The magic of adding “1-2-3” to your marketing

Have you ever walked into a fast food place and been overwhelmed by the sheer number of options?

This problem happens elsewhere, too: Ever walk onto a car dealership and scratch your head in wonder at how you’ll ever find a vehicle to test drive? Ever walk into a grocery store and wonder where to start? Or my biggest frustration: Ever walk into a home renovation box store and start hyperventilating at the towering shelves of renovation equipment?

And it’s not a problem with product choice. The problem goes deeper: What’s the process to buy?

I think this holds a lot of customers back. They want to buy (they have a problem that your product or service solves) but they don’t know how to buy.

I mean: They don’t know the process. How does buying work? Are there steps to do first? What will they get? And what should do they do with whatever they get?

Prospects need to be led by the hand through the buying process — we all know that is a must! But prospects should be given a sort-of big picture overview or “table of contents” about the process of transacting.

In my opinion, the best way to do that is with a nice clear visual that outlines exactly what someone can expect during the transaction. It doesn’t have to be detailed; it just needs to be a clear overview.

Here is a great example that I received along with my monthly bill from the power utility. They are trying to convince people to install insulation in their house and receive a rebate for it. This little flyer shows them the 3 easy steps they can take to make it happen.


Here is one example from a client of mine. He’s a real estate investor and he buys properties for cash from people who are facing foreclosure. Again, he uses a 1-2-3 approach to outline the simple process that sellers will experience when they work with him. The emphasis is on SIMPLE.


And here’s a third example from a previous client of mine. This company is a firm of virtual assistants for business owners to hire for their administrative tasks. Although we didn’t use a graphical depiction when I wrote this, the result is the same — a simple 1-2-3 outline that describes how people will transact with the company.

I use the same thing in my business. In many of my proposals (especially the more formal ones), I include a call to action using a 1-2-3 system. Although the exact details change, the process is usually something along the lines of (1) Approve the proposal, (2) Get in touch for an initial meeting, (3) I’ll deliver the first draft to you!


Most businesses will benefit from including this “1-2-3” process in their marketing and sales content, websites, proposals, and more.

The first reason you should do use this in your business is because it helps to illuminate the process and eliminate the question marks that your prospects have about how to buy from you. Prospects who don’t know what the process is during the transaction and after, are less likely to act even if they are motivated. But prospects who feel confident that they generally know the process will be more likely to act.

The second reason you should use this in your business is because people want to buy when things are simple and they try to avoid complicated purchases. A 1-2-3 transaction outline simplifies your process. (You’ll note that the examples I gave above are all actually multiple, complicated steps but the 1-2-3 outline makes it appear simpler).

The third reason you should use this is because it helps to highlight the benefits you provide. As you’ll see in some of the examples above, a benefit was outlined prominently in the final step, reinforcing that their earlier actions will result in the benefit they seek.

The fourth reason you should use this is a little sales funnel trick: People are more likely going to keep going in your sales funnel if you write the 1-2-3 step in such a way that they are already in the middle of step one when they start reading. They’ll see that they are in the middle of step one, and that there are really only two more steps to complete. It’s an innate sense we have of needing to finish what we start, especially when it’s already underway. (You don’t HAVE to do this, and not all of the examples above used this, but it is a compelling reason and an effective way to implement in your marketing).


Here are some tips to help create your own 1-2-3 process in your business

  • Build this 1-2-3 process around your transaction. Resist the temptation to make it a depiction of something earlier in the sales funnel. In other words: The product or service should be sold in this 1-2-3 process. I’ll use the example of a car dealership to illustrate: Don’t make the 1-2-3 process about looking for a car (1. Narrow your choices, 2. Research online, 3. Test drive). Rather, make the 1-2-3 process about buying a car (1. Research online and test drive, 2. Work with a sales expert, 3. Buy your car and enjoy it!)
  • Keep it simple. Even if there are many steps, don’t put them all in. Your goal here isn’t to outline every single step. Rather, demonstrate the big picture. Divide it up into (preferably) 3 steps, and no more than 5 steps.
  • Keep the descriptions really short. If you’re putting this on a website, use links to “Learn more” if you have more info about each one… but don’t feel that you have to if you don’t have enough info.
  • Graphics are great.
  • Make the 1,2, and 3 prominent.
  • Make the transaction one of the steps, preferably the middle steps.
  • Make the ultimate reward (i.e. receiving the product or the service, and receiving the benefit of the product or service) as the final step.
  • If possible, put the reader in the middle of the first step (or, if you are using 5 steps, seriously consider putting them in the middle of the second step!)

How can you add 1-2-3 into your marketing?

Published by Aaron Hoos

Aaron Hoos is a writer, strategist, and investor who builds and optimizes profitable sales funnels. He is the author of The Sales Funnel Bible and other books.

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