Get this Marketing Cornerstone Right … Or Go Home

image of valentine heart candies

If you’re marketing a product or service, there’s one thing you absolutely need to get right.

Your writing voice might not be that awesome. Your call to action might need some help. Your big idea might be … not so big.

But if you can get this one down, you’ll do all right. You may not thrive, but you’ll live to sell another day.

On the other hand, if you get it wrong, no amount of brilliant marketing can help you.

What is this terrifyingly important factor?

It’s the offer you make your customers — the thing (or package of things) you offer in exchange for money.

And it’s critical because in the real world, you can’t sell a product or service that your customers just don’t want to buy. There’s no “hypnotic” marketing that can trick people into buying something they have no desire or need for.

But that’s not to say “just be awesome and your business will sell itself.” Great copywriting offers rarely happen by accident — they’re crafted.

So here are some resources to help you out with that.

First things first: is this something they want?

Around here, we call this the “broccoli ice cream” problem.

You may have something that people would benefit from. That would help them. That they might even need.

If they don’t want it, you’re going to have a ferociously tough time selling it.

Sometimes getting from “need” to “want, and also need” is a simple matter of re-framing your offer. Take a look at this post for some ideas:

Does Your Customer Want What You’ve Got to Offer?

Formulating the irresistible offer

There are pretty-good offers … and then there are irresistible ones.

You want to go for the latter, as often as you possibly can.

Take a look at this classic post from Brian Clark on what goes into an irresistible offer:

“Kids Eat Free” and Other Irresistible Offers

And 58 more formulations for you to try

Finally, don’t miss expert copywriter Dean Rieck’s four-part “cheat sheet” on 58 different ways to frame an offer to make it stronger, better, faster … positively bionic.

In-demand copywriters like Dean use lists like these to review key copywriting elements (like offers) and make them as superhumanly strong as possible. So think like an expert, review these possibilities — and ask yourself, is the offer you’re making today strong enough to build your business on?

If not, you have work to do.

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Reader Comments (23)

  1. says

    Very helpful post, Sonia. It’s interesting, looking at the vintage Copyblogger postage stamp graphics, how timeless this information is. It’s always helpful to have a list of items to choose from. I routinely use your list of popular headlines when creating my post titles. Some things change, but good copywriting never goes out of style.

    • says


      You are correct that Sonia’s advice is useful, and great copywriting is always in still. It’s funny, I use the popular headlines entry all the time to, and they make my most successful blog posts. You really have to have the talent of jumping into the mind of the reader if you want to create persuasive content.

      You have to know how they feel, and what will move them. Thanks for your insights,

      Darin L. Hammond

  2. says

    Convincing someone they want something means pushing them to look at their problem in a new way. If I was to plant a garden I don’t need a hole, I need a shovel. You have to make your customers realize what they really need and turn that into what they really want.

  3. says

    Making an offer irresistible involves
    1. Identifying the problems your customers face
    2. How your product can solve it better than any one else?
    3. Making your clients realize what they have been missing all this time and how their lives would be better with this product.

  4. says

    Great stuff, Sonia. As an SEO Copywriter, appealing directly to your customer has always helped me draft original and to-the-point content. I like to pretend that I’m physically reaching through the screen and talking to them directly. Once you’re able to establish that relationship simply through words, you’re golden!

  5. says

    So I am left asking, what tactics do you use to answer the challenge of “broccoli ice cream?” I’d wager 60% of marketing pros slave away every day on behalf of purveyors of stupid unworthy stuff force-fed to an uninterested public. (Of all our GDP, how much is wholesome and necessary, and how much just stuff?) I ask this mostly because I’m curious about why this is a marketing issue, when it seems that the business model is really what we’re discussing here.

  6. says

    Great post! This post reminds me of my challenge…making great C-T-A post titles. It seems like I struggle with this each day. I want to make something that will ‘sale to the reader’s attention’ but I also want it to be fresh and unique!

  7. says

    Great post! I agree!

    Most customers don’t know what they don’t know. The more you discover their pain by identifying the persona of your ideal customer the more relevant you can make your offer.

    Stuffing them with information based on what you think they need and putting out a generic offer without truly listening to their pain points is a disservice.

    When a customer feels that your irresistible offer is speaking directly to them and their situation, it’s a home run.

  8. says

    A sense of urgency works well, if you offer a limited discount and email/message very user that has expressed interest, it can generate a lot of sales.

  9. says

    Great reminder to make sure there is actually a need for the product you are offering before you invest a ton of time into the marketing! Time to reread my offers to make sure they’re framed right! Thank you for the resources as always.

  10. says

    Hello Sonia.

    I agree that great copywriting doesn’t happen by accident. It takes quite
    some time to develop and write a can’t-quit-reading sales page.

    I’m having a good time learning and will work on getting my

    content on a premium level.

  11. says

    Great post, Sonia. Love the broccoli ice cream analogy.

    Often writers tell me, “I’m writing an ebook (or creating a class)…I think it’ll be about X.”

    To which I reply, “Really? What does your audience or your prospects want it to be about? Have you asked them?”

    Always surprised at how often the answer to that is no. My whole system is to start by asking. If I have an idea for a topic, I take a survey — what do you need to know about this topic? Then I build the offering to deliver that.

    Then I say, “Here’s that thing you said you needed.” And people buy it.

  12. says

    Creating a sense of urgency is a great idea! Still, there are still many customers that simply don’t understand what they want. Or to realize, it’s their product that can’t find people interested in buying it, and not the marketing strategy.
    Nice post, thanks!

  13. says

    Hello, Sonia,

    Thank you for sharing your knowledge of the importance of “the package” that you offer your clients. You won’t gain any financial traction if what you offer to sell is just not worth it. There is no worse position to be in than trying to use your language to punch up a product that has no value. You put yourself in the position of lying to your readers. Your advice is great “And it’s critical because in the real world, you can’t sell a product or service that your customers just don’t want to buy.”

    It is critical, and if you have nothing to offer the reader, then what is the point? Start with a solid business plan because without one your content message will be empty.

    Thank you for sharing,

    Darin L. Hammond

  14. says

    Great post Sonia. I really had difficult encouraging customers to like and buy my clients’ stuff. But now I have your list. It will be a great help for me. Sometimes a good offer is not enough. So i need to give attractive and useful offer. Thanks again for this Sonia

  15. says

    I think that we (anyone who creates a product) always need to be reminded:


    When you solve this problem, then suddenly your marketing will fall in place.

    For example, people playing video games don’t just want to play video games – they want an experience, they want a story, and they want the opportunity to be immersed in a reality that isn’t possible in “real” life.

    In other words, they want to live out their dreams.

    It’s why highly detailed video games such as Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto are making hundreds of MILLIONS of dollars in sales – because they give people a chance to have that “experience” that they crave.

    Ask not what your customer can do for you, but what you can do for your customer.

  16. says

    Great post.
    I’ve worked for many a’client that possess the opposite outlook on business:
    They tell us:
    “I don’t have time to do boring market research. What’s not to love about broccoli ice-cream? Off you trot and make me a millionaire.”
    Properly researching your target market can save so much wasted time, effort and money. But this fact often falls on deaf ears.

  17. says

    We all hope that the passion and belief in our product and offering are going to be enough but help like this article and the references you provide us will help dramatically, ensuring we put forward our offers in the best way.

  18. says

    Nobody wants what they need. Everybody wants what they want.

    Notice how the first sentence contradicts itself while the second one remains consistent. Because it’s true.

    Great post Sonia. The links are a nice bonus too.

    In addition to the target market, the sales copy, and the proper channel, the order is vital to marketing success.

  19. says

    Great post! Will be taking a lot of things into mind! The links you provided give so much in depth information. It’ll definitely help me out.

    Thanks a bunch!

  20. says

    You make a good point. Presenting an offer that is both valuable and comprehensible is a challenge for us. 270net’s core clients are non-technical, small business owners. Most of them only have a vague idea of what SEO, content marketing, or even website hosting is. Offering this demographic a valuable discount or package hasn’t always worked in the past unless we can really explain the benefits. This is best accomplished face to face.

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