How to boost your profits by creating irresistible offers
Almost all the strategies described in the following article are ones we’ve successfully used—in many cases, with increases of over 50%, 100%, or more.
Not all of them will apply to you, but one breakthrough offer is often enough to transform a business. Therefore, as you proceed down the list, we recommend you make notes on how you could implement each offer strategy.
Create irresistible offer sequences
Once you have decided on your pricing strategy, you are ready to start packaging up your offers. Here are some of the many options available to you:
Use an offer that’s known to win
Here’s a great tip: Ask your salespeople what is their most effective offer. Is there anything they say that always brings in the deal? One of our clients’ top salespeople once told us an offer that almost always worked. We incorporated it into a landing page and presented it to the company’s CEO, who said, “We aren’t able to offer that.” We explained, to his surprise, that his company already did—and that it worked incredibly well. He agreed to let us run the page, and—to his delight—it instantly increased the whole company’s sales by over 65%.
Lead with a “no-brainer”
Decide at what point in your offer sequence you monetize your services. The winning strategy is usually to defer gratification, making the initial purchase a “no-brainer,” and then to make money on the subsequent payments:
- Make the headline offer irresistibly appealing, which often involves understanding the main criteria your prospects are using to determine value.
- Ensure that the first product people buy is one of your most liked ones, so customers are much more likely to return. Survey customers to ensure you know which of your products are most liked. (Note that your most liked product isn’t necessarily your bestseller.)
- Understand the main criteria your prospects use to determine value, then set low prices for those criteria. Supermarkets are very competitive on prices of comparable products, like Heinz Baked Beans, and charge more for products that are less easy to compare, like artisanal balsamic vinegar.
- Make your money on the things people don’t consider when making a decision: Restaurants often have low-priced meals, then make all their money on drinks.
- Consider stripping down the features of your service, then charging for extras. Car dealers often have a low headline rate, then charge for extras.
- It can help to make the initial purchase free. If you can’t make it free, then at least try to make the initial price low:
- Offer a “free trial,” which may be a no-strings, completely free sample, perhaps with a discount voucher if the customer decides to continue. Free trials work if your service is fantastic, and the best way to persuade buyers is to get them to use it.
- Offer a free trial with an ongoing monthly charge if the customer continues.
- If it’s not possible to offer a sample, consider a simulation of a sample. Freebird (Acquired by Capital One in August 2020) was a service that allowed travelers to get an alternative flight if theirs was canceled. As part of its conversion funnel, Freebird allowed users to experience the whole process as a simulation, to see how easy it was.
- Consider offering something small and irresistible for an amazing price to get something into the buyer’s shopping cart. Once the buyer has accepted that they’ll be going through the checkout, they are more likely to buy other things.
- Offer an initial discount (e.g., only $9.99/month for the first three months; $19.99/month afterward).
- Multibuy deals: “Buy one, get one free” can be more effective than “half-price,” because it keeps a high price on the product (so it doesn’t lower its perceived value) and encourages the customer to buy twice as much. The same goes for other types of multibuy deals.
- State that “We won’t bill you until N days after your purchase.”
- Allow the buyer to pay in installments (e.g., three monthly payments of $9.99). Paying in installments works well if your research reveals that many buyers don’t have the money to pay for the product outright.
- Allow the buyer to “return it within X days for your money back.”
Increase the average order value by adding upsells and cross-sells
Upsells (“Would you like that large?”) and cross-sells (“Would you like fries with that?”) can make a great difference to the economics of a sale. Creatively think of other things that the buyer would pay for, such as:
- better service;
- better customer support;
- extra information (e.g., a valuable ebook);
- quicker service;
- complementary products they’d also like (for inspiration, study the conversion funnels of companies that sell commodities in highly competitive markets like domain names, business cards, and cell phone plans).
For inspiration, ask customers (maybe via a survey) what other services they’d like you to offer and what other related services they currently use. In our article about gap analysis, we describe a useful workflow for doing this.
Add premiums (free gifts) and incentives to get a big uplift
- Information is a great thing to give away as a premium, because it has zero (or almost zero) costs of sale and can have incredibly high perceived value. Think of valuable information that your customers would love to have. For example, a person buying a health supplement to help them sleep may highly desire a report that describes how to get a good night’s sleep. You can deliver the information in various formats, including audio, video, electronic or printed reports, software, tools, or access to websites.
- If some of your offerings involve information, consider how the information can be made to educate the buyers about how to buy your type of product, and how to appreciate the ways in which your product is superior. This works well in B2B sales, because B2B buying is often complex. B2B buyers therefore value “decision-support materials.” A seller of web hosting, for example, could benefit from giving away a guide called “7 Mistakes to Avoid When Choosing a Web Hosting Solution.”
- Consider offering particular premiums to customers who spend more than a certain amount. One of our favorite techniques is to offer a valuable free report for customers who buy one unit, an additional free report for customers who buy three units, and a further free report for customers who buy five units. A buyer who wants that third report can never get it if they always order one unit at a time. This offer alone can greatly increase the average order value.
- If a customer is paying with someone else’s money (such as their employer’s), consider options that will reward the person personally. Companies that sell to businesses often use rewards such as meals, events, air miles, cash back, and gift vouchers. (Of course, don’t offer anything unethical or illegal.)
- Offer incentives to encourage prospects to behave in a certain way. For example, if you want orders to be placed on your website or over the phone, offer incentives for customers who order using those channels.
- Offer discounted prices if visitors order quickly (e.g., early-bird discounts) or in large quantities.
- Bestow status levels upon your customers: Have different levels of customers, and publicly reward those on the higher levels by giving them a higher status and benefits. People are naturally competitive and aspire to become better customers. Every producer of luxury goods uses the technique. Even credit card issuers manage to charge more for premium gold and platinum cards.
- Offer a loyalty program, whereby the buyers get certain rewards once they have purchased a certain number of units from you. Loyalty programs encourage customers to return for more, thus forming a habit, and increasing your lifetime customer value. As every cafe knows, it helps to give customers free loyalty points at the beginning, so their reward account has value from the outset.
Increase sales just by optimizing how you describe the offer
Sometimes, you don’t need to change the offer or the value proposition; you just need to change how you describe it. The following techniques work well:
- Position yourself as—and actually be—the prospects’ trusted advisor, so they know you’re acting in their best interests. Remember not to squander your integrity for one quick sale. Rand Fishkin says the best way to sell something is not to sell anything. Instead, earn the awareness, respect, and trust of those who might buy.
- Make prices look larger by displaying the decimal points (“Free gift—a $29.00 value”) or lower by hiding them (“Costs only $29”).
- Odd prices work slightly better: $9.99 is perceived as being disproportionately lower than $10.00. Presumably for the same reason that people get excited when their car odometer clicks over to 10,000 (even though it’s just another mile), and sad when they reach their fortieth birthday (even though they’re only a day older than they were the day before).
- If a price has been reduced, put a slash through it to avoid confusion, so it’s clear that it’s not the current price. So rather than saying, “Was $119, now only $89,” say, “
Was $119, now only $89.”
- If something is free—and the offer sounds too good to be true—mention that it’s free several times, in different ways. For example: “It’s free, so you pay nothing, no strings attached, no hidden charges, absolutely no cost to you whatsoever.”
- People find it easier to understand fractions than percentages—so it’s better to say “half-price” or “one-third off” than “50% off” or “33% off.”
- Use apples-to-oranges comparisons to remind people what great value the product is. If you’re selling a training course, compare it to the cost of a college education, highlighting the net benefit by showing students who have gone on to get jobs. If you’re selling a shed, compare it to the cost of having a house extension. If you’re selling a video conferencing solution, compare it with the price of international travel. You can make almost any product sound like a great deal by comparing it to the price of something the buyers are already squandering their money on, like lattes or beer. Which makes you wonder how anyone ever manages to sell lattes or beer.
- Consider expressing the price in a way that makes the numeral less: like changing a monthly rate to a daily rate.
Give a reason why you’re making such a great offer
Buyers don’t always want the cheapest option (e.g., a Casio digital watch), but they do want a bargain (e.g., a Rolex Submariner for only $3,000). However, a bargain needs a good rationale. So if the deal is great—as it should be—explain why, with proof. The following approaches can help:
- “Our prices are great because we cut out the intermediaries and sell directly to the consumer.”
- “This is an opening sale.”
- “This price is a special product-launch price.”
- “This is a special offer for new customers.”
- “This is a special offer for existing customers.”
- “This is an end-of-line clearance promotion” (the offer is about to change, and there’s scarcity).
- “This promotion is linked to a certain event” (e.g., Christmas, summer, back to school, or Black Friday).
In all cases, give indisputable proof. For example, if the product was previously sold at a higher price, give details (when, where, how much)—and justify why that price was reasonable. If it’s cheaper or better than competitors’ products, give details, maybe with a comparison chart.
Add payment options that buyers want
Customers tend to have preferred methods of ordering and paying. Therefore, it’s often best to offer the payment methods they are most comfortable with. Popular options include…
- Credit card or debit card
- PayPal, Google Pay, Amazon Pay, or Apple Pay (some iOS users are much more likely to purchase if Apple Pay is supported)
- Direct debit or standing order
- Purchase order
- Credit card over the phone
- 0% finance
- Cash on delivery (which is popular in some countries)
It’s important, too, that you offer the optimal payment schedules. The following options are effective:
- Payment in multiple installments works well when the initial price point is high.
- An ongoing monthly fee often beats taking a one-off charge. It represents less initial risk for buyers, and customers pay as they receive value, which can feel more reasonable.
- If your service is charged monthly, you may choose to specify a minimum term, before which the customer may not cancel, increasing your average order value. However, customers are more likely to buy if the minimum term is, say, 12 months than if it’s 24 months, so you can increase sales by optimizing the length of the minimum term.
- If your service has a monthly fee, consider offering a discount for customers who commit to a minimum term and pay in advance. It will be great for your cash flow, and customers are less likely to cancel early.
Change the offer to stay interesting
Ideally, you want to be constantly iterating toward whichever offer is optimal. However, in some industries, it helps to vary things to stay interesting.
Just ensure that in doing so, you’re constantly learning what works.
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