“Kids Eat Free” and Other Irresistible Offers

Copywriting 101

The sign says it all – “Kids Eat Free Every Monday and Tuesday.” It’s out in front of a Mexican food restaurant on my way home.

That’s called an offer. It’s not the restaurant’s main offering (which is trading Mexican food for money). As far as that goes, this is probably the third best (out of four) Mexican food joints in my hometown.

But every Monday and Tuesday night, the place is packed. They’ve made an appealing offer that caused people to take action.

“Offer” is a contractual term. It’s an invitation to enter into an economic relationship, or any relationship really. The relationship is based on mutual promises. I’ll do this for you if you give me money or attention or sex or friendship…

If there’s no acceptance of the invitation, there’s no contract and no relationship.

Uber-marketer Mark Joyner devotes an entire book to the subject of offers. He demonstrates that hugely successful businesses are built upon an Irresistible Offer.

Joyner’s work makes great companion reading to Seth Godin’s All Marketers Are Liars, because both books say the same thing in different ways. Formulating an irresistible offer means telling a story that people want to hear, so they naturally respond.

You must then live the story and fulfill the offer.

It’s helpful to think about offers as coming in two varieties – primary and promotional. I’ll highlight a couple of Joyner’s favorite irresistible offers to demonstrate one of each type.

Primary Offers: Federal Express

FedEx is a $27 billion company so essential that corporate commerce might grind to a halt if they and their progeny ceased business. The company originated with an idea expressed in a Yale undergraduate term paper authored by founder Fred Smith, which according to popular lore received a C from his skeptical professor.

The company filled a huge need at the time, because the monopolistic United States Postal Service provided unacceptable results to really important people, mainly on Wall Street. So Fred took Wall Street’s money and became essential by providing an offer that couldn’t be refused – guaranteed overnight delivery.

When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.

About the only thing this offer doesn’t communicate is price. If the price wasn’t right, FedEx would not have blasted off; but in the early days, price wasn’t the first question you asked if it really, absolutely, positively had to be there the next morning.

Promotional Offers: Domino’s Pizza

Tom Monaghan entered the world of pizza with a single location he bought in 1960. Pizza is a tough business – it’s the only food item that has its own category in the Yellow Pages, and there’s always several shops to choose from in any reasonably populated area.

While trying to expand the business, Monaghan faced near bankruptcy and franchise disputes that almost buried Domino’s. But one single promotional idea changed everything and put Domino’s in an overwhelmingly dominant position in this ultra-competitive field:

30 minutes or less… or it’s free.

That simple guarantee was explosive. The secret to the offer’s success resides in the nature of your average tired, hungry, time-strapped citizen. What seems like the safer bet – the tastiest pizza in town with unpredictable timing, or the pizza that arrives in a half-an-hour or else ends up a free meal?

The irony is, back before Domino’s had to discontinue the offer in 1993 due to an auto injury lawsuit, the pizza sucked. Some think it still does.

Each day, more than 1 million people in more than 50 countries eat Domino’s.

Make an Offer

It’s troubling to see so many companies and solos trying to gain business online, yet without ever making a compelling offer. There’s no apparent reason why someone should select you from the overcrowded field, because often you’ve made no express offer at all.

So many websites assume that a visitor will get the obvious value that the owner knows he provides. Value is communicated through offers, however, and those offers must be communicated quickly and explicitly. Consider your own surfing habits for a second, and ask yourself – why would my target audience be any different?

In the lingo of direct-response copywriting, an offer is a call to action. For bloggers, desired actions include having a reader subscribe, bookmark you, make comments, respond to surveys, and utilize your information resources that double as sales tools.

Start making offers if you want some action.

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Reader Comments (38)

  1. says

    I just saw an offer in Puerto Penasco (a growing Mexican resort destination) with an ‘incredible’ selling line (on a sign hanged on a truck by the side of the road): ‘Mexican fireworks…almost free’. Believe it or not, a car stops every other 5 minutes. Incredible but true.

  2. Michael says

    Wow, that was an excellent article! Thank you for these insights…will definitely check out the book you made reference to (All Marketers are Liars is, indeed, awesome).

  3. says

    That’s a great insight right there, but I have to admit that I just skimmed over it. I got the point right away.

    In the form of a guarantee, you could guarantee to double the money back if it doesn’t work. It usually doubles and even triples the response rate, I’m sure you know… I’m the rookie…

    You know what I find crazy? A business owner or company will use just one tactic of thousands that copywriters know and it will be the cause of their success in business. This junk is powerful.

    Don’t you just love (usually) getting what you want outside of business too? =)

  4. says

    Great simplification of what the book states without losing any of the meat. Loved it. I own the book but reading this article was a GREAT brush-up.

    I recommend the strategy to all my friends and partners whenever applicable. As Mark points out, without a compelling / irresistible offer, you’ve got little to no chance at succeeding in your space.

    I am a partner at SWISSLOGIC. SWISSLOGIC is an Internet development firm that provides website design, software development and online marketing and optimization. Our irresistible offer is variation of FedEx’s however with emphasis on getting the job done right, the first time.

    I’d love to read other [working] irresistible offers. Share yours!

  5. says

    I think Domino’s is misinterpreted, even by marketing experts. They believe Domino’s 30 minute delivery guarantee made them stand out. I agree that it helped, but I think it was the fact that Domino’s was the first restaurant that did not offer dine-in service.

    Other restaurants offered delivery, but delivery was a secondary service. The customer felt that the restaurant would have to “break routine” in order to bring food to their door.

    Domino’s made their delivery service the main focus of their restaurant, and that is what made them stand out from the competition. If you want tasty pizza, and a friendly atmosphere, then you don’t want Domino’s.

    Their singular point was that they deliver. They even took out the tables and chairs to prove that point.
    30 minutes or free was just a sales pitch to get you to notice how they focus on delivery only.

    Swisslogic’s motto “Getting the job done right, the first time” isn’t an irresistible offer because it doesn’t stand out.
    I assume you offer great graphics, but all web designers offer that. These are your restaurant’s tables and chairs.

    What are the tables and chairs of your service, and can you get rid of them to make you different from the competition?
    What is your new focus?
    What catchphrase can you use to describe it?

    I’m still working on mine. Maybe I need to get rid of some tables and chairs myself.

  6. says

    Wow, that was an excellent article! Thank you for these insights…will definitely check out the book you made reference to (All Marketers are Liars is, indeed, awesome)

  7. says

    For better or for worse, people care about, in my opinion, money the most. It may not be what they most value, but certainly almost everyone spends most of their time trying to gain money.

    Another thing that people value is time. Time is money for a lot of people.

    The opportunity to save one or both of these two assets is very compelling for people. Especially in a limited time. That gets people nervous/scared/excited, and when they are like that, they tend to make irrational decisions. Combining all that will definitely boost your chances of getting a sale.


  8. says

    The fact about “Offers” is absolutely right.Nowadays everybody is offering you something… like burger @ $1…
    But before you offer something you still need to understand the mind of your consumers if this is really going to work or not.

  9. says

    Love the series, I think this will all help me improve a lot.

    I have a question about being explicit in making an offer. I’m aware that this series is about the copy of a site, but do you have any suggestion on how much of my offer I could imply through my graphic design? How clear does the copy have to be for instance on the topic of exclusivity, when my entire design already very strongly suggests that trait? Is it wise to go all-out and fire both barrels? What’s your experience?

  10. says

    My offer:

    This workshop will positively change your life forever.

    jef menguin
    inspirational speaker

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts. This invited me to rethink my offer to the world.

    • says

      Hi Jef,

      You should add something like this:

      “This workshop will positively change your life forever”… or your money back.

      The money back guarantee makes the offer irresistible.
      It says “If I don’t deliver quality, you get some sort of compensation”.

      You could also offer something that your competitors don’t.
      For example, FedEx promises to deliver packages overnight.

      When they offer a service like that, they don’t have to add create a compensation deal.

  11. says

    Great stuff Brian. I have been posting my heart out and rarely offering anything other than more content. Time for me to make a compelling offer, perhaps an ebook in exchange for emails. Plus an autoresponder campaign with multiple videos and then a higher end training video or webinar series.


  12. TWE says

    Good article. I operate an adult toy store and while it seemed it would be rather easy to come up with an irresistible offer, it has been quite a challenge and we’ve yet to come up with something that stands out.

    We have free shipping – so do our competitors
    We produce our own videos – so do our competitors and they even have their own tube site
    We run our own radio station – our competitors do not
    Why by far have to most well designed and easy to use site compared to our competitors but while that helps, that’s hardly an irresistible offer.
    We have 24 hour 50% off sales every day – our competitors don’t but we also haven’t decided if we’ll keep this since we really haven’t officially launched the site yet.
    We offer discreet shipping/packaging – So do our competitors of course
    We can’t “shine” too much on our return policy well because… yeah. We don’t want those back. :) …..

    Hmmm I’ve been really thinking about this and I feel we still have a lot to offer, we’re just failing to communicate this into an irresistible offer we can stand by. We feel so ready to have a good, fun time with our customers.

    Any thoughts on where to start?

    We are in the process of going through our products to make sure they are all good quality (eventually we’ll have product use videos). We are planning a radio show later this year that will allow customers to call in and tell their crazy stories. But it seems our offer should revolve around our service….

    • TWE says

      Oh, we also are developing an newsletter campaign and offering a great ebook with sign up but we want to give MORE!

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