Want to know how to sell your product or service more easily? Create an irresistible offer.
On this week's Small Business Marketing Show I sit down with, friend, colleague and copywriter extraordinaire Donnie Bryant to breakdown exactly how he develops killer offers for his clients (which include Experian and Early to Rise).
Listen as Donnie explains how to...
- Position your product or service in a unique way (even if it's not unique).
- How to remove yourself from all price competition.
- How to communicate the value of your offer.
- 3 ways to bundle your offering to add incredible value.
If you feel like you're in "commodity hell" or if price competition's got you down, you must listen to this interview.
Be sure to check out Donnie's book Stealth Selling: Non-Pushy Persuasion for Professionals...and connect with Donnie on Google+
Steve: Welcome to the Small Business Marketing Show. This is your host, Steve Gordon. I’m the founder of Steve Gordon Marketing Systems, where we help small business owners and people in professional practice build autopilot marketing systems to attract all the clients they want, and do so with a lot less work.
Today, I’m really excited to be talking with my good friend Donnie Bryant. Donnie is a direct response copywriter and a marketing consultant up near Chicago. He just does so many neat things. I’ve been following him for gosh, 18 months, 2 years now. The things that come out of his brain are really cool.
The reason I wanted to have him on today is because as a direct response copywriter, he has to spend a lot of time figuring out how to craft an offer and how to package a product or service so that somebody will actually want to buy it. In fact, that’s what he gets paid to do.
One of the things that I run into over and over again with businesses that I come across with is they just don’t have a good feel about how to package what they do into a compelling offer that’s going to make somebody want to stand up and say, “Hey, I want that.” We’re going to talk with Donnie about that today.
In addition to all of that, Donnie has authored a book called “Stealth Selling: Non-Pushy Persuasion for Professionals,” which I highly recommend. We’ll give you a link to that at the end of the show.
Donnie, welcome. Great talking to you.
Donnie: Wow, thanks for having me. Thanks for a great introduction. Hopefully, we can live up to the expectation that we’ve just set. [laughs]
Steve: I have full confidence. We’re talking about offers today. Probably, 9 out of 10 business owners that I will say the word “offer” to, their immediate response will be, “You mean like a sale?” We’re not talking about a sale. We’re not talking about a special discount. It might include that, but really, that’s not what we’re talking about.
Can you kind of describe to folks? When you and I talk offer, what does that mean to you?
Donnie: What we want to do, ideally, is kind of the opposite of a sale. You want to be able to make more money rather than less. You want to be able to charge more for what you’re offering than what the next guy is.
By coming up with an offer, you don’t want to turn yourself into the Wal-Mart of your field. What you want to do is turn yourself into the Apple of your field and create something that your target audience is going to line up for and pre-order buy in piles, like they do for anything that Apple does.
That’s kind of what we are talking about when we say offer. How do you get your product, your service… how do you construct something that will make it really appealing to your target audience?
You know what’s funny? I suppose you watch Shark Tank, right?
Steve: Oh, all the time.
Donnie: [laughs] A couple of weeks ago—I can’t remember which one it was—a guy and his wife came on and they were selling the chicken wing chip dip. Did you see that episode?
Steve: Yes. [laughs]
Donnie: So the panel was tasting. It’s like, oh okay. Daymond John said, “So basically, this is a chicken smoothie.” [laughs] I’m like, wait. Change your perspective just for a second. They showed the shots of Mark looking like, “Ugh.” [laughs]
When you’re putting together an offer, when you’re structuring how you’re going to present your offer--your product, your service--you can position it in a way that it looks terrible, like Damon said. “Here’s a chicken smoothie.” You’re not going to sell any of that. No. [laughs]
Steve: That’s right.
Donnie: But the idea is, to put it together in a way that it’s unique and obviously valuable and can create an emotional connection with the person that you really want to buy from you, the person who will benefit from what it is that you have. That’s where the struggle is. That’s I guess the foundation of where we’re going to go.
I think the first thing is uniqueness. That’s a valid point, that sometimes you don’t feel like you’re in a unique market or you don’t have a unique product or service.
For me, there are a million copywriters or probably more. There are more coming out every day. There are so many people who will charge less than me. Believe me, I hear that frequently. “You cost too much.” Which I guess is a good thing. I used to be one of the guys who didn’t charge much. There are two who charge ten times as much as I do, and they probably are worth it. [chuckles]
So the question is, how do you position something that’s not inherently unique as a product or service? How do you make an offer on that that’s still compelling to your target audience? That comes down to understanding what it is that those particular people are looking for, what connects between you and them, or what it is about you that’s appealing to them.
In my particular case, I’ve had so many people tell me that they really respect and value my ability to emulate their voice. If somebody wanted to communicate in a personal way that sounded like them rather than sounded like a robot or sounded like every other guy out there… just my ability to emulate their voice. So whatever it is about you that people really respond to, that’s going to be key to coming up with an offer that really works.
Steve: I think you hit it perfectly. It’s about being unique. There aren’t very many businesses that are unique. In the marketing world, we all like to point to Apple. Apple hasn’t created a unique product yet.
Steve: They haven’t innovated nor created a brand new category ever, I think. They came out with the iPod, but there were tons of mp3 players around when they came out with the iPod.
Donnie: That’s right.
Steve: They just packaged it differently and they bundled it. That’s a key concept to think about here. They bundled the physical mp3 player with the buying of content through the iTunes store to put onto the mp3 player, because that was a pain in the neck for those of us who were around back when mp3 players came out. I hate to admit it, but I was around back when cassette players were state of the art.
Donnie: [laughs] I still have a few cassettes in my house as well.
Steve: Exactly. By packaging things together like that, it allows you to get out of what I call commodity hell, because now it becomes harder for people to do an apples to apples comparison. So now, you’re in the apples and oranges, and they go, “Well, I got an apple over here and I got an orange over here. How do I sell? Which one’s worth more money?” That immediately then disconnects whatever it is you do from price.
If you’re a professional—say an attorney or somebody—and you’ve got your regular service but you bundle that with something that’s really valuable to your particular client that they’re going to need anyway and you would often do anyway but nobody else is talking about it, well now you’ve got a package over here. You’ve got a special offer that adds value. Now you can justify charging higher fees.
That’s why I think this is so important. This can be a game changer. You get the right offer, and it can completely change your business.
Donnie: It changes everything. You said something brilliant—to shift from an apple to apple comparison, to an apple to orange comparison. One thing you’ve got to know is some people prefer apples over oranges. Your offer is going to be targeted. Some people will not want what you have to offer.
Some people can’t stand an Apple product, the company Apple. There’s a battle between Android phones and iPhones. Some people are going to go with one, some people are going to go with the other. That’s good. It’s good for you to define what kind of fruit you are—an apple to grape comparison, maybe. What kind of fruit are you? You’re not just, “We’re selling fruit.” But you want to be in your own space, even if you’re not creating a new category.
Apple was just making things that people loved in areas that already existed, in categories that already existed. But they set themselves apart from all their competitors as far as creating a design and creating a brand and creating a lifestyle, almost, that’s unique to them. People will buy anything that Apple said--
Steve: Certain people will buy.
Donnie: Certain people, yeah. There you go.
Steve: I think that’s key. Apple Computers—they don’t call themselves that anymore—they sell in a bubble.
Steve: I’ve got a Mac, I’ve got a MacBook Pro, an iPhone, and an iPad within arm’s reach of me here.
Steve: If I was at home with my wife, there would be another iPhone. I think we have five iPods of various ages that our kids have.
Any time they come out with something new, it’s already sold to us. There’s no competition. We’re not going anywhere else. They’re selling in a bubble. That’s the advantage of crafting an offer that speaks to a really specific part of the market.
Donnie: That’s right.
Steve: So how do we go about doing that? What are some of the things you go through when you think about building an offer for a client?
Donnie: When you sent me the e-mail title, “How do we come up with an irresistible offer?” That’s kind of the little language that we use. You have to realize where resistance comes from. People have resistance against the things that aren’t their priority, things that aren’t important to them. So how do you make something that they won’t resist? You have to come up with something that they really want.
I think all marketers have heard this, most people in business have heard this. You have to sell something that people want. The question is, how do you do this? But when you’re constructing your offer, you have to find out what it is that people already want.
Steve Jobs said something like, “Sometimes, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” I don’t know that he was right about that. Not to speak badly about such a great guy. Like you said, he didn’t create a new thing; he just presented it in a new way.
People already liked music, right? People already liked to be mobile, especially nowadays. You want to be able to move all the time. So make music easy to carry with you wherever you go. You’re just putting two things together that people already wanted. Then you think, “Who decided to put music in a phone?”
So people already wanted mobile phones and people liked music, and people liked to carry fewer things if they can. So you just squish them together. That’s the bundling thing, the idea that I’m going to appeal to several things that you already want and maybe never thought to put together.
Let’s go to your lawyer example. There are maybe several services that he can provide that people can use in conjunction with each other. I don’t spend a lot of time with lawyers, so I can’t think what any of those services might be. But to put things together and then say, “Okay, you can buy your home and do this thing here,” and just put them together in a special way so it’s super easy.
That’s another thing that references back to Apple. Super easy for the customer to say, “Hey, I need this, this, and that, and I can get it all at once.” And they all complement each other, each piece of offer enhances the other one, and they logically connect to each other. All of them will give benefit to the person who’s thinking about it.
The audience needs to be able to see how their lives are going to be different. So I think the struggles that we have is we fall in love with our thing, whatever our thing is. If you sell widgets, you love your widgets. People don’t care about your widget, really. People care about what their life will be like after they have it. Or maybe they care about how their life is without it, but they just don’t know.
Or you construct a message that shows people what their life situation is without this thing and what it will be like afterwards. So your offer is kind of a way of pointing that out to them. Yeah, your life stinks a little more than it has to, because you’re carrying a laptop that isn’t thin as a pencil. [laughs]
Donnie: That MacBook Air is ridiculous. I haven’t purchased one, but the weight of it is like, you can play with it like a real notebook. It’s weightless. It’s like, how much better would your life be if you could carry the thing? First of all, it’s cool. My laptop weighs five pounds, which means I’m kind of still stuck in the old school. But if you didn’t have that weight, your life would be better. Your shoulders… they’re probably not selling, “Your shoulder pain will be gone, your back pain will be gone,” but these are benefits that are true.
Donnie: They just show it to you rather than tell you. They just show it to you. “Look, he can lift the computer like it’s nothing.” They’ve been doing product placement for Air in all these sitcoms, if you’ve seen it. They’ve been spending a lot of money. People are just carrying it around like it’s nothing, because it is.
So subliminally, you say, “Man, that is nice. I can’t do that with my computer. I’ve got to use both hands and almost bend my knees when I’m lifting it.”
Steve: We’ve talked about Apple a lot. Everybody credits them for being extremely innovative. Steve Jobs has that quote you mentioned, that customers don’t know what they want until you show it to them.
When I look at what they’ve done—I think this is really instructive for what I would call regular businesses that aren’t at that level—a lot of their thinking has just been incremental and has just been, as you pointed out, combining ideas that were already there, and just combining them in a different way.
To kind of bring that down to this attorney example we started with, a divorce attorney goes to handle the dissolution of someone’s marriage. But what happens to that person when they’re getting that divorce? There’s likely a piece of real estate that’s got to be sold off or dealt with in some way. So you could bundle real estate law services. That person’s will and estate plan certainly now needs to be updated, because there’s probably somebody that they don’t want to leave any money to anymore.
Steve: So you could bundle that service. If you start to think about it, you could put two, three or four things together and put that in a really attractive package where…
Donnie: Sure. The total divorce package. You probably could think of a more sexy title for it. But we handle everything at one time. That’s exactly right. You’re not going to have to worry about if you die tomorrow, does so and so that you just divorced still get half because you didn’t handle that today? You handle it all at once. Nobody likes to go to a lawyer’s office several times, right? You want to get that done as quickly, as smoothly, and as painlessly as possible. That’s really smart.
Steve: And in doing that, you serve the client better than you ever could have by having those services individually, because people hate going to attorneys.
Donnie: That’s right.
Steve: For attorneys listening to this, you all know it’s true. People are afraid. You only go to an attorney when there’s something really tough going on in your life, usually. So you don’t want to go. By bringing all that together, not only can you set yourself apart from the competition and increase your own business, but you’re actually serving the client better that way. That’s worth more money.
Donnie: You’re exactly right. In that case, now that you’ve created an apples to oranges situation, we’re not the guy who’s going to try to milk you and get you to come in time after time.
Most people are trained not to trust lawyers, right? You compare a lawyer with someone who’s going to lie to you, someone who’s going to try and rip you off. You set yourself up with a trusted person, they should be trusted. But people kind of have that perception of lawyers in the back of their mind. But the fewer times you have to see me, the fewer times I can put my hand in your pocket.
So even if you have a negative stereotype, you’re going to have less touch through with me, so I have less opportunity to treat you in a way that you’re worried about. You can eliminate all those obstacles and objections that might pop up in the minds of people just by bundling everything together, making it so easy.
Steve: Yes. As I start to think about offers, that’s one of the first places I look at. What logically goes together with whatever the core offering of the business is? Whatever it is.
It works for professionals. I’ve had clients in the document storage business, where they’ll warehouse your documents all the way in, to the roofing business. It works in every business I’ve ever worked in.
If you look at, okay, what things go logically together that you used to sell separately? Then if you look at, okay, if your solution takes them 80% of the way, but you’ve always got to be calling in somebody else to do the other 20%, what can you combine there? It’s another way to look at it. What are the peripheral services?
The third way that I usually try and break it down is, what does that client need next? So once I complete this and they’re happy with this, what’s the next thing that they’re looking for? Is that something I can bundle in?
By looking at it from those three perspectives, it starts to open up your mind to what some of the possibilities are.
Donnie: Yes. One of the best opportunities to increase the amount of business that you have, the amount of profit that you get, is to think about—the last point that you made—the unexpected consequences. Or maybe the expected for you, but the customer may not realize, that becomes a natural consequence. So I’m going to tell you this is going to happen, so let’s deal with that, also as part of the package.
Once you have the divorce, the next thing that you need to figure out is the real estate thing. You didn’t think about it, you may not have thought about it, but I did, and I’m going to take care of you in that respect. You need to think about the will situation and that thing. You may not have thought about it, but I did, and I’m going to take care of you all at once.
Steve: That builds huge trust, too.
Donnie: Sure. When you read people’s minds or tell them something that, “Oh!” You give them the light bulb moment. “I do need that. I didn’t even think about that.” But you’re thinking about how you can make my life easier and how you can make my life better.
Now you’ve put yourself into a situation where it’s not a commodity anymore. You’re looking out for the person. So part of what I was getting at before, we fall in love with our thing, but we need to be really obsessed with our people, the people we want to reach, and the transformation that we can create in their lives. What is it that they’re getting out of it?
So rather than selling widgets, you think about the core benefit that they’re getting. Okay, you need a divorce or you need roofing. There’s something that you’re getting out of it. I’m not buying a service; I’m buying structural stability for my house. Or I’m getting my life back in order from this marriage that didn’t work out, getting my life back in order.
Now your tie-in is there. Not necessarily ties in your service, but ties into the benefit, that ties into the transformation that’s coming into the life of the customer.
So now that you’re getting your life back in order in the case of the lawyer, what’s the next thing? It’s making sure your real estate, your assets are in order. It’s making sure your final planning is in order. It’s making sure all these things that are tied into the change are coming. I think that’s where the best natural tie-in and the most emotional tie-in come. Not necessarily, “Oh, I’m selling you a service.” So it’s another service that’s related. It’s tied to the feelings that you have as you’re going through this process.
Or if you’re getting roofing, “Oh, let’s check out your windows.” We were talking about hurricanes, a timely topic. A roofer will have business through the roof right now, no pun intended. But what’s a natural time? People are thinking about their whole house, what other things are damaged, what other things need to be repaired. They’re thinking about, let me get my house back in pristine condition. Let me get back to my life pre-hurricane.
You’re a roofer. Maybe you can partner up with somebody, like say 80% you can do the roofing. You can partner up with a window guy. Or you can partner up with somebody who can get the landscaping back together or whatever, and put together an offer that, this is your post-hurricane solution, get your home back the way it was the day before or even better.
But when you think about it in those terms, you’re not just selling your thing; you’re resetting somebody’s life.
Steve: I think that’s a great concept for folks to really wrap their heads around, because what you’re talking about is no longer selling the widget, not selling the service that you offer, but you’re really selling the result that the client or the customer is receiving from the service.
That’s what they really want. Nobody wants to hire a roofing company; they want a dry home. Nobody wants to hire a divorce attorney; they want to be legally severed from their spouse. As you pointed out, they want their life back together.
My wife works for an ophthalmologist, an eye surgeon. Nobody goes to him because they want surgery; they want to be able to see clearly.
Donnie: [laughs] Right.
Steve: So beginning to communicate it in those terms I think is really important. For a lot of us, it’s easy to lose sight of that, because for the most part, business owners love what they do. They’re passionate about it.
Donnie: And rightly so.
Steve: Yes, and they should. That’s great, because that means you’re going to deliver great service. But you can’t communicate it to your customers like that, because they don’t love it like you love it.
Donnie: Right. That’s one point that I almost always have with clients and people who I’m speaking with, even for a non-client service provider relationship. It’s like, the way you see what you’re selling isn’t the way that your customer sees it. They see what they’re getting out of it. You love your thing and you should.
When you build a wonderful building, you’re thinking, “This is beautiful—structurally, architecturally, aesthetically beautiful.” But nobody’s necessarily thinking that. They’re thinking, “This is home.” For a construction guy, nobody cares about how you dry a wall, it’s composed of the greatest material. They just want to know that their house is really strong, it’s going to last, it’s going to look great for years, and it’s going to be a comfortable place for them to live. Or an insulation guy. Nobody cares about insulation. They just care about being warm.
You should love what you do. If I said falling in love with your thing is wrong, I didn’t mean that. But your customer and the benefit they get need to be on the forefront of your mind, to make sure that you’re continuing to innovate as well. Because if you fall in love with your payphone, you’ll get lost. If your thing suddenly becomes obsolete, you’re out of business. But if you fall in love with your customer, their need to communicate, then you stay on the forefront of fulfilling that need.
Steve: I think that’s right on. That really is central to this topic that we talk about every week at marketing. It’s not just about what ad am I going to run and what direct mail campaign am I going to put out there. We talk a lot about that. But really, at its core, it’s having a deep understanding of who your customer is, what it is that they want, and figuring out how to communicate what you do so that it aligns with what they want and solves that problem that they have.
I always tell my clients, “This isn’t just about selling stuff. This is about people out there in the world that have big problems, and you’re the solution to their big problems.” I see it in a way as a moral obligation to communicate with them in whatever means necessary to get the message across that you’re the solution to their problem.
Donnie: That’s right. I’ve mentioned that in one of the recent newsletters. Let’s say for example you’re in Africa, and there are kids who have no drinking water, and you happen to have a drill. It is your obligation to use your drill—which is your gift or your thing that you have, your ability, experience—it’s your responsibility, if you have a drill, to drill a well. If there’s water right under the ground, there are kids who are dying of thirst, do something about it.
That’s exactly right. That’s the point I was trying to make. I’m sorry, my brain has just switched back into gear. Marketing isn’t so much about how do I make more money. It’s about connecting your talents, your gifts, your abilities, whatever you bring that’s transformative, whatever you bring that’s beneficial to people’s lives, connecting what you got with the people who need it.
How do you come up with a message and how do you come up with an offer that allows you to show them that you can actually help them meet that need? If they have a strong desire for whatever it is, I can actually help you get it.
We talked about marketing. But marketing isn’t about primarily making money. Marketing is about, how do you connect yourself with the people who you can help? Then you’ll make money doing that.
Steve: Yes. That’s the result that flows from delivering value. But you’re absolutely right. First things first, you’ve got to be able to communicate with folks, so that they understand that you can solve a problem that they have. It’s a skill.
Once you get to a point where you can do that, the business opportunities that open for you are I think limitless, because you begin to see the world in terms of this problem-solution, and you’re able to communicate it with the people who have the problem. That really changes everything.
We’ve got just a couple of minutes left. Any final thoughts that you want to share on creating offers and creating marketing that works?
Donnie: I think we’ve covered the big stuff. You need to achieve clarity in your own mind about what value you deliver, and you need to look at it from the perspective of the person you’re serving. Your offer is going to come directly out of the benefit that you deliver to your target audience.
One quick example. I have a buddy who did radio advertising for I think a divorce lawyer. The law firm specialized in working for the husbands. They crafted all their advertising about what the man’s perspective is and what the man’s feelings are and what the man’s going through. Their offer, they could have charged whatever they wanted, because when the men in that area, the local businesses, when they think about, “Okay, I’m going through a divorce,” you’re thinking about the people who have connected with you time and again on an emotional level.
So your offer, like I said, it’s not just coming up with a cheaper price to get people to come to the store. Your offer is, literally, giving somebody an opportunity to get that transformation that you can provide for them, to get that benefit that you provide, to get the service that will take them to the next level in their life or their career or their business.
That’s really where the offer comes from. I guess that’s kind of generic, and everybody’s offer is going to be different. But you think about that in those terms. Don’t think, “I need to come up with the cheapest price in the industry,” because that’s what you call commodity…
Steve: Commodity hell. I think that is the fastest way to get onto a path that will ultimately end in you being out of business, because there are a lot--
Donnie: You go back to doing it as a hobby [laughs].
Steve: Yes. There will always be somebody who is willing to do it for less. If you look at history, that shows itself over and over and over again. Wal-Mart is nothing new. There have been a string of low-cost, department-type stores in this country since the 1800s. They survived for a while until someone else figures out how to do it a little bit cheaper, and then they disappear really quickly.
Donnie: Quickly. If the only thing that you have is the cheapest price, you set yourself up to fail.
Donnie: What you need to build your business on is your unique value proposition and your ability to connect with the people that you serve. If you can form a personal relationship, maybe it just seems personal. Like I said, the divorce lawyers for men. It just felt personal because there was the emotional, “Wow, that ad just speaks directly to me.” The radio spot speaks right to what I’m feeling right now. They’re bringing in the kids, “Where’s Daddy?” That connected. These guys, their business is really strong because they’re able to do that.
You need to connect with people and provide value, and focus on value rather than focusing on yourself, focusing on low prices. Your competitors can’t compete with that, with the emotional connection. There’s no way to copy that. When you find out what people really want and help them get it, show them that you can help them get it. It’s almost impossible once that’s in their mind.
It’s positioning. Offers are positioning. How do I position this thing in a way that owns a space in their mind? When I think about phones, I’m thinking about iPhones. When I think about computers, I’m thinking about Mac, MacBooks. When I think about roofing, I’m thinking about Johnson’s Roofing, because for whatever reason, we’ve connected on that basis.
Steve: I think those are all great points. I want to make sure everybody knows how they can find you, because you put out I think a really intelligent newsletter on e-mail that folks can get. You’ve also got a book, “Stealth Selling: Non-Pushy Persuasion for Professionals,” which is outstanding. Where can they find you on the web, Donnie?
Donnie: My website is www.donnie-bryant.com. Basic website. I got my blog there, which I need to spend more time on [chuckles]. There’s a contact form there, if you need to get in touch with me with questions or what have you. If you were interested in the book, the webpage is www.stealthsellingbook.com.
Steve: Very good. Thanks for taking some time out of your day to share with us. I always learn a lot when I do these. Today is no exception. I enjoyed catching up with you. Thanks for being on, Donnie.
Donnie: I really appreciate it. Like you said, you’ve been following me for a while. I’ve been following you and learning from you for going on two years now, too. I really appreciate the opportunity.