The Secret to Turning Website Leads into Happy Customers: The Initial Offer
By John Welch on November 7, 2019
What is an Initial Offer?
An initial offer is a low-cost, high-value product that you sell.
This offer is designed to create a first-time customer at low-risk to the buyer.
Put simply, your initial offer is a way for someone to buy from you without needing to pay for your full-suite of services.
It can be either a physical product, an information product, or a service.
The actual initial offer needs to be unique to your industry and target customer–what matters is that it is cheap enough that your prospects can buy it without thinking twice and valuable enough that they would be making a mistake not to buy.
All marketing should ultimately lead to one thing - sales. Most marketing fails to accomplish this for a very simple reason: marketers are bad at asking for things.
In order to make a sale, you have to ask for a sale. But it doesn’t have to be “salesy.” That’s where the initial offer comes in.
If You Can Get Them to Buy Once, You Can Do It Again
The power of an initial offer comes from a very interesting piece of data.
A customer who buys from you once has a 27% chance of buying from you again.
What does this mean? It means that if four people buy from you, you’re almost guaranteed that one of them will buy from you again!
Now, most businesses think that their goal is to get a prospect to buy whatever their main product is. They approach business conversations and prospects trying to see if the prospect is a good candidate for the main services the business wants to sell. This is an incredibly limiting way to look at prospect conversations.
Your real goal is not to get every prospect to buy your full-service offering. Your goal should be to turn as many prospects as possible into first-time customers.
So many businesses are focused on building their email lists and having sales conversations. Imagine if instead of having a sales conversation, you were having a post-sales conversation.
The initial offer is the best way to turn a prospect into a customer. Don’t limit yourself to growing an email list, make it your goal instead to grow a customer list.
A Guide to Creating an Initial Offer
Creating an initial offer is simple.
One of the easiest things to do is:
- Find a service that you provide to your clients for free
- Begin to charge for and market that service to anyone who ends up on your website
When you offer this smaller service or product as a part of your main service, you’ve already earned a customer, so it seems sensible to just give it away. However, odds are that this service is valuable even detached from your normal service offerings. As such, you can sell this service on your website for a nominal fee and you’ve got your initial offer!
Here are three different examples of this initial offer principle in action:
The Cabinet Design Company
For this example, let’s use a cabinet design company called Cabinettics LLC that works with architects and project managers.
Whenever they find a prospective project, they provide the budget as a preliminary you-should-work-with-us offer. They will offer this service even if they haven’t won the bid for the project because it helps them build a relationship and provide value early on in the project process.
This company’s marketing efforts are targeting project managers and architects because those avatars are usually the most influential in the builder’s buying process.
Instead of giving away free budgets in the hopes that their prospective client chooses them (in which case if they aren’t chosen for the project, it is a waste of time and resources), Cabinettics LLC could use this budgeting service as an initial offer on their website for a low fee.
The marketing funnel works like this.
- An architect is on Google looking for information on cabinets, they find the Cabinettics LLC high-quality blog and learn something valuable.
- They then see the enticing invitation at the bottom of the blog post to learn more about how the cabinet company helps architects.
- This takes them to the budget tool landing page and they see that they can buy a comprehensive project budget for $99. The architect knows that the value of this budget is significantly more than $99 and they know that they were going to spend the next 3 weeks working on a budget anyway.
With this funnel, Cabinettics LLC’s initial offer creates an easy and valuable way for the architect to get introduced to their company at low risk. If the budget is no good, well it was only $99. But, if the cabinet design company does an amazing job at delivering this $99 budget, the architect won’t have to work up a budget or worry about finding a quality cabinet company.
Cabinettics LLC has just created a satisfied customer without wasting time and money on unused budgets!
The Sales Coaching Company
Let’s look at a sales coach who has a company called UltraCoach. Their primary service is helping businesses build sales teams and increase efficiency in the pipeline.
During the course of your work with the client, the sales process would inevitably be a part of the help you offer. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that any business struggling with sales is almost guaranteed to have a poor/non-existent sales process.
However, a business doesn’t need to engage with you as a sales coach to get help with their sales process. If you made your initial offer a low-cost, high-value sales process that you would develop for their business, then you’ve just created a low-risk way for a business to see you in action.
Most sales coaches bill their time between $200/hr and $300/hr. If a business paid a sales coach just to develop them a sales process it would probably cost them $5,000 - $10,000. A highly attractive initial offer would be to develop a full-fledged sales process for a small business for $500. This is something you could largely template (most small businesses operate in a very similar manner), so it is of no loss of time to you. Most of the work would simply be tweaking the sales process template to fit the business’s industry.
Now when somebody purchases this valuable sales process, UltraCoach is in the door to their sales team! The business is likely to want guidance and coaching through the process of building up their sales, and they know just who they trust to do so!
An IT Company
IT is one of the best industries for the implementation of the initial offer. In IT it is never a question of whether your prospects have problems, it’s simply a question of whether you can help them to understand how serious their problems are and how many they have.
To start, cybersecurity is one of the hottest and least understood topics. The mistake most IT companies make is trying to get a business to contract with them for a comprehensive cybersecurity analysis that will uncover any and all issues that they may be experiencing.
While this kind of service is certainly beneficial to a business, it usually costs more than the business is able to justify. The reason they can’t justify it is because they don’t understand how many threats they are facing, or how dangerous those threats are to their business.
To counteract their clients’ ignorance (and save some companies quite a bit of headache), an IT company can create an initial offer where they set up a low-cost analysis tool that scrubs the business’s network and reports red flags. This kind of software would be extremely low-cost or the IT company could simply do it themselves and charge a nominal fee.
Instead of putting a proposal in front of a business for a $10,000 security analysis, put a page on your website offering a $99 security check.
Clearly detail what the check searches for and it will sell itself. Things like credit card compliance, customer data, federal regulations, and cyber criminals make for plenty of bad guys and security concerns to justify this low-cost service.
Once you’ve completed your security check, your prospect is holding an entire report full of reasons to do business with you. The best part is, it barely cost them anything.
Initial offers are worth your time.
The most common reaction to this idea of the initial offer is “but how can I justify all the time I’m spending on this low-cost service?”
There are a couple reasons why this is a short-sighted way to look at the initial offer.
- There’s a cost of acquisition for every client you have. Whether it’s the sales team, the marketing team, or the business owner spending time networking, the business must pay money to acquire new customers. This initial offer is designed to engage website traffic that would most likely never engage with you otherwise. The initial offer is simply the cost of acquisition. If 4 people bought your initial offer and one of them becomes a full-time client because of it, it’s all justified.
- You’re going to spend the time anyway. When you onboard a client, or put them through your process, there are things that you are going to do every time. In the case of the cabinet design company, it’s the budget. In the case of the sales coach, it’s the sales process. In the case of the IT company, it’s some sort of analysis of their current IT/ security state. By setting up an initial offer, you’re simply doing some of the work ahead of time. If you’ve already built a sales process and then the company starts using you as a sales coach, you have jump-started your whole engagement. Your total value to the client and your likelihood of getting results quicker both increase. It’s a win-win.
This is just scratching the surface of the possibilities in using an initial offer. You know your business and your clients better than anyone. Think about the problems they are dealing with and the ways that you solve those problems. Then think about how you could offer them something at a low-cost that would be valuable to them, but also relevant to the problems that you solve.
Don’t be afraid to try different initial offers. Come up with three initial offer ideas and test them. You will find something that resonates with your prospects.
Remember: the point is to transform your prospects into paying customers.
Optimize Your Website for the Initial Offer
In everything you do from a marketing perspective, this is the challenge: how can you stop thinking in terms of list growth and start thinking in terms of customer growth?
Your website is the best place to begin implementing your initial offer. Most websites are not optimized to convert at all. Better websites are optimized to convert visitors into email list subscribers or to get them to sign up for a demo with the sales team.
The best possible online conversion is a sale. The best-case scenario is when a website visitor agrees to exchange money for what you are offering. Your initial offer is the ideal way to accomplish this conversion.
Create the Initial Offer Page.
The initial offer page is a landing page. You need to build a page on your website dedicated entirely to selling your initial offer. Now, I use the word selling very loosely. It’s more like educating your visitor on why the initial offer makes sense. Remember, everything we’re doing is designed to invite the visitor deeper into the conversation, not to beat them over the head with a sales pitch.
There are a few specific elements that you’ll want to include on your initial offer page:
- Headline: this is where you grab the visitor’s attention. This doesn’t need to be cute, just effective. Going back to the sales coach idea, let’s imagine a headline for his sales process offer: “HOW TO INCREASE TOTAL SALES VOLUME, RAISE SALES CONVERSION RATES, AND MAKE MORE MONEY PER TRANSACTION.”
- What’s Included: after the headline you need to clearly outline what the visitor is getting with the product. Use your three tangible benefits from the headline and try to associate a picture with them. Screenshots (if applicable) are a great way to showcase the product or finished service offering. UltraCoach might market his sales process initial offer with these benefits:
- Increase Total Sales Volume: “An effective sales process reduces the amount of time your sales team spends on each individual prospect. This allows each sales rep to handle more deals at a time, thereby increasing the total sales volume per rep without an increase in sales team size.”
- Raise Sales Conversion Rates: “A great sales process makes more sense for the prospect and helps you stand out from the competition. Customer experience is the number one reason why buyers choose one vendor over another. Customer experience begins with the sales experience. The efficient sales processes I design encourage more prospects to buy from you, increasing your conversion rate per deal.”
- Make More Money Per Transaction: “When a sales process is executed correctly, the sales cycle is shortened. Shorter sales cycle means your sales reps are spending less time on each sale. This translates to lower cost of acquisition and increased profit per sales transaction.”
- Testimonials: After you explain the benefits and what’s included, put in some customer testimonials that you have from people working with you. Try to pick ones that are relevant to the initial offering. The more specific the better. If all you have are more general testimonials, then those will work.
- Call-To-Action: Your call-to-action is how your visitor actually engages with your offer. This should be some sort of button that says something like “Register Now” or “Get Started” or “Take the Leap!” Try to get creative and unique, but be careful of getting too far out there. It’s much more important that the visitor understands what action they’re taking than how exciting and creative your “Yeehaw” button is.
Test and measure.
You now have everything you need to get started with your initial offer. Take some time and put some real thought into a couple of ideas that really resonate with you. Do some testing and measuring and get feedback from your clients and business associates. Don’t get stuck in analysis paralysis, though. The most important thing is to do SOMETHING. Getting started with an initial offer is more important than getting it perfect.
Remember, your constant challenge is how to convert prospects into customers. This is the purpose of the initial offer. Run everything you’re doing through that filter. Good luck!
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