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.