The Compelling Offer: Why You’re Not Making Sales, and What to Do About It

why youre not making

Image by @ValuableTuts

Have you ever been browsing in a store and ended up buying something you didn’t plan to because it was such a great deal?

Welcome to the world of the “compelling offer” – a key ingredient for any successful online business, but one that many newbies ignore.

In this post I’m going to describe exactly what makes an offer compelling, and how you can develop offers that will fly off the (virtual) shelves.

So What Makes a Good Offer?

Before getting into the nuts and bolts and what makes up a compelling offer, let me define “offer” for you.

If you look around the Web you’ll find many definitions of the word “offer” as it relates to marketing, most of them along the lines of “what a company offers for sale to a customer”. But that misses the point.

When a customer gives you money, they’re actually buying a bundle of benefits.

Always think of an offer in terms of the bundle of benefits that it represents, not the tangible product itself.

Think about it for a minute: when you pay $200 for a pair of Nikes, you’re not paying for two sewed up pieces of leather and rubber, which is what the physical product is. You’re actually paying for the expected benefits of the sneakers – greater speed and agility when playing sports, higher status among your peers (because you’re wearing an expensive pair of shoes), and so on.

So a compelling offer – one that your niche audience will gladly pay for – is one that represents a bundle of valuable benefits in the mind of your audience.

How valuable does the bundle of benefits have to be? In the mind of your customer, the value of your offer/bundle of benefits must exceed what you are asking for in exchange.

This concept relates to exchange theory, a theory that was developed by Philip Kotler, one of the founding fathers of modern marketing. Here’s what exchange theory says:

In order for an exchange to take place, target markets must perceive benefits equal to or greater than perceived costs.

In other words, for you to pay $200 for a pair of Nikes, you have to perceive more than $200 worth of benefits from those shoes.

The same goes with $27 e-books, or $97 software, or any other product or service.

So how does this apply to you, and your online marketing business? Let’s get into it.

The Biggest Mistake That Marketers Make in Developing Their Offers

Have you heard the statistic that 95% of businesses fail in their first 5 years of existence?

There are a lot of factors that contribute to the failure of new businesses, but I believe the single biggest mistake that business owners make is “trusting their gut”.

Many businesses have been launched when someone gets an idea for a service or product – usually through their own experience – and convinces themselves that their idea is the best thing since the iPad. Then they support this belief through confirmation bias. In other words, they actively seek out evidence that supports their belief that their idea is a great one. And they ignore evidence that their idea might be full of holes.

What is the antidote to “trusting your gut”?

Doing niche research. It’s only through good research that you’ll be able to deeply understand the problems, challenges, needs, and desires of your target audience. (You’ve heard the saying that you need to “get inside the mind” of your customer, right?)

And by intimately understanding the problems of your niche audience, you’ll be able to develop offers that have benefits that your audience values highly.

Components of a Compelling Offer

So what are the components of a compelling offer?

Quite simply, they’re the benefits that your niche audience has been looking for, but hasn’t been able to find!

Okay, I can hear what you’re thinking: “There must be some things that all good offers have in common.” True enough. Here are three components identified by Mark Joyner in his book The Irresistible Offer:

  1. High return-on-investment. This relates to the “benefit must be higher than cost” principle I mentioned above. Bottom line: whatever product you’re promoting, you have to convince your prospect that the value they’ll get will far outweigh the money they’ll be paying.
  1. A touchstone. Joyner describes this as something that quickly conveys your offer and its benefits.
  1. Believability. We’ve all seen offers that seem too good to be true (here’s my favourite: the sales pages that say “Buy our traffic-getting software and cash will be flying into your pockets…overnight!!!”). Most of us have heard the saying, “If it’s sounds too good to be true, it probably is”. So, while you have to make your offer outstandingly valuable, the benefits or outcomes it promises have to be realistic.

So that’s my take on how to develop a compelling offer. What are your thoughts?

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  1. says

    Hi Moe
    The Compelling Offer on your site – I thought this was good info because as you say, many people get this wrong – picking a product before a choosing their niche.
    Many times I’ve gone to a site and there has been so many products on the page that you are overwhelmed as to what to look at first – just like your shopping mall example.
    When a visitor comes to my site, they are interested in the niche (German Shepherd Dogs) and they are normally looking for a solution to a specific problem i.e. bad behavior so providing good content and a solution to their problem or further advice seems to me to be the best way to go.
    Much better than having too much to look at, and lots of glitzy distracting ‘bells and whistles’. Most people are looking for good info that is helpful when they first visit your website.
    Graham in UK

    • moe says

      I agree completely, Graham.

      Some people who are new to internet marketing take the “shopping mall” approach to their website, throwing a lot of products on their site and seeing what sticks. The problem with too much choice, however, is that site visitors get analysis-paralysis.

      Barry Schwartz, a psychology professor at Swarthmore College in the U.S., calls this “the paradox of choice” – when people are faced with too many choices, they often make NO choice – they just walk away empty-handed. That’s why FOCUS is so important when setting up websites, and growing an online business.

      Thanks for your comment, Graham.


  2. says

    Moe, while I cannot disagree with anything you have shared here, one caveat comes to mind. Doesn’t a product category also define a workable niche? In other words when a product category is broken down to its simplest elements are you not defining a niche or audience based on common likes and or dislikes of that product category? And the demographics of these people sharing interest in these products defines the audience.

    I am way new at this so maybe my thinking is backward, but right now it makes perfect sence to me.


    • moe says

      Hi Harry – thanks for your thoughtful question. While I can see the logic behind this approach (i.e. defining a product category as a niche), I think it has one serious limitation: the demographics and interests of a group of people who like a particular product can be VERY diverse. This makes it difficult to figure out what else to promote to them.

      An example: the iPhone. While there’s a significant chunk of “geeks” who love the iPhone, so does my 60-year-old technophobe father, my 8-year-old son, etc. These are people who have very different needs and interests.

      Granted, it is possible to find products that attract people who have a lot in common. But I think that orienting one’s business toward an audience is a much more efficient way of focusing our time and advertising dollars.


      • says

        The light bulb went off earlier this week regarding niche selection and why picking an audience first is the way to go. An audience has possibly many different problems that need solving and so once you have built an email list of your potential customers (by opt -in forms etc) and you find out (by surveys etc) what it is they want, then you can offer them a multitude of products to solve their many problems. When you orient your marketing to a product, you are limited to just that.

  3. Brenda says

    I started building my site without a name grab form. After additional reading I have entered the pinball area, bouncing back and forth between thinking I need a name grab, to “why do I need one?”, after my prospect purchases this product there really is no upsell. On the other hand if they don’t purchase I can continue to market to them intermittantly with email. If I do a name grab should I make my site look purely informational and then, present an offer later? Thoughts?

    • Moe says

      Brenda, you said: “On the other hand if they don’t purchase I can continue to market to them intermittantly with email”.

      That’s the key point – you put a name grab (also called email opt-in) form on your site so you can maintain a relationship with your visitors. Some (maybe many) of your visitors won’t come back to your site after their first visit, but if you have their email address you can send them regular emails asking them to check out new articles on your site, offering them valuable free content (like free reports), AND promoting offers to them. I recommend that internet marketers put email opt-in forms on all of their sites.

      Regarding how you should make your site, I’m not too big on the “hard sell”-type sites, so all of my sites are informational (at least I think they are!)

      You should set up your email opt-in form so that as soon as someone clicks the “subscribe” button (or whatever text you use on the submit button), they are taken to a page that pitches your product. This takes advantage of the emotional momentum that a person feels when they are giving you their email address. I typically get a 2% sales rate off my email opt-in forms. In other words, out of 100 people who opt in to my list, 2 will buy my product on the spot. That might not sound like a lot, but when you’re getting a decent amount of traffic it adds up.

      Hope that helps,


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