A lovely reader asks:

“You recommend having an incentive be your “best work” and gave the example of making something “product quality” to attract the most people to your list.

I’ve heard others say that the “cookie” should be “bite size” so that it’s not something that people download and get overwhelmed by and don’t complete – make it short and sweet.

Wanted to get thoughts on that and whether you suggest a certain length for incentives?”


Great question. Here’s what we’d say.

As far as incentive length, our answer is always “It depends.”

We won’t leave it at that, though – we’ll actually explain what it depends on.

(For the uninitiated, an “incentive” or “cookie” is “something free you offer to get people on your mailing list”, whether it’s an email list or a physical mailing list.)

So! Let us begin.

Factor #1 – It depends on the attention span of your desired target.

There are a lot of markets that thrive on short attention spans – for example, a photography blog may serve people who are into camera hacks and equipment reviews. They flit from one thing to the next, and so a smaller cookie could work quite nicely for those people.

With coaches, not so much – but that depends on industry. If you were a golf coach, smaller might be great, because golf problems are much more cookie-cutter than life coaching problems. Too short may equal too trite. People who want to change their life (and truly want to do so) are willing to have a longer attention span and be more thoughtful. They probably have a dozen books on the subject. They can get into a good read.

Factor #2 – It depends on what your target wants to DO.

This is closely tied to the first. If someone wants to get small results (here, “small” is not a moral judgment – think of small like “I want to learn how to make a green smoothie”), then they will gravitate towards smaller incentives in many of cases. They see their issue as discrete and compartmentalized.

(e.g., “I suck at getting the lighting right when I take pictures, I should google that and fix it” versus “I suck at photography – I should really take the time to learn how to do it well.”)

People with bigger problems understand that they need bigger resources to address them. So in this case, a bigger resource may feel more comprehensive. (On the other hand, you could give a small freebie to fix a small but universal problem. It’s a matter of preference.)

Another option is to position your incentive as a reference rather than a book, as it were. 400 pages of “Basic Photography” may scare people. 400 pages of “100 quick fixes that will improve your pictures”? That’s may be just what the doctor ordered.

Factor #3 – It depends on what you want your target to see you as.

A larger resource positions you not only as an expert, but also as someone who is shepherding them through a process, if it is created with that in mind. “Training them to be trained by you” is the objective there, and larger items lend themselves towards that. You could also deliver the large resource in something like weekly chunks, and people could get bite-sized information over time.

If you’re primarily trying to get people to buy products, a smaller freebie could do a good job of getting them in the door to that. For coaching, a larger one may be better. But again, you may want to drip a larger resource out in chunks if it has the potential to be overwhelming.

Ultimately, it depends on what the thing is. Harry Potter books were outlandishly long compared to other books they initially competed against. It hit a market need/desire that was strong enough that people thought “I’m really glad these are so long.” But not every book or story can do that.

When it all comes down to it, what’s most important is the positioning of the item so it makes people say “Wow” instead of “Dear Christ, save me!” Cruise your bookstore and look at what books make you say “I’m glad that’s all in this convenient package” and which ones feel like they’d be a slog to go through. That will help you adjust your positioning palate.

I hope that helps. Great question.


To ask your question, visit the Request Line.

Naomi writes more things like this in The Letter. Get it for free today. (It also comes with free marketing courses. You can’t move for free here.)

About the author: Naomi Dunford started IttyBiz in 2006. In her free time, she likes to… ha! Free time. You’re adorable. Learn more about her here and catch up with her on Twitter or Facebook.

Ingrid asks this question:

“I’m wondering if there is a good number of days I should wait before I follow up with someone who requests information about my services.

I have a brochure that I email out with pricing and package details, and I don’t know if there is a field-tested “right” number of days I should hold off before contacting them again.

How soon is too soon, and how long is too long?”


Good question, Ingrid. Here’s what we can tell you.

The answer to this question depends heavily on at least three factors.

Factor #1 – The industry you’re in and its inherent sales cycle.

For businesses like wedding photographers, I’d say follow up ASAP because those customers are ripe to be snapped up by the competition (people are actively searching and looking at lots of photographers at once, and they are motivated to cross this purchase off their list to get to the next one). The sales cycle is very short in a lot of cases.

For coaches and marketing consultants, on the other hand, the sales cycle is generally longer and people aren’t firing up Google to look for everyone in town all at once. Decisions for some service providers aren’t generally event-driven, like a wedding. No one is asking “Have you booked the caterer yet?” here.

So these customers are often driven by an internal curiosity to see what might be out there. They may have read a book, or heard someone mention they work with a golf coach, and they started thinking “Maybe I can, too.” But they’re not exactly bolting out the door. So consultants could have a longer window and move more gently if they wanted to.

That’s if they wanted to, however. There’s nothing wrong with following up more quickly. If you’re in an industry with a less identifiable sales cycle, you have to use your own judgment, pick a number, and see how that works for you.

One thing you could do here is test different approaches over time and find out where the sweet spot for your business is, since the people you attract will have their own personality types. Some brands attract people who want to move fast, and some attract people who want to take a little more of a relaxed approach.

So you could try waiting two days to start, and if it doesn’t work well then you can experiment based on people’s responses. Two days feels like it gives people time to take the guide to their spouse and talk about it (especially if it’s a big investment), and it’s enough time that follow-up isn’t weird.

If you find people respond with “I picked someone else” than that’s probably a cue to reduce the time to one day. If people respond with “Whoa, Nellie, slow down!”, then you can push the window farther out. But also keep in mind that you’ll be looking for patterns, not isolated incidents. One “Whoa, Nellie!” doesn’t mean that everyone wants you to slow down.

Factor #2 – Whether your initial contact included a bid for further communication.

Go back to your initial interaction with the person. Was it essentially one-way, or did you do something to spark a little more interaction? One-way interactions usually work like this:

Them: “Can I get more information?”

You: “Sure, I’ll send it to you.”


And that’s it. It’s the business equivalent of a guy walking up to a girl at a bar and saying “Hi, what’s your name?” and when hearing the response, not really saying anything back. It’s going to be a lonely night.

If you can get a little two-way interaction going, that makes following up later a little easier. If you’re asking “How did you hear about us?” or a question related to the service they’re interested in, you can create some level of connection. The goal is to ask simple, non-threatening questions that create some basic level of social engagement. Just because you’re responding to a request for information doesn’t mean you can’t ask a simple question in return.

But let’s just revisit how you could pull off a two-way interaction (in person or via email):

Them: “Can I get more information?”

You: “I’ll be happy to send it to you. Can I ask how you found us?”

Them: “To be honest, I don’t know exactly. I was reading something online and the article mentioned you, but I can’t remember.”

You: “Well, all publicity is good publicity, I guess. Thanks for letting me know. I’ll send you the information today, and we’ll see what happens from there! Take care.”

Now, this is just what came off the top of my head, so don’t take this as Official Sales Training. But you can see how you can just slip a little bit of conversation in there without having to do anything you wouldn’t do in a normal, public setting.  Simple bids for a little more interaction.

And now that you’ve had the initial back-and-forth, following up seems a lot less abrupt.

Factor #3 – What you are proposing happens next.

This is often the tricky one for both the ittybiz owner and the potential customer. It’s a lot like following up with a potential romantic interest – you need a purpose to the follow-up that sounds normal, natural, and agreeable for the person you want to get in touch with.

If what you’re proposing to a prospect is “Can I call you later this week?”, you’re probably not going to get the most enthusiastic response, unless your prospect has already indicated their own substantial interest in speaking to you. (If so, then this is completely appropriate, because they’ve already raised their hand.)

If your prospect simply said “Could you send me more information?” in the first place, then you have to engage your creativity and see how you can respond in a way that’s going to sound like you get what they’re interested in, based on what you already know about your potential customers.

In other words, when you follow up, you need to take leadership by describing what will happen when you follow up. “Can I call you this week to find out a little more about what you’re looking for and see if any of our current packages might be a good fit for you?” isn’t a bad place to start.

That should get you started. Thanks for the question, Ingrid.


To ask your question, visit the Request Line.

Naomi writes more things like this in The Letter. Get it for free today. (It also comes with free marketing courses. You can’t move for free here.)

About the author: Naomi Dunford started IttyBiz in 2006. In her free time, she likes to… ha! Free time. You’re adorable. Learn more about her here and catch up with her on Twitter or Facebook.

Every now and again, a topic comes up that just won’t die. You get into a conversation about it with your lover over a bottle of wine, and then it comes up at the coffee shop, and then it comes up in a book you’re reading, and soon enough Steve Harvey’s talking about it on Family Feud.

For the last couple weeks around here, that topic has been faith. Mr. Slick Sunglasses and I have been having a lot of conversations about a lot of topics, and sooner or later, they’re all coming back to faith (which seems optional) versus worry (which seems mandatory).

  • Does worry serve a useful purpose?
  • Would it be somehow dangerous to have faith in a positive outcome?
  • Does sitting around saying, “Oh my God, what if it all goes horribly wrong?” help anything?
  • Does sitting around going, “Oh my God, what if it goes a little bit wrong?” help anything?

Why are we so invested in retaining our right to worry?

In one particular conversation, we ran a (very common but in this case hypothetical) scenario in which a client is worried about an upcoming sales call. He or she calls me up very worried that it’s not going to go well, that he or she is not going to get the gig.

What if I were to say, “I think you should work more on your faith than your sales script”?

What would happen?

Well, they’d probably freak out.

Faith is dangerous, it seems. It seems that in the average human animal’s philosophy, sitting around saying, “AAAAAAAAACK!!!!!” is a necessary ingredient to success in any endeavour. To remove it would be tantamount to putting the house on red.

Almost as if repeatedly saying, “This is gonna be bad. No, seriously. This is gonna be very bad. Like, extra bad. Remember that other thing that was really bad? This is going to be so much worse than that” increases the odds somehow.

Mr. Slick Sunglasses suggested that people don’t want to get their hopes up. They think having faith will elevate their hopes and failure will hurt more because the fall will be so much greater. But aren’t their hopes already up as high as they can go?

Anyway, I’ve been avoiding writing about this because (in case you haven’t noticed) I’m rather fond of my soapboxes. But today I read something that said it better than I could, so I will simply quote it.

“To have great faith is to have great power because our intent, our will, is undivided.”

(From The Four Agreements Companion Book by don Miguel Ruiz and Janet Mills.)

It made me think, imagine how much we could achieve if we took all the time we currently spend wondering if we’re going to fail, and redirected that time to work?

We seem to think that spending time worried about work counts as work. But it doesn’t. That’s like saying that time spent worrying about your kids counts as spending time with your kids. Nuh uh.

But what if every time we caught ourselves worrying about our children we took that as a signal to get up, right then, and do something nice for them? How revolutionary would that be? If I did that, my children would be the best loved children under the sun.

Well, what about business? What if every time we caught ourselves worrying about our business, we stopped immediately and did something nice for it?

Take a few minutes today and consider what that might look like for you. What nice things could you do? Do you think you could master your stars that way?

About the author: Naomi Dunford started IttyBiz in 2006. In her free time, she likes to… ha! Free time. You’re adorable. Learn more about her here and catch up with her on Twitter or Facebook.