I’ll give you $1,200 just to pay attention to me…

woman and cash

It is getting harder and harder to get and keep people’s attention.

Case in point: Some of you started reading this article because of the headline, but since I haven’t already told you by line two that your check’s in the mail, you’ve lost interest. Your mind has already gone into self defense mode. “This sounds like a scam; no way that’s true” or “You’ll make me jump through hoops for the next ten years” are your first two thoughts, so you disregard it completely.

You may have seen a story in the news lately about a legal settlement of $61.3 million that Dish Network was ordered to pay out. 18,000 customers nationwide are eligible to receive close to $1,200 each because Dish representatives called them while listed on the Do Not Call Registry. A big no-no.

Now, here’s the kicker.

Per court order, Dish has tried to contact all these people to give them FREE, REAL MONEY, and they can’t do it. People are not answering the phone, others are hanging up when they do answer thinking it’s a scam and they’re all throwing the mail pieces in the trash while probably rolling their eyes. Meanwhile, a good chunk of $61.3 million sits there, and Dish Network is frustrated they can’t find anyone who will take it.

Consider me a volunteer with my hand held high.

The “You may already be a winner! advertising has jaded us all. The hopes of Ed McMahon showing up at your door with a big check doesn’t sell as many magazines as it once did because the American public has grown increasingly skeptical. Consumers have been duped too many times, and this can create major problems for your marketing.

What if you are trying to get a message out that REALLY IS that good and no one will listen? How do you keep from being met with the “Yeah right” reaction?

Or even the flip side. What can make your normal spring postcard for $20 off a service stand out over an “ALL EXPENSES PAID FREE CRUISE! (just don’t read the fine print)” kind of offer that is also competing for their attention?

Reality, that’s what.

Here are a few tips to make your marketing messages more believable, and in turn, more effective.

First, find a way to make your offer applicable and relatable to the customer. When you make a claim, prove it. Remember, the eyes that will see your offer are quickly looking for the list of exclusions that apply, and people are already assuming the fine print will make them feel like a sucker if they call you.

Instead of just claiming your service is a “$297 value for just $99” and leaving it at that, do the math for them. “Our tune-up includes _______ – which is a $99 value, ________ – a $99 value and _________– a $99 value. Normally you’d pay $297 for all these services, but right now it’s just $99 for all three.” Justify your claim, and they’ll become less skeptical that you’re just throwing meaningless numbers around for attention.

The Dish Network reps failed here as people found it hard to believe they could get $1,200 for just one harassing phone call. What if someone had explained: $61.3 million settlement, divided out among 18,000 people, minus court costs, equals your $1,200 individual claim? Easier to understand means easier to believe. That big number now becomes a reality that’s heading toward their pocket, and they’re all ears.

Next, was a huge failure by Dish. Trying to cut the costs of making 18,000 phone calls (after just making a multi-million-dollar mistake, who could blame them), Dish robocalled this message out with a pre-recorded script. What would your reaction be if you answered your phone to be greeted by a creepily excited-sounding robot telling you you’ve just been gifted $1,200? All you have to do now is call back and fill out some paperwork. Click. Dial tone…

Not many contractors are robocalling customers, but industry-wide a lot of the marketing that is done has a very sterile, impersonal look to it. Here’s an idea: When you send out an advertising piece, don’t tip your hand too quickly.

Most contractor ads feature the company truck, a smiling technician or pictures of pipes and HVAC systems. You should sell tickets to see a show that compelling. We call these “institutional messages,” and what goes through a customer’s mind when they see it? One glance and it’s, “I know what this is, and I don’t need it.” Before they even see the offer, or you’ve had a chance to convince them to call, your piece is in the trash.

Take the initiative to make your advertising look different and interesting. (Check out some HVAC and PLUMBING offerings from Hudson,Ink). If your piece looks interesting and inviting enough to hold a prospect for a few seconds, then good copy and a good offer will do the work from there.

And the last one is a simple trick, but it’s very powerful. There are two ways of presenting an offer with incentives. Say you have $700 in rebates to offer a prospect, and your headline reads, “You could qualify for up to $700 cash back.” The skeptical mind reads that as, “Yeah, maybe somebody could… but with my luck I’ll qualify for $3.29.”

How do you attack this one? Lose the “up to” verbiage, find the lowest amount anyone would qualify for and GUARANTEE at least that amount – even if that means you can only send out to fewer, more qualified candidates. “You qualify for AT LEAST $529 in cash back, maybe more.” That’s a subtle change but telling me, the pessimist, I DO QUALIFY for $529, I just have to call and claim it is better than telling me I MIGHT qualify for $700, but I’ve got to call and find out.

Also, avoid round numbers because it sounds like you are being generic. $529, $176, etc… sounds like you have done the calculations and that’s the exact amount for them.

Truth is, people are becoming more and more paranoid of responding to solicitations, so that means we must do everything we can to ease those fears. Always put yourself in the customers shoes and ask, “If I received my own offer in the mail, would I believe it? Would it hold my attention? How can I overcome their main reasons for being skeptical?”

Now, I’ll leave you with two golden pieces of advice.

Cultivate trust with everything you put in front of your prospects, and it will be rewarded. Second, and most important, if Dish Network pops up on your caller ID, answer the phone.

P. S. We have a goal to help your marketing message be as clear and effective as possible. Need a jumpstart with some proven designs?

Check out the NEW POSTCARD LIBRARY on our website:

justin jacobs
Justin Jacobs
Marketing Coach