What's Not Special About 'Special Offers'

Posted 1 year, 6 months ago | Originally written on 22 Nov 2022

Special offers are not simple.

While their intention is to make the proposition attractive to new clients, I find them very confusing especially if the intention is to establish a long-term business relationship. I believe that there are very particular cases where a special offer makes sense e.g. if it is clear that the prospect will procure whatever is on offer so that the special offer is not really informing the decision to convert. However, the main use case, which is for undecided prospects, special offers are just plain confusing.

Take for example, the special offers currently (as of 22/11/2022) for accounting software. All major providers (Quickbooks, Sage and Xero) currently offer several months free before reverting to the standard rates (a couple of pounds a month). To add to the confusion, the price often excludes VAT at 20%. Therefore, an undecided prospect when looking at the offer will have the following questions in mind:

  • how much does it cost with VAT included? (I have to fish out my calculator for that!)
  • what would be the total cost per year?
  • do I get a discount if I pay annually?
  • if I sign up now can I just take advantage then escape at the end of the free period or do they want my credit card on file?
  • what's included?

Even if the different products are presented with the obligatory table with green checks and grey crosses indicating what is and isn't included, it still makes for a wildly confusing user experience.

Surely, something special should really not be that hard to appreciate!

I think it would be a far better use of space and time for businesses to spend time enlightening their customers on what their product can do for them to make informed decisions on which product to choose then make the pricing simple and clear.

Also, the practice of bundling products in such a way as to 'trap' customers is not simple. Inasmuch as it appears more profitable in the short run, isn't is far better to ensure that customers do not have to doubt whether their choice is sufficient for their needs? An inconfident customer is very unlikely to make a strong recommendation for your product. What you really want is for every action taking by your customer to reinforce the idea that they made the right choice, that they got a good deal.

Special offers make for a bad experience. Kill them!