Ever heard of Charley Hill? He seemed like 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. Charley Hill was one of the most successful farm equipment salesmen in the Midwest. People would travel hundreds of miles to see Charley, even when there were plenty of dealers much closer to home.
What did Charley have that other salesmen didn’t? Not a thing.
He sold the same equipment as everyone else. Carried the same parts. Provided the same service. Yet his sales were typically two or three times that of similar-sized dealers. The reason?
Charley Hill didn’t believe in “fair” offers
Every customer went home, shaking his head, thinking that good old Charley was the most unfair salesman they had ever dealt with.
But they thought is was Charlie who was getting the raw end of the deal.
Charley didn’t cheat his customers — no, quite the opposite. He simply 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 customers feel as if they’re getting far more value than what they’re paying for. It’s an arrangement that makes a purchase seem irresistible, easy, and free of risk.
How do you make an unfair offer?
First, let’s consider what an offer is. The most basic offer is simply “Here’s something I’m selling and this is what you have to pay.” But an offer can be so much more.
Consider some of the other elements that could go into an offer, such as:
- The unit of sale (each? two for? set?)
- Optional features (personalization? e-book or hardcopy?)
- Presentation of price ($40 or $39.99? $12 a month or 40 cents a day?)
- Terms (credit card? delayed billing? installments?)
- Incentives (free gifts? discounts? contests?)
- Guarantee (money-back? buy-back? refund unused portion?)
- Trial period (30 days? 60 days? 90 days?)
- Time or quantity limit (respond before date? reply in 10 days? only 500 available?)
- Shipping and handling (extra or included?)
- Future obligations (buy 3 more in 6 months? no obligation?)
Once you have an idea of the parts that make up your offer, you can improve each one-by-one. For example, let’s say you’re selling an e-book on your blog and your price is $30. Here’s a breakdown of the possible elements of your offer:
Unit of sale: 1
Optional features: none
Presentation of price: $30
Terms: credit card payment
Trial period: none
Time or quantity limit: none
Shipping and handling: none
Future obligations: none
So basically, you offer an e-book for a flat $30 and you want payment upfront. That’s it.
If you’ve built up the benefits of your book, it seems like a fair offer. But how could you turn this into an unfair offer? Let’s look at each element.
Unit of Sale
You’re selling one e-book. Okay, makes sense for most individuals. Though if your market is business or government, you could offer a lower price for a higher unit of sale, say 10 for $250. This works even better if you’re selling physical items.
Many people prefer books in hard copy. A hard copy also seems more valuable because it’s a physical object rather than just an electronic file. In fact, many people print e-books to make them easier to read.
So you might offer a printed version for $10 more. Perhaps the printed version could have an extra chapter or bonus features. Once you have a finished book design, hard copies can be relatively simple with print-on-demand services, such as Lulu.
Presentation of Price
You’ve done your research and found that $30 is a good price for the type of e-book you’re selling, but you could use a “price break” to make the cost appear smaller. You can present this price as $29.99 or $29.97 or $29.95.
It costs you only a few pennies, but transforms a thirty-dollar price tag into what feels like a twenty-something price tag. For simplicity, you could even set the price at a flat $29.
There’s nothing wrong with accepting credit cards. But you could also accept PayPal. And as odd as it may seem, some people don’t like to use credit cards or Paypal and prefer to send a physical check.
I work with a political organization that sells products online and we always allow payment by check for the small percentage of people who feel more comfortable with that. It is more time-consuming, so you would have to evaluate whether it’s cost-effective for you. With many online businesses it’s not practical.
Here’s where you can really pump up your offer. You can offer a free gift or bonus (or two or three) with each sale. This might be other e-books you already have or sections that you pull out of the main e-book. Offering a 100-page e-book with a 20-page free bonus is more attractive than offering a 120-page e-book.
You could also offer special discounts, such as $10 off for the first 4 weeks of your promotion, then raise the price later.
Here’s another great way to strengthen your offer. Remember that people don’t know what they’re getting until they get it. They’ve been ripped off before and have doubts any time they buy something sight unseen.
You could offer a 30-day money back guarantee to assure them that you’re honest and stand behind what you sell. Better yet, a 60-day or 90-day guarantee. It may seem counterintuitive, but the longer the guarantee, the less likely people are to return something.
If you’ve promoted your e-book as a “system,” such as how to build blog traffic step-by-step, you could turn your guarantee into a risk-free trial.
Try my blog traffic-building system risk-free for 3 months. If you’re not satisfied with the results, I’ll refund your money no questions asked.
Time or Quantity Limit
Quantity limits work for physical items. “Hurry. Quantities are limited.” Time limits work for anything. “It’s available only for the next 19 days.” A time limit forces an immediate decision and increases sales.
If you don’t want to set a limit on your e-book, you could set a limit on a bonus. “Order in the next week and get the bonus e-book free.”
Shipping and Handling
For an e-book, there is no shipping and handling. But if you choose to offer a hard copy or physical item, it is acceptable to add a reasonable amount to cover your shipping costs.
You could also offer free shipping as a bonus offer, which is popular for online sales. By the way, most cities have one or more “fulfillment” businesses who will package and ship your items for a small fee.
Book clubs sometimes offer special low prices on an initial purchase if you agree to make future purchases at the regular price. “Get 3 books for 3 bucks. Order 5 more books later for our regular low price.”
I’ve not seen this offer used with e-books, since there’s a chance you could get ripped off by your customers. But for the right audience, it could work.
Okay, so let’s pretend your e-book is called “The Magic Blog Traffic Building System.” Here is your original “fair” offer:
Order The Magic Blog Traffic Building System for $30
A little boring, huh? Now let’s compare that to this “unfair” offer using some of the elements above:
Try The Magic Blog Traffic Building System risk-free for 90 days. Your satisfaction is guaranteed. If your blog doesn’t explode with traffic, return the book for a full refund, no questions asked. Order in the next 30 days and pay just $19 ($29 after March 15) PLUS get 3 FREE BONUS reports: 9 Ways to Boost Blog Traffic with E-mail, Blog Design Secrets that Make Visitors Come Back, and The Lazy Blogger’s Way to Create Popular Posts.
How could you turn down an offer like that? It’s so good, it actually appears “unfair” to the person selling you the e-book.
“How could anyone make money asking so little and giving me so much?” That’s the impression you want to create. And that’s what can turn a boring “fair” offer into an exciting “unfair” offer.
Old Charley Hill came before the Internet and wouldn’t know a blog from a bullfrog. But he understood the idea that customers come first. When you make people feel you’re giving them more than you’re getting in return, you make sales. Lots and lots of sales.
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About the Author: Dean Rieck is one of America’s top freelance copywriters and publisher of the Direct Creative Blog and Pro Copy Tips, a blog that provides copywriting tips for professional copywriters.