Can Bonuses Actually Hurt Sales?

I spent the first half of 2017 on a massive project:

Launching The Complete Software Developer’s Career Guide, written by my business partner, John.

Overall the launch went great—we hit #2 on all of Amazon for non-fiction (actually it was #1, since we only lost out to a John Grisham novel that was *ahem* completely fictional) and even made the #6 spot on the Wall Street Journal’s electronic non-fiction list.

Still, there are things about the launch that didn’t go as planned.

One place I really missed the mark was with our paid email promotions.

I invested about $15,000 buying email blasts and sponsorships to other sites’ lists.

The results were mediocre—about half the clicks I was anticipating, across the board.

Now there were several factors to this.

For example on one list, I didn’t realize who the audience actually was until late in the game. (I might have passed on this one altogether if I’d realized this critical bit of info.)

However one of the most important issues was this:

I overcomplicated the offer.

The “offer” in this case was pretty outstanding.

For the launch, we priced an 800-page career-and-life-changing book that retails at $9.99 on Amazon all the way down to $0.99.

That’s, like, what you’d pay for a pack of gum.

And I should have focused all of my copy on selling the value of the book to make it clear what an incredible steal this was.

Instead I got distracted.

The conventional wisdom on book launches like this is to give away a bunch of bonuses worth 10X the price of the book to get more people to buy.

So in my copy I talked about how book buyers would also get $175 worth of bonus video courses and tools, and I spelled out in detail what all the bonuses were.

Normally this is probably a good idea.

When you’re selling at a higher price, bonuses help the customer to rationalize the purchase.

In hindsight, with the $0.99 price point, bringing the bonuses into the picture just gummed up what would have been a simple and compelling message.

Instead of just hammering home all the valuable lessons in the book and how we were practically giving it all away…

I got sucked into trying to sell 8 or 9 different things at once.

$0.99 is an impulse buy.

And all the bonus talk was like me jumping in front of them and waving my arms while they were reaching for the pack of gum.

Lesson learned.