Have you ever walked into a store, found something you wanted, looked at the price…

And been flabbergasted when you found out how much money they were asking?

It’s an experience that is commonly called “sticker shock.” And it’s the last thing you want your customers to experience.

In his book How to Create Irresistible Offers, master copywriter Bob Bly lays out strategies to prevent sticker shock from occurring.

Based on Bob’s ideas, I’ve put together 10 techniques to make sure you position the price of your product or service in the most appealing way possible…

1) The “Drop in the bucket” technique

The idea is to show the reader that the amount they will pay is a drop in the bucket compared to the value they will receive.

Bob uses this technique in the sales letter for his Copywriter’s Toolkit product.   Because many e-books are sold for between $9 and $29, he was concerned that his reader might think that $79 was a lot to pay for an e-book on freelance marketing.

He does two things to combat that perception.  1) He points out that what he’s offering is not a standard e-book.  It’s actually a collection of forms, and; 2) He explains the value of the forms and how much money his readers will save.

He starts by assigning a dollar value of $25,000 to the time he’s spent creating the forms.  (As a consultant, Bob charges $500 an hour.)  Right there, the value of his e-book immediately takes a big jump up in your mind.   He adds that if you’d like to duplicate these forms you’d have to pay a lawyer a minimum of $200 per hour.

Here’s the actual copy Bob used:  (Note: In this version, Bob offers an additional $30 discount.)

By the time Bob gets to the actual price, you’re no longer thinking this is going to cost between $9 and $29.  Your idea of its value has risen considerably.

So when he reveals it’s only $79, you’re relieved that it’s so affordable.  And you’re even more grateful when you find out that you can buy it today for only $49.

Here’s another example that follows the game formula Bob used in his sales letter to promote his E-Mail Swipe File program:

How you can do it

Before revealing the price of your product, focus on building up its perceived value. If possible, assign specific dollar amounts, so people understand the true value of everything they’ll receive for your asking purchase price.

2) Make apples to oranges comparison

The idea here is that you don’t compare your product/service to a similar product/service.  You compare it to something that is related, but different.

An example Bob gives in his book is if you were selling a speech writing course where your target market is businesses whose management gives a lot of speeches.  Instead of doing a price comparison with another speech writing program, you could mention that hiring a top speech writer would cost up to $5,000.

In this example, Bob compares the price of his 21 Steps to Internet Marketing Success eBook with the cost of hiring him as a consultant to do similar work:

How you can do it

Think metaphorically: “My product is like [high-priced, elite product].” Assign a realistic dollar value to this more expensive option and contrast it with the price of the product you’re promoting.

3) Spread out the payments

Which price do you think is best, $49 or $156?

If you said $156 because you suspect it’s a trick question…you’re right. Here’s the explanation…

A financial publisher tested out two pricing scenarios.  The first price test sold a newsletter subscription for $49 for one year.  The second price test offered a one-year subscription for four quarterly payments of $39 ($156 in total.)

Even though it works out to be more than three times the cost, the “four quarterly payments option” won.

Why did more people choose it?

All indicators would seem to point to the fact that often buyers pay the most attention to the price of the first payment.

You see this pricing strategy most often in books that are sold through the mail or online:

Four payments of $6.99 seems a lot more appealing than one payment of $27.96, doesn’t it?

How you can do it

Break your price into two, three, or four (or whatever number makes sense) monthly payments. Then test it against your current price to see which one your customers are most comfortable with. For very little additional work, you could be bringing in double, even triple, the profit for the same product or service.

4) State the price in terms that make it seem as small as possible

Even when you’re not offering multiple payments, it makes sense to try to break the cost of something down to so much per month, per week or per day.

This is an excerpt from the classic sales letter that helped put Newsweek on the map.


Who can resist “a little more than a penny a day?”

How you can do it

Get out your calculator and do the math. For added power, compare the daily or weekly price to something your customers already spend money on, such as a latte or dinner for two.

5) Get creative with how you price the individual components of your product

Bob documents an example of creative “outside the box” thinking in How to Create Irresistible Offers.

It involves a software company that sells an integrated accounting package for $249 by direct mail.  The General Ledger module is needed to make the other modules (Accounts Receivable, Accounts Payable, Payroll, and so on) work.

Instead of offering them all for $249, they priced the modules at $1.00 each and the General Ledger package at $244. They sold ten times as much software when they offered the pricing that way!

Bob gave another example of this during one of his copywriting presentations that I was lucky enough to attend.  The original headline to the promo was “How to Manage Your Novell Netware Network More Efficiently and Easily.”

Included with the main program were free software programs that the customer was instructed to return if they asked for a refund.  Because the hard costs were minimal Bob suggested customers who cancel be allowed to keep the programs.  The client agreed.

He then positioned the offer differently.  He featured the free programs in his headline.  At the start of his letter, he talks about the free programs before he even mentions the main product.

Bob’s suggested change doubled Novell’s response.

How you can do it

Bob’s advice is to get creative…

For instance, if you’re selling a product made up of eight DVDs, consider breaking it into six DVDs and throwing in two for free.

6) Add an element that cannot be easily priced by the buyer

Make it your goal to minimize pricing comparison shopping. To do that, if possible, include some elements that are difficult to price.

For instance, a great way to differentiate a book is to include a CD of a related audio presentation, and templates (or whatever works for the product) in the back of the book.  You can either put a value on the CD or leave it to the reader’s imagination to assign a price.

When the reader compares your book to an equivalent one, chances are they’ll assign a great value to yours.

In this example from a sales letter for a financial newsletter, the offer includes things that are very difficult to price shop, namely:  1) 30 to 50 new recommendations “straight into your inbox” and; 2) special access to their password-protected site.

How you can do it

Brainstorm ideas for product add-ons that tie into the main product, but are unique and hard to price shop.  Get creative.  Study what your competition is doing and think of ways you can one-up them on the value you deliver to your customers.

7) Pre-empt the price objection

Most sales letters lead with a big idea/benefit followed by a promise, more benefits, and proof…and then they reveal the price.

One technique that is sometimes used when the product or service in question has a high sticker price is revealing the price upfront.  It relies on the element of exclusivity mixed in with a dose of snobbery to maintain the reader’s interest.  Plus it also relies on human nature, in that often when you tell people they don’t qualify for something, they want to prove to you that they do qualify.

An example Bob uses is a financial service sales letter that starts off by saying…

“This service is for serious investors only.  It costs $2,500 per year.  If that price scares you, this is not for you.”

Perhaps the most famous example of this is the letter that promotes the Admiral Bird Society’s fundraising expedition.  Here are the first few paragraphs of that letter…

How you can do it

To be honest, this method should be used sparingly.  That’s because revealing the price near the end is a structure proven to work and is in fact what is used in the overwhelming majority of sales letters.

But if you want to try it, consider coming up with a compelling reason for the price: danger, small quantities, superior workmanship, for example. Then lead with that feature so you can bring up the price right away.

8) Add a sweetener

A common way to get a “yes” from your reader is to add an unexpected bonus such as a special premium, an extended guarantee, a two-for-one offer, free support, etc.  It’s referred to as “a sweetener” because the reader should already be sold on the product by the time it’s introduced.

In this example, the customer is already sold on buying his Marketing with Articles EBook, and he surprises him/her in the P.S. by including an additional bonus report:

How you can do it

Look for ways you can give your reader even more value for their money, making the offer irresistible so as to confirm their decision to buy. Then create a short sales pitch for your sweetener at the end of your sales page.

9) Offer a trial period for a $1

This is a very popular and effective way to entice your prospects into taking a positive step toward acquiring your product or service.  You let them try it for $1.

An example Bob uses in How to Create Irresistible Offers is a company that sells access to its online training program for $29.95 a month.  They decided to add a 14-day $1 trial period to their offer.

If the customer didn’t cancel, they would be billed at a rate of $29.95 per month once the trial period was over. They significantly increased sales.

Ziglar.com offers their prospects an opportunity to test drive their service for 30 days for $1.  After 30 days, if the person doesn’t cancel, they are billed at the regular monthly rate:

How you can do it

The $1 offer can be used to sell software and courses online, as well as any membership-based program.  Be sure to collect the customer’s credit card information upfront to limit your risk substantially.

10) The “good, better, best” strategy for boosting the average order size

The last pricing strategy I’ll examine today is the “good, better, best strategy.”  The idea is that if your prospect is given three options they most likely will select the middle one.

The reason for this is that most people view the middle choice as a “compromise choice.”   This is an example from a sales letter selling a supplement that eases joint pain:

How you can do it

Always present your most expensive option first, followed by the more moderately priced options.  By doing so you make the lower-priced options seem more reasonable.

A few final tips

Now obviously, you can’t use all these pricing strategies in one letter.  You have to pick and choose what makes sense for what product.  Plus if your product is priced fairly low and has limited “sticker shock risk,” too much price justification might raise a red flag with your reader.

But getting the price right is important. So incorporate one or more of these tips with every sales letter you write, and you you’re likely to turn more prospects into paying customers.