Whether you’re asking people to buy something, give you their contact information, or spend time reading your blog, you’re making an offer. The way in which you make your offers — and perhaps more important, the sequence in which you make them — will make or break you online.
You should think of creating and nurturing relationships with your customers in the same way that you develop relationships with your friends and family. Your business might sell business to business (B2B) or business to consumer (B2C), but all businesses sell human to human (H2H). Real, individual people are buying your products and services.
Consider how perfect strangers become a married couple. The marriage proposal is an offer that is made after a sequence of other offers are made and deemed successful by both parties. Sure, the occasional marriage proposal on the first date occurs, but most relationships begin with a series of positive interactions over a period of time.
Although most people aren’t likely to propose marriage on a first date, many businesses do the equivalent of that with their prospects. They ask cold prospects to buy high-ticket, complex, and otherwise risky products and services before the relationship is ready for that offer. On the other hand, a customer who has received tremendous value from your company over a period of time is much more likely to make a high-dollar, complex, or otherwise risky purchase.
Offering Value in Advance
Doing business online is different from doing business in person or even over the phone. In many cases, the prospective customer has no further information about your business than what is presented to her online. To acquire new leads and customers, you need to build trust and lead with value to build a relationship with your prospects or customers.
A successful relationship is a two-way street. Both sides of the relationship must benefit from the relationship, and because your company wants to begin this new relationship with a prospect, it makes sense for you to provide value first. Prospects won’t become loyal customers if you don’t first provide some value that builds trust in advance of asking them to buy. The good news is that you can provide this value with something as simple as an insightful, informative blog post or podcast that helps them solve a problem. You offer this value for free and with no strings attached to begin a healthy and mutually beneficial relationship.
Acquisition offers that lead with value are entry point offers, or EPOs. An EPO in a dating relationship equates to offering to buy someone a cup of coffee. This coffee offer, which has begun many healthy dating relationships, is a relatively risk-free proposition that provides value upfront. When your goal is to acquire a customer (and not a spouse), the EPO is a way of allowing large amounts of prospective customers to get to know, like, and trust your business without much risk.
Designing an Unrated Offer
Offers that require no risk on the part of prospective customers are the most powerful way to begin to cultivate strong relationships with customers. An ungated offer such as an informative article, video, or podcast gives value without asking for contact information or a purchase. That said, these are still offers. You’re offering value to prospects in exchange for their time. And for many people, no other resource is more precious than time.
Designing a Gated Offer
To graduate someone from the stage of prospect to lead, you need a gated offer that requires prospects to submit their contact information to receive value. A gated offer provides a small chunk of value that solves a specific problem for a specific market and is offered in exchange for the prospects’ contact information. That contact information is typically an email address, at a minimum.
Returning to the dating relationship analogy earlier in the chapter, a gated offer is the equivalent of a first date. A gated offer might take the form of a white paper, a case study, or a webinar. Open Market makes valuable information available in the form of a whitepaper that requires contact information.