3 brilliant alternatives to giving discounts

When someone asks for a discount does it suck your soul dry? If so try these 3 brilliant alternatives to giving discounts (which your customers & ego will love!)

When someone asks me for a discount I be like..

As if setting up a small business and calculating your rates is not hard enough without encountering an even greater challenge; the dreaded request for a discount.

You know that feeling; you gel with a client, they love your work, you’re excited to help them, you create rapport, they feel good about moving forward and then… they ask for a discount.


I’ve encountered this all through my working career from my time in retail to working 1:1 with clients creating brand identities. And it’s a stinker. It’s a soul-sinking stinker because what they’re actually saying is; I don’t value your work.


I’ve learned now when someone does ask for a discount rather than staring daggers at them (while my ego dies a thousand tiny deaths), I’ve armed myself with alternative options. This way I’m never on the back foot, my customer feels they’re getting bang for their buck and more importantly, I’m training them not to undervalue my work.

Here is my gift to you: 3 brilliant alternatives to giving discounts.

Alternative 1: Raise your perceived value

Let’s take the bull by the horns and make your offer so irresistible it becomes a no-brainer to snap up!

There are two ways to appear cheap: 1) lower your price; or 2) add more to your offer and raise the perceived value.

Say you’re a bookkeeper for small business. You’re good at your job and charge $40hr but there are a few other bookkeepers in your local area which makes it tough to stand out. In order to get an edge, you advertise your services using a discount code. Now, unless you’re the cheapest in the market there’s no strategic advantage being the second cheapest and worse still you’re attracting clients who will likely expect continued discounts.

The alternative is to make working with you a no-brainer. Raise your perceived value so $40hr becomes irresistible and gives you an advantage in the marketplace.
Let’s look at what I mean:

  • Firstly, understand what your competition is offering and at what price.
  • Second, take note of where your clients are in their journey and need help, for instance;
    • Do they need a simple sorting system for their receipts before they engage you?
    • Would they benefit from a video series teaching basic bookkeeping admin skills?
    • Just think, where can you help them overcome common challenges and prepare them to work with you?
  • Third, once you identify a few common frustrations, create solutions (such as cheat sheets, how to’s, spreadsheets) to include it in your offer to raise the perceived value.
  • Promote your solutions as added “bonuses”. People resonate with bonuses just like freebies and feel like they’ve scored a win.

Alternative 2: Referrals

Quite simply having a referral program is a small business power move. It adds value to your business in a so many ways:

  • It’s ideal for the “I don’t do discounts” rebuttal. It makes you look professional and helps them retain some dignity when you say “No, but”.
  • It’s a great way to encourage word of mouth advertising
  • It’s a win-win for everyone
  • Offer it to existing clients as a privilege (and so they can honestly vouch for you)
  • This also builds your customer lifetime value by building stronger working relationships.

How it works (and there’s no need to over complicate it) if someone refers a paying client to you, you give them a cut. Just like a spotters fee. You can play with the amount but I say around 20% is a good incentive. Keeping in mind how much it normally costs to acquire new customers.

Let’s try it out:

Them: “Do you give discounts”
Me: “No, but once you become a client I do give you a 20% cut when you refer a paying client”
Them: “Wow that’s cool”
Me: “Yep”

Alternative 3: Direct them to your “Work with me” page

Prepare 3 separate package outlines on your website How to work with me. Direct any potential clients to review. Include:

  • One: All the bells and whistles $$$
  • Two: What they likely need and will settle for $$
  • Three: A basic offer with the BIGGEST margin $

Remember earlier in Raise your perceived value? Make once and sell many. Use this concept for your basic offer and support it with limited 1:1 assistance. This is a clever way to save you time while helping your client overcome their challenge. It also gives you something valuable to offer when asked for a discount.

So there you have 3 brilliant alternatives to giving discounts. Prepare yourself in advance before you get a surprise attack from a discount seeker!

If you like these ideas but feel overwhelmed with yet another great strategy to apply to your business, I’ve got you covered. I have condensed my 20-years of experience in brand communication into actionable projects, Marketing Little by Little. This is everything I use in my business and my clients’. I tell you where to start and what to focus on to impact your marketing and move your customers into action. Follow a plan, get the step-by-step projects here.


Listen to Shane and me discuss the importance of not giving discounts!

Below Shane and I discuss why you should avoid giving discounts on Brand Camp on West Bremer radio Drivetime. Want to listen to more marketing tips? Join us every Wednesday after 5.30. Download the app from the app store.

Need help with a current marketing challenge? Just ask! Pop it in the comments below. Maybe I’ll talk about it on radio.


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