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.)