The Magic of Making Unfair Offers
by Dean Rieck
By all appearances, Charley Hill was an average, ordinary guy.
He lived in a mid-sized town with his wife, two children, and a dog. He went to church on Sunday, coached Little League, and drove a pickup truck. He was friendly but quiet, the sort of guy you could walk by on the street without noticing.
But appearances can be deceiving. Because Charley Hill was one of the most successful salesmen in the Midwest. What did Charley have that other salesmen didn't? Not a thing. He sold the same products. Carried the same parts. Provided the same service. Yet his sales were typically two or three times that of competitors. The reason?
Charley Hill didn't believe in "fair" offers. In fact, he went out of his way to treat his customers unfairly. Now obviously I don't mean he cheated people. What I mean is that he made offers that were so compelling and seemed so skewed in his customers' favor, people just couldn't say no.
What is a fair offer anyway? A reasonable price? There's nothing wrong with that. But there's nothing very exciting about it either. An unfair offer, on the other hand, is very exciting. It's a deal that makes a purchase seem irresistible.
How do you make an unfair offer? Any way you like. But if you're a direct marketer, I suggest starting with one of these seven offers that have proven themselves over the years. They almost always raise your response rate because they all include an element that seems to lean in your customer's favor.
- Free Trial This may be the best offer ever devised. A customer can try out your product free and without obligation for 10 days, 15 days, 30 days, or more. The time frame should fit the product. This offer removes risk for the prospect, overcomes inertia, and works with just about any product.
- Money-Back Guarantee This is perhaps the second best offer. A customer pays upfront but if dissatisfied, can return the item for a full refund. Like the free trial, this offer removes risk but allows you to use customer inertia to your benefit, since few people will take the trouble to return something.
- Free Gift When you offer a freebie your customer wants, your offer will usually outpull a discount offer of similar value. That's because a gift is a more tangible benefit. And it doesn't devalue your product the way a price reduction can.
- Limited-time An offer with a time limit gets more response than an offer without one, especially when you give a specific deadline. This forces a decision. And the faster you can force a decision, the more likely it will be in your favor. This is a benefit to the customer too, since it actually makes the decision easier by providing a tangible reason to act now and making the offer feel more exclusive.
- Yes/No You ask your prospect to respond positively or negatively with a yes or no check box, yes or no tokens, or with other techniques. This offer usually pulls more response than an offer that does not offer a no option because it's inherently involving and it clarifies the need for a decision. It can also highlight what will be lost by saying no. For example: No. Give my free widget to someone else.
- Negative Option This pulls better than positive option offers. The idea is to automatically ship merchandise unless the customer cancels the order by a specified date. It's often used with book and CD clubs, but it can work with all sorts of products, services, and memberships. Basically, automatic shipping removes the need for a decision later on and can be positioned as a convenience.
- Credit Card Payment Nothing is easier than paying with plastic. These days, there's no reason to not accept payment this way. It's a way of life for many people, so it should be a way of business for you.
But don't stop with these seven offers. If a guarantee works, try a double-your-money-back guarantee. Combine a negative option with credit card payments and a free trial. Try adding a limited-time offer to any offer you're making. If you get good results with Yes/No, try Yes/Maybe and offer more information for all of the maybes, which will turn a portion of your program into a two-step sale. Do your customers like free gifts? Okay, try a free gift with a free trial. Maybe another free gift with payment.
There are countless offers you can make. Endless ways to combine them, tweak them, and pump them up to make your sales explode off the charts. Charley Hill knew that you don't need flashy products or a fancy sales pitch. You can sell just about anything to anyone if you just make the right offer. The more unfair it is and the more valuable it seems, the more you'll sell.
So. How unfair is your offer?
Copyright © 2001 Dean Rieck. All Rights Reserved.
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