you’ve probably heard the story of the Gary Halbert “Coat of Arms” letter. Supposedly the most mailed letter in direct mail history.

Gary would pick a surname out of the phone-book, look up the coat of arms for that family, then mail a rough sketch with an offer for a colour-painted family crest.

Legend has it that he, and the business that bought the idea later on, mailed the whole US phone book.

6 times.


How the Coat of Arms Letter made a profit on the least targeted list in the US.

My analysis is that the offer relies on two things that are universal drivers:

People want to show high status.
People like to talk about themsleves.

Halbert hit not just one, but two human emotions that are so universal that all he had to do was find the people with the money to act on them and he was in the money.

Any offer needs to reach an audience, but a really great offer can work with ANY audience.

When niching isn’t the best option

If you want to make millions with your offer, you need to solve problems which aren’t necessarily “burning house” issues, but you do need to tap into the fears and desires that as much of the population feel as possible.

Intense problems are ones that we’ll spend the most money to get rid of, but fewer people have.

Universal fears & desires might not command the same prices to solve, but they are way easier to find buyers in volume.

If you’re struggling to find prospects for your offer, take a look at it through this perspective and see if you can frame it as a solution to a more universal problem.

Stephen Pratley

I build email lists, that grow into one-man businesses.