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Surprise! When Selling, "More Is Always Better," Is Horrible Advice. Here's What To Do Instead

People think, when selling, they need use the “everything but the kitchen sink” approach. Meaning, they highlight everything their product can do, and let their customer decide what fits. “More is always better, right?”


I’ve talked about information overload before, and even how offering less can lead to higher prices, but I stumbled on some research that suggests an “ideal number of promises” for persuading people.

I reveal that number, and walk you through the research, in this new video.

When you’re done with the video, I have a quick question:

I’m looking for examples of people who run weird online businesses, and are doing well with a small list. To me, a small list is anything under 8,000 people.

If you’re one of those people (or know someone), please leave a comment. Would love to hear from you!

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51 comments Leave a comment
Barbara Kaplan

I will definitely have to try your rule of 3 going forward. I run expos and have two email lists which each have a little under 2000 addresses. Thank you.

Nathan Cooper

Awesome advice, Derek, “3” is the magic number. The customers get confused or do not believe you if you promise them too many things. Best regards, Nathan.

Dale Hardiman

Hey Derek. I really liked your post here. I already have a fairly good grasp on how to sell things but the part about offering the magic number 3 promises was something I didn’t know. Statistics don’t lie do they?

Keep up the great work.


That’s really interesting Derek.
The only other research that I know about is from 1956 by George Miller who did a psychological testing. His rule of thumb was 7 plus or minus 2. That was based on what we can remember and it never had the internet or digital anything in mind.
Three sounds good in an age of information overload. I can see I have some adjustments to do


I’m dewing pretty well (I earn a full time income) with a list of about 1,800. I teach people how to effectively sell physical products on Amazon through their FBA program. The products are already selling well on Amazon, so I don’t get into creating your own product and then selling it. I also teach techniques to automate almost the entire business.


Terrific advice Derek,

Surprisingly, this resonates with what we have on our main site. Just 3 categories.

Believe me my friend, if persuasion is a science, you are the lead scientist πŸ™‚

Matt @LeanSafes

Great post (or should I say video) Derek,

My business is a bit strange as in I mainly focus on selling safes. My list is also pretty small. It’s around 800 people and took over 5 months to get.

Lou Johnson

On my About page (under a picture of me juggling 5 balls) I list 5 talents. When I leave a message or sign an e-mail, I list 3 talents. No more. Thanks for the great video. Sincerely, Lou Johnson-Magician-Juggler-Stilt Walker!

Melissa Breau (@MelissaBreau)

You don’t think this depends on what’s being sold?

B2B vs B2C, specifically… I’d think it might be slightly different.


Hi there!
List = 2500 subscribers. Conversion = 180000$ Company = 8 months.
We would love to hear from you


Love this. Exactly what I was looking for. I run a float tank centre and list way too many benefits. Now the challenge is to narrow that down to 3 and the right split of avoiding pain vs gaining pleasure


I’m a firm believer in the trifecta. All great things come in three. Three Musketeers, Three Ring Circus, Three Stooges, Rock, paper, scissors and Ready Set Go! Just to name few. Thanks for the data.

Katie Davis

Oops. Forgot about the small list question. I do have a strong list with an open rate averaging 38%. I don’t know what your criteria is for “weird” or doing “well” but my business is a small niche: the craft and business of children’s publishing (we were on Pat Flynn’s panel together in NY at Blog World years ago). This year I launched my book How to Promote Your Children’s Book: Tips, Tricks, and Secrets to Create a Bestseller
at #1 on Amazon this year and stayed there for 2 weeks, and I have been concentrating on video through my main course, Video Idiot Boot Camp, which teaches non-techy writers how to create videos for their businesses. I just learned my video views on YouTube are in the top 2.69% for views. So all that’s doing well. I need to be monetizing it better though.

Katie Davis

Derek, this is so timely for me. I just last week started a membership for my long-running podcast, Brain Burps About Books. I listed everything I was offering AND MORE! 😎

Though it’s the #1 show in the niche, I haven’t had much success. I’ve been thinking it’s the price and have been considering either lowering the membership price or making it a “pay what you think it’s worth” thing. My first test, though, will be to reveal fewer things about the offerings.



I make too many promises, which is one promise, and can’t even seem to deliver on that. I say my free book is coming for them in a week and a few months go by before I know how to market the book to them and get them pumped. Also urgent money matters, health, and other deadlines step into place. Making a public commitment, always makes me look like an idiot, so avoid that now. I am now trying so hard to have EVERYTHING done before I make a promise.


hello but what if you sell physical products like perfume how much information should you give?

Geniece Brown

I know the exact three ways that sum up how I help my ideal client. But even before getting the update today about your post, I was in a group discussion on Facebook and discovered I tell people what I do (both in person and on my website) I but don’t clearly communicate how I can help them to the point where they feel like they need me. This video was good timing for me. Thanks Derek!


I’m glad you defined “small list”, but how do you define “well”? I guess I do fine with my list of 750. My first webinar converted at 38% on the live call and most of those registrants were from my newsletter list. I’m told this is well over industry standard. But if “well” refers to total revenue, maybe I’m not doing so well. If it refers to the engagement I get with my subscribers, that is definitely improving as I work on targeting my new subscribers differently. So what’s “doing well” all about?


I always try to list just 3. That’s what worked for Steve Jobs, so that’s what I’ve done. I’ll admit it can be hard to choose just 3 benefits. Nice to see research backing it up.

Maryanne Elizabeth

Hey Derek,
I made six figures with 1000 people on my list. Now I have about 3800 but I definitely believe you don’t need a huge list. I offer high end coaching packages and Intensive full day coaching. I really believe this is the way to go to reach six figures in shortest amount of time and that is why I only work with coaches, mentors, authors, and experts.
Love your work btw!


I have no list, but badly need one, and just so confused where to start it’s driving me crazy, help !!!

Jim Buckley

Great video Derek,
I was thinking of which tips I’d share and realized it would be different for every customer. I took a seminar that really hit home with this type of selling from a company in Atlanta called Bunnell Idea Group. Their system helps you determine what motivates each buyer and then sets you on a path to sell them in a specific way. It has been invaluable for me and I thought it might be a good resource for you. The president of the co is Mo Bunnell and he can probably be reached through his site. I think its bunnellideagroup.com. Just thought you’d appreciate some more information on this approach. Thanks for the great job on the blog. I’ve only been following for a year or so but the information has been spot on. Keep up the good work.

Peter Sandeen

Hey Derek,

This is basically what my whole work revolves around πŸ™‚ Fun that science is finally catching up…

But I can’t find the study you mentioned. Can you link to it or at least type the researchers’ names? I tried every spelling I could think of but nothing came up.

Peter Sandeen

Sarah Jordan

Hi Derek,

My business is pretty weird…I’m a hula hoop dance teacher/motivational speaker for kids. I also sell online courses about hoop dance. My list is under 1000 and I earn much more than I’ve ever made at a normal job.


I have read this before, but nice to know where the research comes from.

I do no have a product or service yet, or a business for that matter…

But when I finally decide to publish my squeeze page and start building a list, I will remember “3” is the magic number as I bullet point the benefits of what ever lead magnet I use to bribe prospects to subscribe to my list.

Great video. Can’t wait for the next one.


Derek, I always enjoy your videos but there’s one thing you should probably know. It always looks like you’re looking off to the side reading a teleprompter. The camera is supposed to be shooting through the teleprompter mirror. The content is good, but my attention keeps going to the fact that you’re reading instead of just talking to us.


    nope he is not looking at the teleprompter he must be looking at his hot female assistant

    Derek Halpern

    Jason: we do not use a TelePrompTer to the side of the camera. So I’d really love to know why you think we do lol.


      I dunno, it just looks like you’re looking off to the side of the camera. Are you using two cameras perhaps? As I’m watching the video, it seems like you’re looking just a bit off to the right (my right) instead of right at me. Just trying to help you do it better, that’s all. Always enjoy your content.

        Derek Halpern

        When you talk to someone directly, to you hold eye contact 100% of the time? No. It’s because you look away to rest your brain.

        Or if you do hold eye contact 100% of time, people probably call you intense or weird. πŸ˜‰

        The same applies for video. I could stare directly at the lense, but that’s silly.


          That’s not what I’m saying at all. What I’m saying is that when you ARE looking at the camera, it looks like you’re looking slightly off to the side. It looks as if you’re using 2 cameras side by side and looking at one of them. Or looking off at a piece of paper with bullet points on it or something. I dunno, it’s just noticeable. If you don’t want to change it, no big deal man.


I do really well with a teeny tiny list (literally, just over 200 people) and sell high-end coaching. I’ll add that I also develop very deep relationships with them–get on the phone, email back and forth, etc.

Samantha Bennett

Hi Derek —

In response to your request, I’ve got an insanely loyal list of about 7500 and have revenue in the mid-six figures, plus I still have time to write, walk on the beach and enjoy my life.

It’s delicious.

Thank you so much for all the great insights you provide —

Your fan,

Susan Harrington

Thanks Derek for the the very actionable education. I’m about to reduce the list of outcomes from an online course I teach.

I wouldn’t call my retirement business”weird” though my family certainly thought it was weird that I would trade CEO of an investment subsidiary of a credit union for “CEO” (Chief Education Officer) of a lavender farm. With a list of 3,600 I sell out my fresh lavender harvest, fill my online course on growing lavender and sell out a 200-attendee regional conference for lavender growers! Weird, huh?

Thanks for all the great education.


Derek, great great post. Right now I have -0- subscribers (just starting new site), but in previous websites I have gotten really carried away with benefits, etc., especially in trying to include all kinds of keywords. I can’t say those sites did badly, for I was in the 4-5 figure monthly income. But it is a brand new world on the web now and I really like the number 3. It is a good solid easy-to-recall number. I’ve got to give this a try. Thanks!

Joshua Cary

Hey Derek,

Great video, as always. I will now be adjusting/split testing my main sales page of offering a WordPress-powered ‘done for you’ layout and design for my industry.

On that note, I’m also in what some may call a “weird” industry. I help pet sitters and pet care professionals grow their business.

Happy to speak further. Thanks.


Thanks for all your helpful tips. Keeping offers down to 3 is simpler, and easy to remember. After establishing trust with customers they are likely to tell you what add on services they want! Keep inspiring us! πŸ™‚


Hey Derek,

Another reason 3 is the magic number is 3 is what the mind can easily remember.

I am interested in hearing how I can utilize the small email list to let people know about the three benefits Reflux Guard can provide, like help guard someone from the excruciating pain of Acid Reflux, get a better night’s sleep, and possibly save someones life.

Kyle Alm

Need to pare down my list of benefits. Thanks for the insights Derek. Never would have thought that a longer list of benefits or promises would raise skepticism. I would have guessed that they aren’t even reading the information.

Ray Lardie

Hey Derek,

Great video– somehow I’m not surprised that the number is 3. You’ve made me reconsider how I handle consulting: normally I walk a client through the 7 areas where their website is struggling. 7! Now I think I’ll rework that process to focus on the 3 key areas that, if altered, would bring them the greatest results.

Thanks man,



It did huge things for my business when I stopped trying to sell all things to all people.

Right now I just help my clients DIY their own logo, biz card, and website in 30 days or less… I think i showed the deliverable in that magic 3 number, and showed them how long it would take them to do it.

What they get: logo, biz card, website
Who it’s for: People who want to DIY their brand
When they get it: 30 days or less.

It’s working wonders. I remember the days when I had 17 services listed on my card. πŸ™‚


Hi Derek… What is “doing well”? Give me a hint on what you have in mind for this concept if it’s not too much asking.


Hi Derek,

When I was a “small business” and had a list of 5,000 subscribers, I converted that to $60,000 in sales in a 5 month window during my first year (early 2014). I sold a 6-week online training for women. In the past three months, our business has grown to almost six times that size, so I don’t know if you’re looking for a business that is still small, but those numbers happened recently. Thanks for your great video! xx Layla

Jen Roberson

I offer affiliate marketing services for wedding photographers and get paid commission for every wedding I book for them. I have a list of about 75 wedding photographers and am booked solid with 5 clients and roughly 8 on a waiting list.

I also work with my son’s speech therapist to sell a bootcamp for speech therapy homework. In our initial run, I took 35 inquiries and we had 6 sales.

Stephen Guise

Hi Derek,

I’ve been doing well with my small list (6,800+). I don’t sell anything on the blogβ€”I use it as a platform to launch products hosted on websites with built-in audiences (Amazon, Udemy).

I released my “Mini Habits” book on Amazon and my list bought about 150 copies in the first couple days (list size was 4,000 at that time). That group of sales made it climb the charts and it’s sold 16,000+ copies since then, being a bestseller for 7 months consecutively. The key to its success was that the list’s sales boost gave it a chance to be seen by many more people on Amazon. And since people like it, word of mouth has helped a lot.

I also launched a course on Udemy just a couple weeks ago and it earned $6k in the first couple of weeks. Unfortunately, they don’t have a “best seller list,” so it didn’t get much spotlight from that.

My strategy is to create high quality products for larger marketplaces. Then the sales spike from interested people on my list drives it up to a place of higher visibility, where it can be seen by others.


Steve Wasnick

Hey Derek,

Great video – and boy did it hit home for me! I inundate prospective clients with info – but I’ve always felt forced to “over explain” because I have one of those “weird” online businesses.

My list is maybe around 2500, but that’s another story – it consists of a mix of people (not all interested in my newsletter).

But here’s my question for you…

I totally get the 3 promise approach – and I love it! But my b’ness is so strange and new to my industry (it’s a Pay What You Want online auction fundraising venue for schools/nonprofits/etc), that I feel the need to explain it in detail or I fear people won’t understand it (which is common).

So, how do I give 3 promises, without explaining how it’s possible? For example, most of my clients choose to pay nothing (which is what we want them to do), and then through our 3rd-party funding model, we share a portion of our revenues back with our clients.

For example, we facilitated an auction fundraiser for a Celebrity Chef and his foundation. They paid nothing, kept 100% of their auction proceeds, and then through our revenue share program, we matched and donated back another 4%, leaving them with 104% of their auction revenues in total.

It’s at this point I lose most people. “How is that even possible?” “How do you make money?”… those are the questions I get, assuming people don’t assume I’m full of it right off the bat and never bother to ask.

Despite my references from well-known clients – it’s a tough road when you’re trying to PAY someone to use your services.

How can I use the 3 promise approach yet still provide enough detail to get to the point of closing the sale?

Thanks for any advice!


Hey Derek,

Really interesting video – I have to say I’m surprised by how small that number is. Great to know!

I have a small list that I started trying to grow about 3 months ago. I’m a Facebook ads and conversion optimization consultant. I’m beginning to wonder if I don’t quite promise enough, even though the promise is a big one (more traffic, subscribers, and sales through paid social advertising).

Keep making these great videos,



I’ve intuitively used three, mostly because of the rhythm of language that makes threes flow better. But it’s nice to see that it’s actually research based. I also teach my students to come up with 3 (at most, 4) goals when they’re designing their eCourses, so it’s nice to know I don’t have to revise that part of my curriculum πŸ˜‰

Do you happen to have the citation handy? I’d love to read the paper itself.

Vicky O

Great video Derek! I’d never thought of the idea that I might be offering too many promises or over-offering. I think it can be hard sometimes to strike the balance between providing enough value and not overwhelming potential customers but I’m going to try focusing on the 3 main benefits of my services.

Jessica Castle

Great tips in this new video, Derrick. I feel like I have probably overwhelmed a few clients by listing all 20 of my specialties! I think I will definitely try to narrow my packages to groups of 3, targeting specific tasks.

I don’t think my business is weird (I’m a VA), but I do VERY well for a small list. I have about 60 people on my list, 15 of whom are paying for my services. I feel very lucky to be so supported my followers!

Ryan Parker

It is my experience that I am offering “too few” promises. Right now I am in the building phase and trying to gain trust through providing high quality content for people who are artisan food makers. At this point I really do not have a product to sell. I am looking to publish less, market it more, and take time to give value to the readers.

I will have to examine my “promises” to see how they stack up, in quantity and quality.
thanks for the great video Derek.

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