If you’re going to sell anything online, a great way to provide incentive and help people decide to buy from you is to include bonuses along with your product.
A bonus might mean the difference between someone sitting on the fence, and converting that fence-sitter into a customer. It can also mean the difference between you and your competitors as well.
This isn’t anything new though, of course. We see bonuses being offered all of the time – both online and off (think infomercials) – but according to Derek Halpern from Social Triggers, most people are including bonuses with their products the wrong way, and they’re losing sales because of it.
Derek was recently featured as a guest on the SPI Podcast (Session #84), and during our chat about selling he had very strong opinions about how people should include bonuses along-side their products for maximum conversions.
Although you may have already listened to that podcast session, this post is meant to dig deeper into the art of giving bonuses and give you some direction with regards to the types of products you will be selling online.
Don’t have any products of your own to sell yet?
These strategies will work for affiliate marketing too. I’ve done very well in the past offering the right bonuses while recommending the products and services of others. If you want people to go through YOUR affiliate link, then you should be offering bonuses of your own too.
Here are some questions I’ll be tackling:
- What makes a great bonus that will get people to buy?
- How do you know what to offer in addition to the main product that you’re selling?
- How do you package everything together?
- And how do you deliver the bonuses (especially if you’re an affiliate)?
Glad you asked. Let’s get into it…
The Very First Bonus I Ever Offered – What I Did Right & What I Did Wrong
In 2008, when I was preparing to sell my very first product online, a 90-page study guide that helps professionals in the design industry pass the LEED exam, I was advised by some friends in a mastermind group to include bonuses along with my eBook.
Even though I was a rookie at the time, this made complete sense to me.
Adding bonuses would increase the overall value of the eBook that I was selling, and I knew that people love to get free stuff when they purchase things.
When I was little, I always went for the pack of baseball cards with the gum, even though the gum was hard and would crumble and taste like cardboard.
I was attracted to the bonus.
Unfortunately, I had a hard time trying to figure out what the bonus (or bonuses) should be for my book. I had a 90-page guide, complete with a set of practice exam questions and printable flash cards, but what could I add as a bonus on top of that?
That’s when it hit me.
The practice exam questions and the printable flash cards were the bonuses! All I would have to do is simply reframe how they were packaged in the sales copy, so that’s what I did.
Instead of selling the guide for $19.95, a guide which included practice exam questions and a set of printable flash cards, I sold the guide for $19.95, and gave away the practice exam questions and flash cards for free.
Same offering. Different packaging.
I didn’t know it at the time, but I was perfectly following Derek’s advice from the 39:30 mark of Episode #84:
“When you’re giving bonuses, you sell the product, and you give away the bonuses for free. You DO NOT sell the product and bonuses as a packaged price.”
Derek then follows up that statement with research by Jerry Burger from 1986 when he split tested selling cupcakes and cookies at a bake sale.
A group of test subjects were offered a cupcake and two cookies for $0.75, and they bought 40% of the time.
Another group was offered a cupcake for $0.75 and two cookies for free, and they bought 73% of the time.
Same offering. Different packaging.
I did it right, but I did follow it up with a mistake:
I didn’t separate the bonuses from the 90-page eBook – I just left them the way they were at the end of the single PDF file.
This didn’t cause too much harm, but I had a number of emails come through after sales starting coming in from people asking where the bonuses were.
“They are in the back of the book. You can see it there in the table of contents.”, I’d say.
After some thought, that was a bum move on my part – and I use the word bum specifically because I was just being lazy.
If I had actually thought about it some more, I would have realized that having 3 separate PDF files – one for the main study guide, another for the practice exam questions and a third one for the flash cards – would have cleared a lot of the confusion and help make the customers feel like they got more for their money.
Plus, it would have made printing those sections much easier.
After a month of sales (and several emails from confused customers), I quickly took out the practice exam and flash cards and put them each into their own PDF file.
I didn’t hear any more complaints after that.
Rule #1: Always package your offer so that your bonuses are given away for free on top of the main product that you’re offering.
Rule #1.5: Deliver the bonuses as items that are separate from the main product.
Your Bonus and How it Relates to Your Product
When I started doing business online, I subscribed to about 20 different newsletters from 20 different internet marketing gurus who were said to be the leaders in the space at the time.
I did this to “learn from the best”, but after getting bombarded with email after email and offer after offer, I quickly learned how not to treat my readers and subscribers.
For most of these gurus (not all of them) building a relationship and getting to know me seemed to be low on their priority list. Using extremely convincing copywriting and trying to get me to pull out my credit card was at the top.
One interesting thing I did notice were patterns in what they were selling. Quite often, a large group of them would be promoting one product from one person in the group all at the same time.
Every couple of months, I would normally get 10-12 emails on the same day all promoting one particular product at a time (coordinated, obviously) and what was interesting were the bonuses that they each offered in addition to the headline product.
They were all very different.
Knowing that there were probably a lot of people like myself who were signed up to multiple email lists, they knew that their bonuses were the differentiator.
And some of the bonus offerings I saw were pretty ridiculous.
There was a $1997.00 product being offered once, and a couple of affiliates threw everything they owned into the bag. They included, as a bonus, every product they had ever sold before.
This was 8 to 10 additional items, most not relating directly to the headline product, but it would hike up the value of the package from $1997.00, to well over $10k for some of them.
For one, that’s crazy.
I mean – what a way to lower the value of your existing products by just throwing them in for free. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to be a customer of one or more of those products in the past.
But secondly, as someone who was reading these emails to learn – these kind of offers just overwhelmed me.
What would I do with all of that information? In the mind of a prospective customer, I just wanted the right information.
Through that experience, I learned that bonuses aren’t about the dollar value that’s added to the package. And, you just can’t throw anything into the package.
A good bonus is all about how useful it is related to the goal of those who purchase the main product.
As Derek mentions:
“You want to give away something related to what you’re selling. If it’s not related to what you’re selling, it’s not going to help increase your sales.”
Rule #2: Your bonuses should always relate directly to the product that you’re selling.
How to Make a Delicious Bonus Sandwich
The way you package your bonuses along with your main product is very important. We’ve already talked about how you should make sure you sell your main product and then give away your bonuses for free on top of it, but there’s a specific bonus-giving framework that Derek talked about that has a lot of the SPI community buzzing.
It’s called a bonus sandwich, and it’s a vertically integrated offering that works like this:
Your main product is the “meat” (or veggie patty) of the sandwich. To complete your sandwich, you want to include bonuses that become the “bread” of your sandwich – one for below your meat, and another that goes above it.
The “bread on the bottom” is a bonus that addresses something that may be preventing your ideal customer from using the main product that you’re selling right now.
The “bread on the top” is a bonus that you create related to your main product that people can use after they purchase it.
Most people who do include properly related bonuses with their products do include the bread on the top, but including an additional bonus to fill in the gap for those who may not be ready for your main product is an awesome idea.
As Derek explains:
“The point of the bonus sandwich is to turn as many browsers into buyers as possible by creating bonuses that address the objections that your customer may have to buying what you sell.”
The “bread on the top” bonus is fairly easy to discover. Just simply ask yourself:
What’s something that my customer could find extremely useful after using my product?
What are the next steps after they complete the purchase, or finish using the product?
For example: if you’re selling a course on creating web videos, an “after use” bonus could be:
- An eBook about how to promote your videos on YouTube for maximum exposure.
- A quick 2-part video about how to transcribe your videos and what to do with those transcriptions for SEO.
- Access to a community where you can share your videos and get honest feedback to help you improve.
The “bread on the bottom” bonus, however, is a little harder to figure out.
To discover a great “bread on the bottom” bonus, I recommend doing 3 things:
1. List any objections, fears and doubts that a prospective customer may have before using your product.
Continuing with our example, if you’re selling a course on creating web videos, one objection or fear a potential customer might have is having to put themselves in front of the camera.
People might think, “Oh – I don’t need a course on creating web videos. I’m not comfortable in front of the camera. I’ll stick to writing blog posts.”
The bonus may be an eBook, or perhaps a few bonus videos that go into how to record professional looking screencasts (so you don’t have to show your face on camera, just simply record what’s on your computer).
2. List any mandatory requirements or “things that your customer would already have to have” before being able to use your product.
If you were selling a course on creating web videos, people might think they need expensive camera equipment to get started.
Another bonus might be a 1 or 2 page PDF or diagram of the best camera equipment that anyone could easily setup in their home for under $200.
3. Ask your audience.
When in doubt, ask your audience. They are who you’re serving anyway, so why not ask your potential customer?
Talk to them individually (on the phone or on Skype, if possible), and dig deep into the fears and reservations your audience might have toward the purpose and goal of your main product.
To be honest, you should have already done this even before creating your product (because their answers should shape what your product becomes), but you can always benefit from talking directly with your readers, subscribers and potential customers.
So, to put this all together, a nice bonus sandwich might look like this:
- Meat: A course on creating web videos.
- Bottom Bread: A bonus guide that reveals the best camera equipment setup for under $200.
- Top Bread: An in-depth YouTube marketing strategy eBook, complete with tips from some of the top YouTube experts in the world.
I would probably throw in the screencasting course too because I know the fear of putting yourself on camera stops a lot of people from shooting web videos. That was me back in 2009 until I started doing screencasts myself.
Types of Bonuses to Offer
The exact bonuses that you create and include are totally up to you.
Be creative, because that’s what will help you stand out from the crowd, especially if you’re promoting something as an affiliate.
Remember, you can use a lot of these strategies (including the bonus sandwich), when promoting products as an affiliate.
As many of you know (because many of you are customers who went through my affiliate link – thank you!) I promote a product called Opt-in Skin.
Opt-in Skin is a slick premium WordPress plugin created by Glen Allsop from Viperchill.com that allows anyone to easily place optimized opt-in forms pretty much anywhere you’d like on your site.
(If you’re on the blog now and scroll to the bottom of this post before the comments section, you can see it in action.)
Opt-in Skin gives you the ability to select from a number of different pre-loaded “skins”, which are sort of like themes for your email opt-in forms.
Before promoting Opt-in Skin, I had a developer create an additional “bonus plugin” that when installed would add 5 additional SPI themed skins to the plugin.
It’s sort of like an expansion pack.
Even today, this bonus is still working extremely well (you can read my Opt-in Skin Review post here) and I remember a number of emails from people who said that they specifically purchased Opt-in Skin from my affiliate link because of the bonus that I offered with it.
It’s been about a year and a half since Opt-in Skin came out, and since then, I’ve earned over $50,000 in affiliate commissions from this one product (and bonus) alone.
Looking back, the bonus plugin was a great “top bread bonus” that people could use to enhance their experience with the main product. It was unlike any other bonus that was available, but I could have potentially done even better by creating a “bottom bread bonus” that helped people get an email list setup in the first place, because people can’t use Opt-in Skin until they first have an email list to connect those opt-in forms to.
I did mention my Beginner’s Guide to Starting a Newsletter, but I didn’t pull it out as its own bonus.
I could have easily repurposed that blog post into a short eBook, add a bit more content to it made specifically for potential Opt-in Skin customers, and I probably would have had a lot more people go through my affiliate link.
As you can see, bonuses can really be anything. Here’s a short-list:
- Video or audio files
- Entire mini-courses
- Additional software
- Access to special webinars and events
- Access to a private community or forum
- Quick start guides
- Resource lists
Remember: useful and relevant.
That’s what you want, and that’s what your customers want too.
How to Deliver Your Bonus (and Why it’s Okay to ‘Steal’)
When you’re selling your own product, the method by which you deliver your bonuses can vary.
If, for example, your main product requires members to log into a web portal to gain access to coursework and videos, you could easily include the bonuses in their own section within that membership site.
If your main product is an eBook, you could include additional files or instructions in the .zip file that they download.
Or, you could automate the delivery of those products via email after purchase.
When you’re including bonuses as an affiliate, however, you don’t have the luxury of having control of where the users end up after purchase, or access to the product owner’s email list.
Most people, including myself, give instructions to people who purchase through an affiliate link to forward their receipt to a specific email address.
From that point, you or a virtual assistant can collect those emails and then reply with a specific link or attachment, depending on what the bonus is.
The problem is, this can turn into a major hassle, especially if the promotion is long-term and (hopefully) going very well.
Here’s a solution that I use:
- Create a new email address for the specific promotion you’re running. It should be easy to remember, like bonus@ or [name of product]@.
- Create a vacation-reply (auto-response) that includes a thank you note and then a link to download or get access to the bonus. This will work for most types of bonuses that you offer.
- Instruct people to forward their receipt to the email address you created, and when they do, they should get an auto-reply from you with information to get their bonus included.
I like this solution because it’s coming from a real email address (so the gmail promotional tab issue that some email service providers run into doesn’t typically apply here) and – it’s automated.
Now, you might be thinking to yourself:
“But Pat! If this process is automated, how are you checking the receipts? Plus, what if people see that it’s automated and start sharing the email address? Some people will end up getting your bonuses for free!”
Well, for one – the bonuses are free to begin with (hehe).
I want as many people to grab a hold of my bonuses as possible (without me just handing them out publicly), because even if they didn’t purchase the main product yet, the bonuses should always be related to it, and I always include a special page that re-promotes the main product just in case people somehow get the bonuses first.
If the bonuses are awesome, then a lot of those people who think they’re slick by bypassing your affiliate link will go back and purchase the main product related to that bonus. Even if they don’t, they’re new to your brand they are a potential customer down the road.
And if they don’t purchase anything from you or become a customer down the road – well – those aren’t the types of people you want as customers or subscribers anyway.
Plus, it’s not always people who are just trying to be slick – a lot of times these bonuses are shared by those who legitimately get access to them.
For example, my practice exam questions and flash cards from GreenExamAcademy.com are shared quite often amongst the architecture community, which I love because each share and copy ends up in front of a new potential customer who typically ends up at my site.
Each of those bonuses are marked with my site URL and some promotional content for my paid products, and I always encourage my customers to share them with their workmates and colleagues.
So why ask for the receipt in the first place?
A couple of reasons:
Firstly, everyone who sends me their receipt is also sending me proof that they’re a buyer. In marketing, the only thing better than having an email list is having an email list of buyers, which is why Amazon.com’s 300 million registered users are way more valuable than however many people are on Facebook or on Twitter.
Additionally, the act of forwarding a receipt becomes a real exchange and their experience with buying, doing and getting something extra will be more fulfilling.
It makes the bonus more “bonus-ey”, if that makes sense.
If I just publicly gave away my Opt-in Skin bonus on the front end (meaning anyone could easily figure out how to download it even before purchasing Opt-in Skin) then it wouldn’t seem like much of a bonus at all.
It wouldn’t be as cool to get your hands on it, and you always want your bonuses to be “cool to get your hands on”. 🙂
Before I Finish Up…
I just wanted to say thanks again to Derek Halpern for sharing his expertise in Session #84 of the SPI Podcast and inspiring me to go in-depth with bonus-giving here in this post.
I hope you got something good out of it, and I hope you actually use this information the next time you sell something of your own or as an affiliate.
If you enjoyed this article, please let me know by sharing it and leaving a comment below.
Anything to add? I’d love to hear from you.
And don’t forget to register for the 1st (of many) live monthly Q&A hangout sessions with me. No charge, no pitch – just your questions and 2 hours of my time. Click here for more info.
Cheers, and all the best to you!