15 Special Offer Ideas
If you’ve been in business for any length of time, you KNOW that a good portion of your income comes in during specials or sales.
As a matter of fact, you don’t even have to be in business to know that. Just watch the retail industry and how even minor holidays become major events.
Every weekend seems reason for a new sale. Obviously this is because these events are working. And they work online as well.
The below article was originally written for my offline business owner training guide. That’s why you see the references to restaurants, stores, etc. BUT these same pricinples apply to online business owners as well. Sometimes it’s to your advantage to LOOK OUTSIDE your industry for ideas of what’s working.
Big breakthroughs aren’t usually something totally brand new. They’re little variations created as a marketing strategy is moved from one industry to another.
This is one of those posts you will want to print out and keep on your desk whenever you need more special offer ideas.
Another one of my posts covered the 3 Rules of Making Offers. Combine that one along with the ideas from this one.
Here are 15 ideas to get you started in creating your special offers. The key principle to any offer is to give your customers/clients a benefit for taking action now.
What can they get right now which they don’t normally receive at your business?
Remember, it is never about you. It is about your customers/clients. Everyone is tuned into one radio station, “What’s in it for me?”
Offer #1 – Free Giveaways
FREE is one of the most powerful words in marketing. It makes people’s ears stand at attention. In Robert Cialdini’s “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion,” he lists reciprocity as one of the key influencing factors. This simply means that when someone gives a gift, the receiver feels the need to give back to the giver. It’s hard-wired into our system. If someone gives you a Christmas card or a present, you feel a need to give back to them. This is also the reason why many charities send you address labels in their request for donations (this method has been tested and proven to increase gift giving).
The restaurant can offer a free lunch to a new customer. The optometrist can offer a free eye exam. The health club can offer a free 1 month membership. The chiropractor can offer a free first visit with x-rays. The dentist can offer free teeth
whitening. All of these offers can be totally free with no purchase required. Nothing beats the word free when applied to generating new customers. That $5 free lunch doesn’t cost much when you compare it to the restaurant with the $500+ Lifetime Value.
All you have to do is specify it is for new customers only to give you a try. The restaurant that just opens up could launch quickly by giving out the free coupons to business owners in their area as a gift to all their employees. The health club
can give their free 1 month memberships to the health food stores and sports clothing stores as free giveaways to all their clients. A consultant, lawyer, or accountant could give a free 30 minute consultation as a gift to all the customers/clients of a noncompeting business in an endorsed mailing or Christmas gift. A house cleaning service could promote themselves by giving away a free house cleaning as a mother’s day present idea (in card and gift shops, florists, and publicity).
Offer #2 – Sales
This is the “normal” offer for most businesses. You place items on sale or run your 30% off President’s Day sale. The sale has become the normal way of buying for retail businesses. Every single holiday elicits numerous sales. The newspaper is filled with sales for Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, President’s Day, etc. There is a reason why businesses have sales for every possible event. They work. People love buying at a discount. Collect the newspapers on Thanksgiving for the day after Thanksgiving sales.
You’ll see all kinds of tactics to get people in the stores. There are huge discounts, door prizes, free gifts, etc. Everyone is competing for the biggest shopping day of the year. A good percentage of coupons are also of this type. They may give $10 off or a 20% discount until a certain date. This type of discount can be used in almost any business. You receive a discounted price or percentage off the product you’re selling. A “sale” I’ve personally loved to do is to offer a discount on one of my more expensive products whenever someone purchases a lower cost item from me. For example, if someone purchases a $97 item, I may send them a $97 discount off a $497 item if they purchase within 30 days. In essence, they get the first item free for upgrading to the larger purchase.
Offer #3 – Private Sales
This is a variation on the sale, but it is only offered to a specific segment of customers. It takes the “exclusivity” motivator into account. Customer appreciation sales are common. You can send out a direct mail letter, postcard, email, or even phone call to your current customers. You alert them to a special sale good only for current clients. It may be a special on your website or something offered over the phone only. It could be a special they need to come into your office to receive on a specific date or dates. This is a good way to activate previous customers and to increase the Lifetime Value of your clients. Everyone likes to receive exclusive deals and to be made to feel special.
This can also be used when you’re marketing to a specific group of new customers. You could make an offer to all the employees of a business that works next door by contacting the business owner. You could run an offer that is only good for members of a specific group (senior citizens, college students, Lion’s club members, etc.). Many endorsement deals where another business endorses your products or services make use of some private type of sales. For example, you could have the business promoting you send out a letter for a special discount. Anyone who comes into your store must bring the letter and hand it discretely to the sales associate because no one else receives this private sale price.
Offer #4 – Free Trials
Let’s say salesperson A offers you a $1,000 vacuum cleaner. He tells you it will be easier to use, reduce your workload, and last at least 10 years or more. All you have to do is act now and you’ll get it for $500. Salesperson B offers you the same vacuum, BUT on a trial basis. He’ll leave the vacuum with you for free for the next 30 days. You try it out. You use it whenever you want. In 30 days he’ll return to give you the opportunity to keep the vacuum and make monthly payments or he’ll pick it up and take it with him. If you decide it isn’t for you, you don’t owe a penny. There’s no obligation to purchase. Which offer is more enticing?
With mail order offers, this type of trial offer has been proven to triple sales in many markets. This works extremely well for products people use regularly and won’t want to live without once they’re used to it. It gives your prospect zero risk and allows you to use the puppy dog close. “You don’t have to decide today. Try it out free the next 30 days. If it isn’t everything I say it is, just send it back. You owe nothing. If you decide it does benefit, benefit, benefit…just keep it and simply pay this price.”
Offer #5 – Two For One
This is another common type of sale you see in grocery stores, but it has much greater application than this. In retail it is simply buy this product, get one free. In other applications it can be used to double your customer base. The health club can run a buy one membership, get another one free to get two clients in the door. The restaurant can follow the same principle since no one likes to eat alone anyway. Magazines offer a free subscription for your friend when you buy one. Seminars often earn the same or greater profits from purchases at the meeting, so they can run a bring-a-friend free promotion. The more people at the conference, the more they’ll make in back of the room sales.
This tactic is also used to increase the volume of sales. Buy four and get one free. Nobody might ever want to buy four of something, but the bonus one convinces them to go all out and increase the overall sale value. You may test this type of upsell offer for your business. Whenever someone purchases one bottle of whatever, offer them a free bonus one if they upgrade to a purchase of three.
Offer #6 – Better Terms
We’ve been trained to think in terms of monthly payments. You pay for your house in monthly payments. You pay for your car in monthly payments. In many cases, people don’t even think in overall price anymore. They simply think about the low monthly payments and how much they can afford. Many businesses simply take this low monthly payment road as part of their primary marketing offer. You can find sales with no interest for a year. There are low interest rate sales.
The business consultant can offer a pay as you profit monthly plan. The real estate agent can find the best mortgage brokers for lower interest rates for their clients (they wouldn’t earn anything from this but they’d increase the number of clients who could buy). Any retail store could offer a store credit card plan. The plumber could offer a payment plan for those who don’t have the money for an emergency service. Many lawyers offer contingency deals where you pay only when you win.
Offer #7 – Bonuses
Make an offer with special bonuses. For example, in the newsletter business you often “sell” the bonuses. A monthly newsletter may offer a set of training CDs as the offer for subscribing now. In the majority of cases, they’ll even put more attention on the free gifts than they do on the subscription itself. People want results now, and newsletters are products you receive overtime. So bonuses you can receive instantly work extremely well in this market. Sports Illustrated is one of the most well known magazines who does the bonus offer. They “sell” you on whatever bonuses you get with your paid subscription. It may be a special swimsuit issue, a phone, a DVD, a jacket, etc.
Whatever the bonuses are at the time, you’ll notice them in the offer they make. You’ll notice that when you purchased this course it came with a multitude of bonuses. You received bonus reports on copywriting, joint ventures, headline writing, and more. In fact, you should have noticed the value of the bonuses exceeded the price of the product itself. That was done on purpose and every one of the bonuses really does cost that much when sold separately. A service business can offer a set of other services along with the main service people purchase. For example, if someone purchases an hour of time from an accountant, they could give them a free tax savings CD or CD set. The printer could find and purchase resale rights to a copywriting course and offer that with a certain volume of orders from local businesses. The dry cleaner could offer free delivery and pickup for a certain size order.
You often see the bonus offer used in retail and restaurants as well. The pizza restaurant may offer a free 2 liter with delivery orders. Another restaurant may run a special coupon in the paper for a free dessert when you buy an entrée. A retail store may offer a free dust buster with a vacuum. A make-up purchase may come with a free carrying bag. The men’s body spray has a bonus shaving lotion with it (notice on this one that they’re also getting you to try another product). No matter what business you’re in, there is a way to run a special offer with some type of related bonus.
Offer #8 – Package Deals
This is related to the free bonus but comes at it from a different direction. The make-up counter may put together a package with all different items in it for a discount price. You get A, B, and C for only $50 instead of the individual total price of $75.
Automobile manufacturers put many of their most popular options together in package deals (such as off-road packages consisting of larger tires, chassis modifications, etc.). The restaurant may offer a complete meal for two including appetizer, entrée, dessert, and roses all for one price during Valentine’s Day. They could even make a “deluxe” larger offer at the same time to include the previous dinner plus a limo ride (through a joint venture deal with a limo company).
The basic and deluxe package deals can be applied to a lot of business offers. A vacation company could offer basic vacation packages with no frills. Then they offer the deluxe version including hotel upgrades, dinner at nice restaurants, etc. The electronics business could offer a home theater system package including surround sound, subwoofer, amplifiers, and TV (or projector system). They could also offer the deluxe version which includes high quality items across the board. The gym could package a membership, personal training sessions, and nutritional supplements together in both a basic and deluxe version.
Package deals also make great upsells. If someone just wants to purchase an entrée, you could tell them about your discounted three course meal package deal. The garage offering oil changes could offer a package of other routine maintenance items as an upsell. The pet store could offer a deal on dog food, treats, flea medicine, and toys all as a discounted package upsell. Any service business could figure out how to combine several services together to make their upsell package.
Offer #9 – Continuity Programs
Too many companies allow their business to be based off one-time sales. Look carefully at whatever you offer and figure out a way to build a continuity plan. The tree trimmer may get hired to do one service, but after doing the service they could offer their 4 times per year plan including the one today in the rate. My furnace and air conditioning company offers me a twice a year plan where they come in and service the furnace in the fall and the central air in the spring. A large number of mail order businesses offer autoship until cancelled programs.
The garage could offer oil changes 4 times a year for a discounted continuity rate. The nail salon or stylist could offer a yearly discounted plan for their services. Even the young person who has a summer job of mowing yards could offer a seasonal plan for every service. In each of these plans, you’re doing the customer a benefit. They’re getting a discount rate for buying the larger service program and they’re also using your services on the regular schedule they need. You benefit because you’ve locked-in business in advance. What way can you build some type of continuity plan into your business?
Offer #10 – Guarantees
You should find ways to build guarantees into every offer you make. The more risk-free you make your offer for your prospects, the easier it is to generate new business. If whatever you sell doesn’t work for your clients, they should have a way of getting it fixed of getting their money back. Risk reversal should be a part of your bottom line way of doing business. You can also take guarantees even further and make a special offer based simply off your guarantee.
The accountant could run an offer to guarantee savings on a tax return, or your money back (it then costs you NOT to use them). A company offering any type of business service could give businesses a call and offer a “try-us-out deal.” If the company doesn’t save money or make more money than with their current vendor, they owe nothing. The copywriter or business consultant could guarantee results by charging a small fee and then taking the majority of their income through a percentage of increased profits.
This could even be used outside of owning a business. Want a promotion in your job? Offer to work at the higher level position at your current salary for the next month. If you enjoy the new job and your employees see the good work you do, your salary can then be raised to that level. If either you or your employees don’t feel you’re right for the position, you can go back to your old job. As a business owner, don’t you wish you received that offer?
Offer #11 – Contests
Your offer could be based off a contest. Since you don’t want to be involved in running a lottery, this should be used on your free offers (consult with a lawyer for the legalities for contests). You can collect names for your new email list by offering a monthly prize. Restaurants collect business cards for a free dinner. Vacation and timeshare companies give away cars for people to sign-up to receive more information. Is there any reason why your business isn’t collecting names, addresses, business cards, etc. to build your opt-in email and customer lists?
On the Internet, you can run contests for people who sign-up through your opt-in email form. At your physical business you could ask for people to come in and drop off their information to enter your contest (getting them into your place of business). If you’re running a contest with very nice prizes, you can even use publicity to promote it for free around the area or in your niche market. Another idea is to have a “testimonial” contest where people tell you the results they’ve achieved from using your products/services in the past.
Offer #12 – Charity
You could run an offer based on giving to charity. All your proceeds from a certain sale may go to charity. Ten percent of all your proceeds may go to a specific charity. You could even have customers pick one of several charities for 10% of their proceeds to go to (for example, a Christian bookstore could offer to give 10% to different churches in the area). If you wanted to generate new customers/clients and were willing to give up all the profits on the front-end, you could offer your product to charities for free for them to sell by phone, in letters, or by door-to-door marketing. They keep all the money, but you generate a new customer. You can donate products/services to the charity auction to generate new clients.
A good example of this is a marketing plan used by Bill Philips of EAS who sells sports supplements. He wrote a book called, “Body for Life,” and all proceeds from the book were given to the Make-a-Wish Foundation. The book gave you the complete workout plan he used and then told you about his Body-for-Life contest where you get your body in shape in 12 weeks or less (they had other time frames as well). Everyone would submit before and after pictures along with an essay on their results. The contest was sponsored by EAS offering multiple products to help you achieve results faster (to win the contest and the prizes). This whole plan combines both charities marketing with contest marketing. It even generates “testimonials” through the essay and pictures sent in. It shows you how you can combine multiple offers in one plan.
Offer #13 – Events
Hold a special event as your offer. Get people into your bookstore through a book signing or a special author presentation. The Mercedes dealership could have a fashion show in their office. The restaurant could have a “sports” night with a popular sports hero. The website could run a teleseminar, webinar, or live conference for their memberships to meet a celebrity in the industry or simply to network with each other. The clothing store could have a fashion show or a clothing consultant to help their customers choose their garments.
Combine the charity offer with an event and hold an event at your place of business to promote through publicity. You could offer free advice on whatever business you do at a charity event. A real estate agent can offer advice on improving home values. The chiropractor could offer advice on taking care of your back. The massage therapist could give free massages. You’ll generate leads while helping out a charity at an event such as this.
Offer #14 – Limited Availability
The big offer you make may simply be how limited in availability something is. The consultant may only be able to take five new clients. The professional speaker may only have a few available dates left. It’s built into our natures to want what we can’t have. If you have loads of free time available to take on numerous new clients, no one wants you. If you can only take on a few new clients and are booked solid, everyone wants you. Part of your offer in any service business may simply be that you don’t work with everyone. You’re extremely selective and pick-and-choose your clients.
Disney has marketed many of their videos by offering them for a short time and then pulling them off the market for decades. If you don’t get them now, you won’t get them for a long time. The collectibles market is built off this principle. There is only a limited amount of this, so it must be expensive. Everyone wants it, but we’re only making a very limited number. Automobile makers design limited editions of their regular models. Toy manufacturers have found it successful to design a more upscale limited edition of some of their lines (some even create extremely expensive versions for the publicity to sell the regular versions also).
Your offer could be about how “exclusive” something is. You may create a membership for your best customers only. Maybe your top 100 customers received preferred status and seating at your restaurant. Your “gold” members may be the only ones who get special notices and offers in the mail. Your “platinum” dental members could be those that get immediate emergency service no matter what. People love to be appreciated and they love to be a member in an exclusive club that doesn’t allow just anyone.
Offer #15 – Free or Low Cost Information Product
This is one of my favorite offers for lead generation in service businesses of any type. You create a report, CD, or DVD on a subject of interest to your target market. For example, the real estate agent does a report on, “How to get Top Dollar for your Home in Today’s Market,” for sellers and a, “How to Find Home Bargains in Today’s Market,” for buyers. The account does a report on, “7 Ways to Save Money on Taxes That the IRS Isn’t Telling You.” The window installer offers a report, “How to Save 30% or More On Heating Bills This Winter.” The plumber does the report, “How to Keep Your Pipes From Freezing in the Cold Winter Months.”
You then offer your report free in your advertising, in your Yellow page ads, on your website, and through free publicity. Your goal is to brand yourself as the expert on your market. It also puts you in an entirely different light from all your competitors. They’re simply out there trying to get money from the prospects, but you’re educating them. You’re helping them. You’re taking the role of an advisor instead of a salesperson. You’ll learn quite a bit more about this subject as we’ll cover it more in depth later on.
The accountant, lawyer, advertising agent, and business coach could have a special free or low cost seminar on how to improve the profits of your business while saving money on taxes and legal fees. You can send out press releases and do media interviews about your free information product. You could speak on the subject at local events. Everyone wants to deal with the expert, and you’ll also notice experts get to charge the premium prices.Related Entries:
- 3 Rules for Making Offers
- 5 Ways to Boost Profits Today
- 4 Income Streams in Every Business
- Forced Continuity
- Black Friday Craziness