How To Use Incentives To Build Your Business

Minute Read

shiny object marketing

When your incentive offer scratches the itch with your ideal prospect, you’re changing their mindset. Leads are finally pouring in left and right, and you’re breaking out the champagne to celebrate. You have too many leads; it’s unbelievable. Life can’t get any better than this.

But how do you get to this heavenly place?

Landing on the perfect incentive, the first go-around can be as tricky as teaching your puppy to sit and stay in one day. You’ll get it done, but it’s going to take some time. I’ve been testing this out for years. There are so many options it’s mind-boggling.

Let’s see what makes sense for you. The good news isn’t just one thing; you never know what will create a viral reaction while the other seemingly fantastic idea fizzles out.

Incentives are part of your business toolbox. You have access to various tools but picking and choosing the right one at the right time is critical. There are times for a hammer, and then there are times when a screwdriver is the best choice to get the job done. Your prospect is looking for answers to a problem; this is your chance to give it to them.

Many entrepreneurs will worry that they shouldn’t give away all the ‘good stuff’. Not to worry, you should always give away your very best stuff. People will be awed by all the good things your share.

Mixing it up a bit is often the reality. When your prospect is in different stages of his buying journey, you’ll need to use various incentives to help them along. This is especially true if you’re selling high-ticket products/services.

Incentives, also known as lead magnets, are talked about frequently. Here’s a breakdown of the most popular lead magnets with the pros and cons. To be effective, they must be ultra-specific, not some generalized piece you could read on google or watch on YouTube.

Determine the object of your incentive. Naturally, they’re used at all stages of the sales process, and you should use them strategically.

Types of Incentives:


Regulated industries widely use the report as a case study. You’ll notice them in TV commercials that ask you to contact them for their guide. When your product/service is complicated, a guide is an ideal mechanism to deliver easy to understand information—often used for high-ticket services to illustrate features and benefits.

Pro: Easy to use for many industries and different stages of the sales process.

Cons: You’ll need a copywriter to help you put them together. The tone is essential to your reader. You need to apply the appropriate regulations for specific industries.

Toolkit/Resource List

When your market is searching for a product/service, a resource list is a good choice. The list illustrates your superior knowledge. The prospect will likely keep it handy, as a result, you’ll be top -of-mind.

Pro: Easy to put together and deliver via a digital download.

Cons: The only downside is trying to figure out what you want to create.

Software Download/Trial

Try it before you buy; it is a frequent incentive that is effective in closing sales. Similar to the car test drive, once you feel yourself in the car surrounded by the new car smell and exceptional sound system, you don’t want to give it back. Often the pain of disconnect is the deciding factor in a sale; the loss is too painful for the buyer, so they buy.

Pro: Easy to put together and administer.

Cons: Depending on how you administer the trial, make sure you let people know ahead of time, they will be billed in x number of days if they haven’t canceled their trial.


A smart choice for segmenting your market. This is a sophisticated mechanism to prequalify your prospects to determine if they’re a good fit for you. When structured properly, it can be educational for your market as well. It’s the perfect way to drive people to your offer using curiosity.

Pro: Excellent choice to segment your traffic into separate groups. You can target the groups with products/services that fit their specific needs.

Cons: Constructing the quiz/surveys has its challenges. It can be as easy as three simple questions to a matrix of questions and answers to get the results you’re looking to achieve.

Blind/Sales Materials

Brochures are one of the oldest pieces of marketing collateral around. The ideal piece to answer questions about your product/services with color images and glossy pages. If you want the prospects' address, this is the perfect fit because the brochure must be mailed to them.

Pro: Easy to assemble with a graphic artist and copywriter.

Cons: The marketing collateral will be outdated when your products/services change, resulting in reprinting and potentially waste.

Cheat Sheet/Handout

A cheat sheet is a way to add value to your prospect’s life. A cheat sheet helps the person looking for shortcuts, tips, and hacks for their problem. You are telling them how to fix their problem. Many people want to know how to fix the problem but tend not actually to do it themselves.

Pro: Easy to assemble and deliver via a digital download. Often your prospects are searching for a provider, giving you a chance to help them.

Cons: Creating the best targeted material that is valuable to your target audience.

Video Training

Training is similar to the trial; you’re giving the prospect a chance to see what your offer can do for them. Likewise, a webinar is video training; it’s widely used as a sales presentation. The benefit is closing people in the training session, often resulting in significant sales. The activity is often framed as a workshop to teach and make an offer at the end.

Pro: Powerful tool to train your audience and ask for the sale. The closest thing to having a live sales presentation.

Cons: There are many moving parts to getting this right. Webinars are highly structured before, during, and after the workshop.

Discount/Free Shipping

Discounts are incentives for bargain shoppers or as loss-leaders for business owners. Many businesses use deals to bring in buyers. However, it is challenging for the small business owner with narrow margins.

With the advent of Amazon, everyone expects free shipping for purchases over a certain amount.

Pro: Easy to deliver.

Cons: Can you afford to sacrifice your profits? Discounts can train your buyers only to buy when there’s a sale. Doesn’t instill loyalty.


An ever-popular means to attract a curious prospect. Offer them the chance to learn about themselves in exchange for their contact information.

Pro: Easy to deliver. Like the quiz/survey, it’s famous for good reason; it’s a win: win for the prospect and you.

Con: It can be easy or challenging, depending on your objectives. It needs to be carefully constructed to be effective.

What it isn’t

You’ll notice a book isn’t listed. Frequently people want to write a book or e-book as their lead magnet. While it’s impressive to see that you’ve written a book, it can’t be read in 5 minutes or less. However, if your ideal client is a CEO they are more likely to read your book than attend a webinar. 

There’s a time and place to use your book in your marketing, but this isn’t the right one if your ideal client doesn't read books. You can’t take the chance they’ll get your book then leave it on the table to collect dust. You have to know your audience to pitch the incentive that matches their preferences.  

Your market is looking for a solution right now. Give them both the sizzle and the steak to get their contact information. Meet them where they're at. If they read - a book or guide is good, if they are consuming information on the web - there are many choices, and if they want to hold something in their hands - direct mail is the answer.

The Next Steps

Center your incentive or lead magnet around one magic pill or silver bullet. Your one BIG THING. You’re the guide leading the way; let’s not take any side trips or potty breaks. Your object is to move them forward. This is your chance to show them you know what you’re talking about, and they need to listen. You’re the guide who will deliver.

In summary:

Growing your list and closing sales are the tactical uses of incentives. Match the placement to the objective. Make sure you’re matching the message, market, and offer to achieve your desired results – popping that champagne bottle to celebrate.

If you'd like to chat about your next project, reach out at

Linda James Bennett; day 44 of 365 writing an article every day and making you a shiny object in the world.

Linda James Bennett is obsessed with creating clear brand messages to help business owners win online. She believes that marketing shouldn't be complicated to be great. Let's face it, as a business owner you need to focus on the bottom line that drives sales, not being a copywriter. She is also an author of the book, Becoming A Seriously Happy Special Needs Mom ~ 21 Steps to Finding Your Happy Place, on

Linda James Bennett

In One 45-Minute Phone Call You Will Grow Your Business Faster and Bigger Than You Ever Imagined