HOW TO: Define Your Key Offer to Connect with Customers and Increase Sales

Netflix’s key offer is to start a free trial

Netflix’s key offer is to start a free trial


When working with clients I help them focus on providing a key offer. A key offer is technically a sales promotion tool. Sales promotions are a good way to break into a market by providing a motivator for new customers to try your product. Sales promotion is usually confused with personal selling because the term “sales” is used.

While they work well when used together, they are different marketing tools. Personal selling is the process of interaction between the seller and the consumer while sales promotion is the use of specific incentives or rewards to induce trial of a product.

Inducing Trial

Sales promotions typically offer a discount, rebate, or reward for trying a new product thus reducing the perceived risk for NEW clients to try a product.

For example, if you can buy the new “Brand X” toothpaste for half price with a coupon, then theoretically you have reduced the risk of trial by 50%.

The idea is that once the clients try the product, they will be sufficiently impressed to continue to purchase the product at the regular price. You are demonstrating to the consumer faith in your own product by providing incentives.

Types of Sales Promotion

  • Coupons

  • Buy one, Get one (BoGo)

  • Free with purchase

  • Bonus-size packages

  • In-store specials and sales

  • Contests

  • Loyalty programs

  • Sweepstakes

  • Rebates

  • Events

Make Them Effective

Be wary of discounts – when you lower your price, you are lowering the perceived value of your product. This makes it difficult to charge full price later. A good approach is to offer a buy one, get one scenario (BoGo). For example, buy one at full price and get one at half price. This helps you cover the cost of your promotion and does not devalue your product. In fact, it reinforces the value that you are offering.

Target carefully – if possible, only give coupons to new or potential customers. Your current customers should happily be paying full price.

Set a Time Limit – Sales promotions should be used for only a limited time. Always have an expiration date - the shorter, the better. Long-term expirations diminish urgency for consumers. Often they will set the offer aside and forget about it until it is too late. Another reason to limit their duration is that extended or continual sales promotion activities lead to a devaluation of the product in the eyes of clients. If there is always a coupon available for half off, they will not ever want to pay full price. The goal is to get customers to use the product and then pay the regular market price. Unlimited sales promotion for an item is not really sales promotion; it is a lowering of the price, which is not a good idea.

Develop Your Key Offer

You must develop a key offer that will take down the barrier between you and new customers. When I started promoting my marketing consulting company, I offered people the ability to download my marketing books for free from my website. While getting my books for free is a good value, it was not generating new clients.

My focus is on digital marketing and helping people get customers from their websites. Before I met with a potential client, I would always look over their website. A friend recommended I start offering website audits, which I did, and my business was transformed. Suddenly I was being rewarded for something I was already doing but not publicizing.

I realized that saying that I did marketing consulting or optimized websites still left a barrier in starting conversations with potential clients. I assume they were wondering “how much does that cost? What does that mean exactly?” and “I don’t want to waste his time.” By offering a free audit, I take those objections out of the equation and get the conversations started.

I now meet with a lot of people and go over their websites with them, and a certain percentage of them become paying customers.

One of the first things I do with my clients is to help them define their key offer to their customers. I have an attorney that would always provide the first meeting for free, but he did not tell people that. Now the focus of his website is to offer people a free consultation.

What is the key offer you can make that will take down the barrier between you and new customers?

Make it Digital

Call to action for Carla Jones Real Estate

Call to action for Carla Jones Real Estate

Since I focus on digital I help clients build websites that lead visitors into accepting their key offer. Whether starting a trial, downloading a guide or booking a consultation, the goal of the site is to generate a connection with qualified leads. Typically you will see a button with this offer prominently displayed on the site. What is your key offer? How do you communicate this to your target audience?

Need Help Defining or Promoting Your Key Offer?