Discounts, marketing and/or trust: Which comes first?

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Do you really need incentives when you've earned the potential clients' trust?

Darren Slaughter has posted an article where he argues that you should be cautious about offering any discount offer until you have earned prospective clients’ trust. He says discount claims on websites will be met with disbelief, while the savings for immediate response may spur a quicker close if you have built trust in the sales call.

He writes:

Anytime you offer something or try to sell something on your website, it’s going to have to be proportionate to the level of trust that you’ve gained through their journey on your website.

So in other words, if you have like a banner on your page saying, “Hey, five hundred dollars off if you book today,” well, they’re going to think you’re full of shit.

They’re going to think that you just packed five hundred dollars more into the price and you’re just taking it off. Here’s why; you haven’t earned their trust enough to be able to offer them that type of discount.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with making your offer after; after you’ve gone out to visit and you’re standing there with Mrs. Jones and you say, look, Mrs. Jones, we’re really busy, but if you’re willing to book today, we’ll take five hundred dollars off of the price.

Hopefully, by then you’ve gained her trust and that’s a great way to get her to close on the spot. Now she trusts you and she has a better feeling for you. So she’s a little more apt to say “Yes, let’s do it.”

But just throwing it out there on your site and saying it’s going to stick, people know that when you have a price that high or when you have a discount that high, somehow, someway, they’re paying for it. That five hundred dollars isn’t just going to get thrown in because you just want to do business with them.

It’s ok to offer incentives, just do it at the right time, do it at the right place. After you’ve earned their trust, that’s when you offer the discount. Don’t do it on your website, especially something that’s huge that you normally wouldn’t do or you normally wouldn’t offer strangers. Make sense? If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.

I have a somewhat different perspective about trust and incentives because, in my opinion, if you truly succeed in business/marketing you’ll have earned enough trust you won’t need to offer any financial incentives — in fact, you’ll be able to price your services at the higher end of the spectrum.

The reason: Effective marketing, in fact, is largely about trust (coupled with awareness). Sure, you need to let potential clients know you are there, but unless you have a monopoly service (something as a business I wish I could have, as is at least the case for one of my publishing competitors where local statute law requires businesses to advertise with the publication anytime a project is completed), you will always have others who can offer incentives or deals or discounts to win the work.

But if the clients really trust you, they won’t worry about a few hundred dollars, at least the clients you want. In my opinion, in these situations, it may be better to offer the discount after the job is complete and you know the customer is someone you would like to return for more or refer others — because it will be a pleasant surprise, not a “come on gimmick” to win business.

Trust ultimately is earned by the work you do. You can package testimonials, encourage referrals and devise repeat business promotions to capture and enhance the trust effect. Your marketing, naturally should reflect your trust-earned capacity: Websites and collateral material should be professional, practical and informative.

As for inducements and discounts, I think they should be near the end of the list.

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