Threshold Resistance: Improve Your Offers For Better Conversions

Threshold Resistance: Improve Your Offers For Better Conversions

Are you creating offers that nobody is interested in?  Are your current offers getting little in the way of conversions for your business?

You are most likely meeting threshold resistance from your audience.

Whether it's an offer for a free consultation, to schedule an appointment, or even just to get someone to sign up for your email list, the wrong kind of offer can be met with great resistance.

What is Threshold Resistance?

Threshold resistance is a term made popular by the famous mall developer, Arnold Taubman.  He spoke about threshold resistance as it applies to retail stores where the window displays and store entrances can either invite or repel a potential visitor.

When we use the term threshold resistance in online marketing terms we are talking about the offers we make to our website visitors, hoping to spur some sort of action out of them.  The right offer can get people to act and the wrong offer can make them leave your website and seek more inviting alternatives.

Threshold resistance is the perceived barriers we place between us and our potential customers by making offers that they are not ready to take you up on or that make them feel uneasy.  They create friction between your business and your potential customer and makes it harder for them to take that critical first step towards becoming your customer.

Types of Threshold Resistance

Your offers will fall somewhere between high and low threshold offers.  A High threshold offer is intimidating and sometimes scary for a someone to take action on while a low threshold offer makes it relatively easy and safe for someone to take action.

A real world example of a high threshold offer would be a neighbor who just moved next door asking you to spend your weekend helping them unpack their moving boxes in return for a free sandwich at lunchtime.  A low threshold offer would be an employee giving out free samples at Costco.

Examples of High & Medium Threshold Offers

  • Dentist offering a $29 introductory cleaning
  • Restaurant offering free or discounted entree if you purchase one at full price
  • Financial Planner offering a free consultation
  • Contractor offering an in-home remodeling quote
  • Real estate agent offering a free home evaluation

As you can see from these offers, whether free or paid, there is an implied expectation that you will continue doing business with them or buy more on the spot.

You know it and they know it.

A question I get a lot from service professionals is how can offering a free consultation or estimate be a medium or high threshold offer as I'm giving my valuable time and expertise to the person for free?  My response is if a stranger asked you to go on a “free” date with them, would the offer suddenly become much more appealing to you?

Of course not.

You are still giving up your valuable time for this “free” offer and are exposing yourself to someone you may not actually like but have somewhat committed to.  So when offering a free consult or estimate, you have to understand that person is exposing themselves and their personal information to you. They may realize 5 minutes into your presentation they made a mistake and now have to go through the uncomfortable process of pretending they are interested and also knowing you have all of their personal contact information.

Examples of Low Threshold Offers

  • Free downloadable guide
  • Discount code they can apply to their online purchase
  • Free mini-course on the topic they are interested in
  • Free webinar

As you can see, low threshold offers are low risk and usually don't require a phone call or human contact with the business to redeem the offer.  It's safe way to experience you and your business without exposing themselves to you.  For you, it's a great way to introduce people to your business, your expertise, and to build an email list of potential customers.

How To Overcome Threshold Resistance

The first thing is to realize that what you may view as a safe and inviting offer may be scary and intimidating to the people evaluating the offer.

Most fitness centers offer a free pass or trial membership to their facility to try it out but fail to realize the intimidation factor of a fitness novice walking into their center for the first time.  Most people who would otherwise love to join a fitness center won't take the offer because of the fear of looking silly not knowing how to use the equipment or the perceived fear of people judging them.

From a marketing standpoint you need to evaluate your offers from the customer viewpoint, not your own.  What do they consider safe and not intimidating?  Your goal should be to create offers that make people feel safe to take that first step in connecting with you.  Take away the risks and more people will be willing to try you out.

Create Multiple Threshold Offers

A simple solution is to create offers that different people can relate to, regardless of where they are in the buying cycle.  Why just present a single”Buy Now” or “Schedule Your Consult Today” offer when in reality the vast majority of your audience are not ready to accept your offer?  Why try and force a commitment to you when that person doesn't know if they want to do business with you yet?

Why would someone agree to a free consult with a financial planner unless they were 90+% sure they were ready to hand over their retirement savings to them?  The answer is they won't.

Yes, you want to make sure you have an offer ready for people at the end of the buying cycle and are ready to make a purchase decision.  But people ready to buy right now are just 10% of your potential customer pool.  Have a lower threshold offer that can pull in the rest of the people who are interested, just not ready to pull the trigger today..

In the case of the fitness center offering a free pass, consider offering a longer 1-2 week pass if they bring a friend with them.  It's safer doing something new if you have a friend with you.  Or host a monthly after hours open house where people can tour the gym without having a bunch of muscle bound men staring at them…….or at least that's how they may view it.

For a financial planner hoping to schedule free consultations online, consider also offering a free mini-course on financial planning, requiring only an email address to join.  For a lawn care company, consider offering a free landscaping starter guide specific to your area so home owners can see and learn what works for their area.

Free and easy offers like these help to get many more people's “foot in the door” with your business and is a great way build connections with people until they are ready to make a more serious commitment.

Make it easy for people to test drive your business

Offer people multiple ways to interact with your business even if they are not ready to buy or make a firm commitment to you right now.  It's an easy way to increase your potential pool of customers as well as increasing conversion rates on your offers.

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CEO at 3Bug Media
Gary Shouldis is the founder of 3Bug Media, a web marketing company that helps businesses create 360 Marketing Strategies to dominate their market. His blog is read by over 20 thousand small business owners a month and has been featured in the N.Y. Times Small Business, Business Insider and Yahoo Small Business.
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