Early bird gets… the sale?

In the past I've been pretty skeptical of “early bird” offers.

The goal with early bird offers is to create multiple deadlines—first as the price is going up, and again when the real deadline is looming.

Now deadlines ARE one of the most powerful tools in marketing.

However the idea that you could effectively use this sledgehammer multiple times in a row and wind up making more sales seemed a little dubious to me. It has the whiff of one of those tactics that looks good on paper but rarely works out in practice.

Last week I got a chance to see firsthand what an “early bird” offer looks like in the wild.

An affiliate was relaunching a course that I'd helped promote last year.

Previously, the offer was pretty straightforward:

A special limited-time price, with a 3-day open cart window.

This time around, the promotion kicked off with a 4-day early bird offer, then switched gears to a 4-day full price offer with a hard enrollment deadline.

Since the course itself hadn't changed, I was able to reuse the same emails from last year, plus one extra “cart closing” email that I sent as the full price offer was expiring.

Not a perfect A/B test by any means, but still a pretty useful comparison.

So… what happened?

First of all, the number of sales was exactly identical—right to the last digit.

And the revenue was almost exactly the same as well. The early bird approach “won” by about $50, barely a rounding error on an offer that generated mid-5 figures in sales.

Which is remarkable, given how different the timelines were and how many of the sales this time around happened at a higher price.

What DID change significantly was when the sales occurred.

The first time around, about 60% of sales happened on Day 3, as the limited-time price deadline approached.

The second time around, only 32% of sales happened on Day 3 as the early bird price expired.

Then another 27% happened on Day 8 as the “doors closing” deadline counted down.

Notice a pattern here?

I'll share my analysis tomorrow.