Here's How to Craft the Perfect Offer (& Sell Anything)
When I talk with business owners––whether they’re selling their products or are affiliate marketers––the common theme is that most of them depend on their customers to make the connection between product and value. Instead of connecting the dots for their customers by showing them the value that the product offers, they put it on the customers to make those connections. I'll show you a better option.
You have a product––something that you’re selling––and it might be your product or one that you’re affiliate marketing for another business, but your end goal is the same: You want to make a sale.
Here’s the catch: Just because you have a product, it doesn’t mean that you have an offer––which is just as important as the actual thing you’re selling. When it comes to selling (anything, anywhere), the offer is the secret sauce that turns a product from “a thing someone buys” into “an investment in something that will help them undergo some sort of transformation.”
What does that even mean, though? In this article, we’re going to show you how to craft the perfect offer so that you can position any plain old product as something that changes people’s lives:
- What exactly an offer is and why you need one
- The elements of a compelling offer
- How to create the perfect offer
- How to translate your offer into marketing copy that sells
What is an Offer, Anyway?
The product is the deliverable, but the offer is the “why” behind the purchase.
You already know what a product is, so let’s take a look at what an offer is and how it compares to a product:
A product is what people buy: It’s the actual “thing” that a customer buys. For example, a new laptop is an example of a product.
An offer is why people buy: It’s the reason behind the purchase––the underlying motivation that drives a customer to purchase a product. That new laptop from the example above? The laptop might be the product, but the motivation behind the purchase could be that the purchaser wants to work more efficiently so that he or she can get more done in less time.
A product by itself is a neutral entity––it’s the means to an end rather than the result itself. Think about a lawnmower: purchasing and owning a lawnmower does not mean that you have a well-trimmed lawn. Owning a lawnmower doesn’t mean anything at all other than that you own a lawnmower.
On the other hand, an offer is a product plus the transformation it helps create in your customers. It’s easy to think, “It’s just a lawnmower––it’s not going to create some radical transformation in my life,” but let’s take a deeper look into what value and transformation a lawnmower could offer purchasers.
Say that the lawnmower you’re selling makes mowing the lawn quicker than easier than whatever process they’re currently using. That means purchasers don’t have to spend their whole Saturday trudging back and forth across a massive lawn. They can get it done in 20 minutes without breaking a sweat, which means that they can spend more of their Saturday with their family. So, instead of selling just a lawnmower, you’re selling a tool that helps customers reclaim their weekends and spend more time with their family. Would you rather mow the lawn or have more time with your family?
We’ll get more into the key elements of an offer, but the most important fact to remember is that people don’t buy products––they buy the value that the product offers them. It doesn’t matter whether you’re selling toilet paper or a new laptop. Whatever you’re selling, there is value attached, and that value is what’s going to make the sale.
When I talk with business owners––whether they’re selling their products or are affiliate marketers––the common theme is that most of them depend on their customers to make the connection between product and value. Instead of connecting the dots for their customers by showing them the value that the product offers, they put it on the customers to make those connections.
The customers are indeed 100% capable of identifying the value of whatever product they’re interested in, and many of them then purchase. For a lot of small businesses and affiliate marketers, that’s enough to turn a profit, but when you think of all the customers you could be getting by highlighting the value, the numbers suggest that you should do just that.
Say that you’re selling a product that profits $30 per sale (whether via direct profit margin or affiliate income), and say that you have 1,000 prospective customers. A solid 10% of them immediately connect the product to the value that it offers and purchase, which generates $3,000 in profit. A 10% conversion rate is pretty decent, but say that you start framing your product as an offer by focusing on the valuable transformation that it offers. Suddenly, your conversion rate jumps to 20%, which means that you’ve doubled your profit.
Not bad, right?
Do the math again, but say that you have 2,000 prospective customers at a 10% conversion rate. You do the same thing and increase that rate to 20%, which means that this time, you profit $12,000.
Even better, huh?
The numbers are the most compelling reason to incorporate this process into how you frame the products you’re marketing, but there are several other key advantages:
- Reduce the Number of Refunds. Whether your affiliate income is adjusted to reflect returns or you’re the one issuing the refunds for your product, nobody likes losing money because of refunds. A big piece of what you’re doing when you present the offer is demonstrating that the product is a tool to help solve a problem or reach a goal and that ultimately it’s up to the customer to use that tool to reach the desired result. Framing your offer in this way highlights that it’s the customer’s responsibility, not yours to achieve those benefits. This means that when your customer experiences difficulties in getting to that desired endpoint, it’s more a matter of them shifting their approach and using the product in a different way rather than an issue with the product itself.
- More Invested Customers Lead to Happier Customers. How happy a customer is with their purchase often has less to do with the product itself and more to do with how much they believe in the product’s ability to help them reach their end goal. This means that even before a customer makes a purchase, they need to truly believe that this purchase is the answer to their problem. When that belief is there, customer success depends more on them than the product.
- You Leverage Emotion and Logic. Appealing to customers’ emotional side is stronger than logic when it comes to inciting action, and often we get hung up on the logical side of things––the product’s concrete features, functions, and all of the nitty-gritty details. On the other hand, an offer is an appeal to emotion and logic rather than just logic.
What Makes a Perfect Offer?
Several key points make up an offer, and as we go, we’re going to map out an example offer for a high-end luggage brand.
You’re creating an offer with the intent to make a sale, but as we’ve said, the offer is not actually about the product itself––it’s about the transformation that you’re offering customers. In other words, you’re offering a solution that will help take them from where they are now to where they want to be.
It’s the same concept as the before and after photos that weight loss companies use to show the results they can help you achieve––the “before” photo shows where customers are now, and the “after” photo shows where they want to be.
An offer is when you align these two images to create a clear image of the transformation that customers can experience.
- Where They Are Now: This is the “before” photo––it’s the customers with all of the pain points that they’re experiencing, yes, but also their incorrect mindsets and the consequences of being in this “before state.”
- Where They Want to Be: This is the “after” photo––it’s the customers once they have experienced the transformation. It’s how they have used the product you’re marketing to experience the benefits they previously only dreamt of.
These two stages are the two sides of the transformation––and each side of the transformation is made up of three important components...
Where They Are Now
Your prospective customers are not happy where they currently are––otherwise, they wouldn’t be looking for a solution to the problem that your product solves. To frame a product in a way that resonates with prospective customers who are desperately searching for a solution, you need to identify the mistakes they’re making, the incorrect beliefs that are informing those mistakes, and the consequences that they are already experiencing or will experience if they continue making those mistakes.
- Identify the Mistake. Your prospective customers are making a mistake, and they’re likely making more than one. They might know that they’re making mistake(s), but they could also be painfully oblivious. Your job is to identify the mistake that they’re making––the mistake that your product will help them solve.
- Identify the Belief. Actions don’t exist in a vacuum, right? There’s always some thought behind them––whether that’s too much thought, incorrect thoughts, or not enough thought. Whatever the case may be, your prospective customers’ thoughts are stemming from a set of beliefs that they have about the issue at hand. The key here is to parse out the incorrect or unhelpful beliefs that are leading your prospective customers to make the mistakes you’ve already identified.
- Identify the Consequences. Every action has consequences, good or bad, and mistakes generally lead to consequences that aren’t so good. If your prospective customers continue making these mistakes that are informed by these incorrect beliefs, then something is going to happen. When you identify the consequences of those mistakes, you identify the compelling reasons why your prospective customers need to take action––whether they’re already experiencing the consequences or will eventually experience them.
Does all of that seem a tad theoretical? Let’s take a look at an example...
Throughout high school, I worked at a luggage store in the famously highbrow South Park Mall in Charlotte, NC––complete with Burberry, Tiffany & Co, Louis Vuitton, Montblanc, Hermés, and pretty much every other luxury brand you could find.
At this luggage store, we sold, well, suitcases––the majority of which cost between $500 and $2,000. Although I was in high school, I was a successful salesperson because, without even realizing it, I was using this framework to make a $1,000 suitcase seem irresistible:
The Mistake. It is fairly easy to spot the mistake––frequent travelers were buying cheap suitcases at around $200 each, replacing them once or twice a year as wheels fell off, zippers broke, and they were damaged in the luggage hold.
The Belief. These road warriors believed that intense damage to their luggage was inevitable and that a more expensive suitcase would need to be replaced at the same frequency as one of its less expensive counterparts. They believed that the frustration of broken wheels and jammed handles was inevitable and that it was more cost-efficient to replace cheaper luggage.
Consequences. What happens when a heavy traveler has to spend $200 on a new suitcase once or twice a year? Well, the most obvious consequence is that they’re wasting their money––it works out over five years that they’re spending $1,000-2,000 just on suitcases. It’s not just about the money, though, because there are plenty of other consequences:
- When their luggage breaks, it means they’re running through the airport to make their tight connection, balancing their suitcase on three wheels instead of four, half-carrying it because the telescoping handle is jammed, cursing in frustration under their breath.
- When they have to buy a new suitcase, they either have to go to the luggage store and buy a new one, which will take at least two hours out of their day, or go online, spend time hunting down and ordering a new one, which means waiting at least 3-4 days to receive it.
- If they’re purchasing a new suitcase once or twice a year, it means that they’re also throwing away an old one, contributing to the massive amount of waste thrown into landfills, thus harming the planet.
Those are a lot of bad consequences––way more than you might think would be associated with a simple suitcase. But these are real problems that travelers have, and when you help your customers realize them, your solution to those consequences is suddenly much more appealing.
Buying Cheap Luggage
Luggage will be damaged often
Their luggage is getting damaged, which makes travel 10x more difficult. They have to deal with yet another stressor during their travel, and they’re unable to enjoy their trip.
Purchasing luggage too frequently
More cost-effective to buy cheap and replace often
They’re wasting massive amounts of money and spending time and energy worrying about their luggage. As a result, they’re unable to enjoy their travel––they’re stressed out and angry about it.
Go ahead and identify the mistakes your audience is making, along with the belief that informs each mistake and the consequences that they experience as a result.
Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Each mistake should have a corresponding belief and consequence––the more specific, the better.
- Try to map out 6-8 mistakes and their corresponding beliefs and consequences. Your audience has a wide range of experiences, so it’s much better to have a more holistic view of those experiences.
- The best way to approach this exercise is to get inside your audience’s heads––this means thinking through their struggles, frustrations, fears, hopes, and desires.
- A visual layout is a great way to get a high-level perspective. You can use this template to get started.
Where They Want to Be
In mapping out where your prospective customers are now, you complete half the puzzle. You’ve identified the “before” stage of the transformation that you’re helping them undergo, but now it’s time to envision the other side––that “after” stage that your prospective customers so strongly desire.
The good news is that this half of the puzzle is a mirror image of the “before” stage––it’s where you identify the better way of doing things, the new beliefs that they need to adopt for that better way to work, and the results and benefits that they’ll experience when they use the better way and adopt those new beliefs.
Identify the Better Way. This is as simple as identifying the concrete fixes to each of the mistakes that your prospective customers are making. They’re making x mistake, but when they become customers, what y actions should they take instead?
Identify the New Belief. Remember that actions don’t exist in a vacuum and that they’re always informed by some sort of belief––whether that’s a helpful/correct belief or an unhelpful/incorrect belief. Even if your prospective customers purchase and try the better way that you presented to them, if they’re still operating under those old beliefs, they won’t be able to undergo the transformation that you’re offering them.
Identify the Benefits & Results. If your prospective customers continue making the same mistakes over and over again, they’re going to experience a set of negative consequences. On the flip-side, if they use your better way and adopt the new beliefs required to make that better way work, then they’ll experience a set of positive consequences––these are the benefits and results of your better way, and they’re the alternative to those consequences you previously identified.
Let’s look back at the example of high-end luggage:
The Better Way. If the mistake is that travelers are purchasing low-quality luggage that needs to be replaced once or twice a year, then the fix is pretty simple––they need to buy a quality suitcase that is much less likely to break and that will require repair rather than replacement if problems do arise.
If you’re marketing for Tumi, then the better way is for travelers to purchase a Tumi suitcase. And if you’re marketing for Briggs & Riley, then the better way is for travelers to purchase a Briggs & Riley suitcase.
The New Belief. The old belief is that travelers think that damage to their suitcase is inevitable and that when damage occurs, the solution is simply to purchase a new piece of luggage rather than get it repaired. They also believe that it’s more cost-efficient to buy cheap and replace often rather than to buy a higher quality suitcase.
Customer A purchases a $500 Tumi suitcase but still hangs on to those old beliefs. He doesn’t have any concept that it’s more cost-efficient to buy cheap and replace often, so when he purchases that suitcase, he does so reluctantly because deep down he thinks it’s a waste of money. Because he still believes that damage to his suitcase absolutely cannot be avoided, he still spends his flights imagining his suitcase being torn apart in the luggage hold––even though his bag is significantly less likely to be damaged. And even if damage were to occur, he still believes that the solution to a damaged suitcase is to replace it. This belief would lead him to replace a suitcase, putting him $500 in the hole––rather than get it repaired for free by the manufacturer.
Customer B, on the other hand, purchases that same $500 Tumi suitcase, but because part of the sales process helped to show her several new beliefs, she is confident that she took the more cost-efficient route. She doesn’t spend her flights worrying because she knows that her suitcase is withstanding the horrors of the luggage hold, and she knows that if anything were to happen, she’d be able to get her bag repaired (for free) and returned to her in a matter of days. Because Customer B has new beliefs around the cost efficiency and the luggage’s durability, she is ultimately the happier customer because she knows she has made a solid, long-lasting purchase rather than a disposable one that she’d have to make again in six months.
Benefits & Results. Just like mistake plus old belief equals negative consequences, better way plus new belief equals benefits & results. Let’s take a look at the benefits and results that Customer B is experiencing because she adopted the better way (buying a high-quality piece of luggage) as well as the new beliefs that made her a happy customer (it’s more cost-efficient, damage in the luggage hold isn’t inevitable, it’s better to get a suitcase repaired than to replace it):
- Travel has countless stressors, and because she has found a luggage solution that she’s confident in, she has one less stressor on her mind, which means that she can focus on her trip––whether that’s relaxing on a beach or getting work done.
- Her suitcase stayed in one piece during its journey in the luggage hold, which means that she’s not picking up her clothes off the baggage carousel and she’s not waiting in line at the luggage claims kiosk. She doesn’t miss her ride, and she’s on time for her meeting that her boss scheduled dangerously close to her flight arrival, anyway.
- She doesn’t have to worry about purchasing a new suitcase once she arrives at her destination, which saves several hours out of the day––so she can go get a massage or visit a museum instead of shopping for new luggage.
- Because she’s not constantly battling with her suitcase––trying to balance it on three wheels because a wheel has broken or leaning down to account for a jammed handle––she’s able to get where she’s going much quicker. Because the suitcase rolls effortlessly alongside her and the wheels aren’t phased by the cobblestone roads in whatever European city she’s in, she can focus on her beautiful surroundings rather than making sure that the suitcase makes it to the destination in one piece.
The Better Way
The New Belief
Results & Benefits
Use a higher quality suitcase.
Damage can be avoided with a high-quality suitcase.
They don’t have to worry about their luggage getting damaged during their flight. They have a more relaxed and enjoyable trip because their travel is so much easier and less stressful.
Buy a suitcase with a good warranty.
When damage does occur, it’s better, cheaper, and easier to get it repaired rather than replaced.
They’re saving so much money because they’re not replacing their luggage once or twice a year.
It’s your turn to identify the better way, new belief, and benefits & results that the product you’re marketing offers customers. When thinking through it, here are some things to keep in mind:
- Each better way should correspond directly to one of the mistakes that they’re already making. If the customer is making x mistake, what’s y thing they can do to fix that mistake.
- The benefits & results should be a mirror image of the negative consequences that you’ve already identified.
- If you get stuck, look back to your answers from the Where They Are Now section and just envision the opposite answer.
How to Use the Offer
At this point, you have a clear idea of your offer’s key components, both in the context of where your audience is now and where they want to be. Going through that process is the hard part, but if you stop there, you only have an offer in theory.
It’s time to bring that offer to life.
Remember the two formulas that we use when it comes to creating an offer:
- Incorrect Belief + Mistake = Consequences
- New Belief + Better Way = Benefits & Results
These two formulas are made up of the six types of information that go into creating an offer, and if you brainstormed 6 of each of them, you have a whopping 36 pieces of information that you can use to help market your product.
Fortunately, each of these six components lends itself particularly well to how you present a product––whether that’s in a blog article, on a landing page, or even just talking about it with a friend:
You’ve likely heard the phrase “value offer” before, and you probably know that it refers to the value that a product or service creates for a customer. That’s still a little bit nebulous, but the good news is that the benefits and results that you’ve defined are the value offer. The benefits and results clearly articulate the impact that a product will have on a customer’s life.
This is the actual action and product that you’re offering. If the better way you’ve identified is to buy a quality suitcase, then the action is “buy” and the product is “this high-quality suitcase.” This better way is not inherently the answer to your customers’ problems, but it is a means to an end (i.e. the benefits & results).
This is what your customers have to believe so that they experience success with the product you’re marketing, so it needs to be communicated at the outset.
These pieces of information are the points that support your argument that adopting the new belief and using your better way will ultimately generate those benefits and results. If the first three pieces of information are the main points of your messaging, then these second three pieces are the supporting details that back the messaging up.
Taking a look back at the luggage example, here’s how each of the main three elements could show up in a product landing page:
That’s just one example of how you can use the new offer you’ve created to make any product irresistible. The information you’ve identified should come into play wherever you’re talking about the product. Whether a blog post, product page, video, or podcast, your offer is the way that you talk about a product in the context of why it’s valuable and how it will help create a transformation in the customer’s life.
Now that you’ve created an offer, it’s time for you to begin incorporating it into all of your marketing efforts––it’s the small adjustment that will increase sales like crazy.
Jacob Ratliff is a digital marketing strategist, helping small businesses attract an audience, build trust using great content, and convert more customers. Jacob specializes in working with businesses on a mission to help their customers live happier, healthier, more fulfilled lives. He is based in Asheville, NC, and you can learn more about him at ashevilleMARKETER.com.