Let’s talk about discounts for a second.

Because I see this HUGE tendency of solo service providers who consistently discount the price of their services just to get people to like them. (And have just had someone offer a discount to me, even though I totally didn’t ask for it, need it, or expect it.)

And while I still totally trust this person who offered it to me and am hiring her to do the work we talked about, throwing a discounted offer into the mix can make things feel unintentionally icky. Because here’s the truth of it: when someone reaches out to hire you instead of anyone else, it’s because they trust you more than anyone else.

They’ve seen your website. They’ve done their research. They’re intelligent, smart human beings, and they’re ready to make an investment in you.

So when you throw an unsolicited discount into the deal, it throws them off. They start thinking things like “Oh, so are their prices really worth it? Did I do my due diligence properly? I hope so…..” And doubt creeps in.

I started to wonder if she was really as good as she claimed she was. Luckily, she came in on a reference from someone I trust, so I could rely on that piece of information. But if she hadn’t? I may have went to check out other people.

We offer the discounts because we think it’ll make our customers think even more positive things about us, but anything unexpected—especially in situations like this that should be uniform and predictable—turns into doubt in our minds.

(Don’t you just love the human brain? How insecure and unnecessarily “survivalist” it is? I do. *cough*)

Why Money-Saving as a Motivation is Actually a Bad Thing

Here’s the thing: people who are motivated by deals, are motivated my money-saving in and of itself. Not you. Not your product. Not your top-of-the-line service or unbeatable quality.

Think about it.

We all deal shop in some form or another.

When it’s time for me to buy shoes, all I really care about is buying a decent brand that’s comfortable, looks good, and will last me a long time. (Because honestly I despise shoe shopping.)

But I could care less where those shoes come from.

Payless? Zappos? Amazon? A department store? An athletic outlet?

Honestly, it doesn’t matter to me.

But if I know I can get a $70 pair of tennis shoes for $50, I’m all over it. I recently found out about a discount shoe warehouse in my city, and since I need new flats and new tennis shoes, guess where I’m going next? I’m not even looking at the “good” shoe stores. I don’t care about the “amazing” shoe store downtown that everyone I know swears by, because I know they’re more expensive.

Because in the world of shoes, I’m a bargain hunter, not a loyalist.

But what am I a loyalist for?

Surprisingly, the ambiance of a good coffee shop.

I never imagined I’d become a coffee shop snob, but I totally am. 90% of the time, when I leave my home office to go get work done around other human beings, it’s at exactly the same place. Even though there’s easily 20+ different cafes with wifi along the 8-minute drive to get there. (We’re a hipster coffee shop kind of city here in Asheville.)

And you know how I realized it?

I got a free $10 Starbucks gift card. I was really excited about it too. Because that’s like 3 free teas, which is like 3 FREE work-away-from-home sessions.

But I still haven’t used it.

Why?

Because in the moment of deciding, spending $3-$4 and driving a little farther is always worth it for the better atmosphere.

And here’s the kicker:

“When customers arrive at an establishment for the main purpose of getting a bargain,” explain the authors of The Human Brand, “they are entering with less-than-worthy intentions. They are motivated more by the joy of getting one over on the proprietor.”

So someone who’s only buying from you because they feel like they’re getting a one-over on you? Not exactly the kind of customer you want for your business, is it?

When I do cash in this Starbucks gift card, it’s not going to make me love Starbucks any more. It’s literally only going to be to get a free drink… and probably on the go.

So here’s my advice, sweets: Don’t use discounts as a gimmick to get more customers or to “convince” people to sign a service contract with you. It’ll only come back to bite you in the ass.

If you feel like you want to run a promotion so people can “save” money or feel like you’re giving them something amazing to cash in on, offer a bonus with a purchase.

I sometimes offer my $47 SEO course as a freebie in different launch offers. I still bring in a set amount of money, and people feel like they’re getting a great deal getting the SEO course, but I still get to keep my money *and* have clients who know the value of paying for something.

Instead of giving away free or 90% off meals in your cafe, give a free dessert with the purchase of two entrees. (From a psychological perspective, it actually makes the customers happier to get in on a deal like this instead of a deal where they pay little to nothing for their goods. Honest.)

So babes, run promotions if you want. But for goodness sakes, fight the urge to give discounts to every new client… keep your money & your reputation.

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