Editor’s Note: The following article was previously published and has been recently refreshed with updated marketing strategies.
Excellent marketing is equal parts muse and mad scientist—at its best, it exists at the intersection of data science and psychology. It requires making a meaningful connection and compelling a specific behavior. From the simplest of campaigns to massive marketing activations, there’s a foundational formula that underpins 95% of our efforts. We call it the Instant Desire Formula and it’s the cornerstone of effective conversion marketing. Let’s deconstruct what it means for your small business marketing!
The Instant Desire Formula is a simple framework that will help you conversion optimize everything from your marketing campaigns and funnels to the headlines and images you publish. At first glance—it will strike you as a conversion copywriting tactic, but it’s so much more than that. It’s a mindset, one that should underpin absolutely every bit of marketing you put out into the world. It is engineered to instill desire in your visitors, urge them to purchase (right now), and prove your worth and credibility.
This “secret” formula isn’t actually much of a secret—at least, we don’t want it to be. Successful marketers have relied on this formula for decades—in every industry, online and off. But most don’t even know they’re putting it into practice. In this article, we’re going to deconstruct the elements and make it oh-so-easy for you use it in your own marketing in just a few short minutes.
Where did this formula come from?
The Instant Desire Formula was created by Leadpages founder, Clay Collins. Over the past decade, Clay has educated hundreds of thousands of small business marketers and his close relationship with entrepreneurs and conversion marketing expertise led him to create the Leadpages platform. Since then, we’ve shared this formula with our clients and they’ve all seen incredible results.
The Instant Desire Marketing Formula
SO + ST + SG = $$$
That stands for:
Specific Outcome + Specific Timeframe + Specific Guarantee = Sales
Okay, but what does this actually mean? Let’s break it down by each variable, then we’ll discuss how to use it in every aspect of your marketing.
Specific Outcome (SO)
You want your clients to know they’re going to get something in return for their purchase. They want to know what their outcome is going to be.
1. If you sell accounting services, your clients want to know how you’ll help them with tax breaks.
2. If you sell a weight loss program, they want to know what you’ll do to make them look and feel better.
3. If you’re a relationship coach, they want to know how you can improve their dating life or relationship.
But it’s more than just the overall outcome. Your clients want the specifics, facts, and figures. People want to know how your service will make them feel, but also how it will show tangible improvements in their lives.
1. How much money do you save, on average, in tax deductions per client?
2. How much weight or body fat percentage do your clients tend to lose in the program?
3. (This can be specific even for a relationship coach.) How many more dates will they go on? Or, take it one step further, how much more money do people make in their jobs as a result of productivity that comes from being in a happy relationship?
People respond to numbers. Why? Because they tend to establish a sense of credibility. They are tangible and trustworthy and are a powerful tool to leverage.
What if I don’t ‘know my numbers’? If I don’t have quantifiable outcomes?
There are some services that are harder to quantify than others. For example, a yoga teacher might not be able to define exactly how much more flexibility, strength, and spirituality you’ll have after a certain number of sessions.
So how do you offer the most specific outcome?
With the most specific language.
You don’t want to tell people simply that they’ll “feel better” after doing yoga. Your clients don’t know what that means.
Instead, you want to be as specific as possible about the end results of yoga, like:
- You’ll be so flexible you can touch your toes
- You’ll be so strong you can stand on your head
- You’ll release stress, which will improve your work, relationships, health, and even your finances
Or you can get even more specific based on your target audience:
- Your back pain will go away (for pain sufferers)
- You’ll get one complete hour to nourish yourself (for parents)
- You’ll burn calories and sweat out toxins (for workout enthusiasts)
The more specific you are with your numbers or language, the better you’ll grab the attention of your customers.
The “outcome” is dependent upon your target audience’s primary pain point.
Whether a yoga teacher decides to define the outcome as flexibility or self-care will depend on what the target client cares about most. If the teacher works with athletes, flexibility might be more important; but working moms might care more about self-care.
That’s why it’s absolutely critical to know your audience and to have deep empathy for what they care about.
What does your client really want? What is at the heart of their pain? And what do you do that’s unique to solve, fix, or alleviate their pain?
Of course, you should never offer an outcome that you can’t back up. Set realistic, verifiable expectations that you can confidently deliver.
Specific Timeframe (ST)
Are you more likely to purchase a weight loss program that promises clients will lose weight or a program that offers 10% body fat reduction in 6 months? The second statement is tangible, specific, and compelling.
Putting a desirable timeframe on your proposed outcome establishes a sense of urgency. It gives clients something to look forward to—an endpoint when their pain point will finally be resolved.
Specific Guarantee (SG)
Humans, by nature, tend to be risk-averse. Guarantees are powerful marketing tactics because they reduce the risk to taking action. They increase conversions because they decrease our fear of loss. This is especially important if you’re a newer or unknown company without a lot of credibility in the industry yet.
Guarantees often take the form of a money-back offer, but that’s just one of many possibilities.
Types of guarantees to use in your marketing:
- Money-back guarantee
- Free shipping on returns
- 100% satisfaction guarantee
- Low price guarantee
Putting your Instant Desire Formula to Work
First, present the outcome.
What are your prospects going to get from your brand or offer? How is the outcome directly addressing their pain point?
Then you need either a specific timeframe or a specific guarantee. Ideally, you’d have both. This tells the customer when they’ll get the outcome, and it quiets the fear of making the purchase by removing the risk.
If they’re guaranteed an outcome that solves their pain point… How can they NOT convert?
Real-world Marketing Examples of the Instant Desire Formula
There are a lot of companies, from large corporations to small businesses, that are using this formula effectively. Here are just a few of the most popular examples.
Domino’s Pizza and the Instant Desire Formula
Domino’s used to have one of the most famous promises: they would deliver fresh, hot pizza in under 30 minutes. If they didn’t fulfill their promise, the pizza was free.
The outcome: pizza.
The time: 30 minutes.
The guarantee: free pizza if they fail.
(They’ve since had to cancel this promise because it seemed to make delivery drivers more reckless. Learning point: Make sure you can successfully, safely, and cost-efficiently deliver on your promise or you’ll lose market share.)
Zappos and the Instant Desire Formula
Zappos, an ecommerce shoe business praised for its customer service, offers free shipping on all domestic orders and free prepaid returns—no questions asked.
For Zappos, this is more than just a return policy. It’s a major marketing tool. Their guarantee shows that they will always put the customer’s needs first, which is a USP or selling point in the shoe world.
In this case, the outcome is implied by customer satisfaction (and free shipping). The timeframe is 365 days (a longer time frame works well for return or satisfaction guarantee.) The guarantee is free prepaid returns no questions asked.
Zappos now has some of the most loyal customers out there, and those customers spread the word organically and eagerly about how awesome Zappos is.
Geico and the Instant Desire Formula
Everyone knows Geico’s marketing promise: 15 minutes can save you 15% or more on car insurance.
This tells you exactly how much you can save (15%) in a very specific timeframe (15 minutes). That’s the promise. (There’s no guarantee because you’re not making a purchase, just getting a quote.)
Not only does the promise itself attract attention, but Geico’s prevalent use of the phrase has allowed this statement to succeed. Geico says this in every commercial and through every marketing channel until it’s engrained and ringing in your ears. Geico wants you to know their promise like you know 2+2, because you’re more likely to trust them and try them.
How you can use the Instant Desire Formula
You can use this formula as a brand promise or a specific product campaign. For example, Zappos’ is a brand promise, while Geico’s is specific for their car insurance.
Either way, we recommend creating one marketing promise and sticking to it. The more you use it consistently in your marketing, the greater your customers will be able to recognize and recall your brand.
Here’s how you leverage the formula.
1. Write down the most desirable outcome your customers want.
2. Determine the timeframe you can reasonably deliver that promise. (If you can’t deliver a product in two hours, don’t say you can. Not delivering on the promise is way worse than not having a promise at all.)
3. Figure out if you can offer a satisfaction guarantee, either with money back or through another avenue.
4. Put those three together in a single, catchy sentence.
Let’s go through a few more examples together:
- Business coach: With our one-on-one coaching, you’ll see a 5% increase in business profit in 3 months. If you don’t see a rise in profits, we’ll give you your money back.
- Photographer: You get 100 edited photos in a one-hour session. If you don’t like the photos, you pay nothing.
- Spiritual coach: If you don’t feel an enhanced quality of life and mental clarity after one month in our group coaching, we’ll return your entrance fee.
Remember, only make promises you can keep!
Using the Instant Desire Formula
This magic formula will be your marketing hook. It’s how you prove your credibility, attract attention, and remove the obstacles that customers face when deciding whether or not to purchase from you.
An outcome, a timeframe, and a guarantee are all you need to completely revitalize the way your marketing campaign is converting.
Now here’s our Leadpages’ statement…
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