Better Than A USP?

In 2005, Marketing Specialist Mark Joyner published a book called “The Irresistible Offer: How to sell your product or service in three seconds or less”.

Dr. Joe Vitale at the time said “I’ve read every book on marketing printed in the last 150 years. This is the first breakthrough in over fifty years.”

Marketing legend Joe Sugarman added “The Irresistible Offer is the missing link in many marketing books.”

First off, it’s important to point out that by “offer” Joyner is not referring to the offer that a copywriter makes to their readers near the end of a traditional sales letter (piling benefit after benefit, bonus after bonus until your prospect finally says “Ok, enough already, I’ll take it”).

Joyner also points out that an irresistible offer is not any of the following …

  • It’s not a “Special Offer”. Special Offers come and go. They’re made for the moment, not the long term.
  • It’s not a simple statement of fact i.e. “We’ve been in business fifty years.”
  • It’s not a statement of bragging rights. No one really cares if you’re the biggest tire store in Albany.
  • It’s not simply stating a benefit
  • It’s not your USP (Unique Selling Proposition).

So what exactly is an Irresistible Offer?

Joyner describes it this way:

The irresistible offer is an identity-building offer central to a product, service, or company where the believable return on investment is communicated so clearly and efficiently that it’s immediately apparent that you’d be a fool to pass it up.

Joyner adds that an Irresistible Offer is the starting point for you business … it’s something that it cuts through the clutter and makes you stand out from the crowd. It makes people remember you. And they can’t move quick enough to give you their money.

In fact, he says if you use this method of marketing you can literally close a deal in the mind of your prospect within the first three seconds of your prospect coming into contact with your marketing.

He breaks downs an Irresistible Offer into three elements …

  1. A High Return On Investment (ROI) Offer – Every purchase is essentially an investment. Your customer has to perceive that what they are getting is greater in value than what they’re paying.
  2. A Touchstone – A touchstone is a statement that addresses as many of the following points as possible:

    1) Here’s what we are selling.
    2) Here’s how much it will cost.
    3) Here’s what it will do for you.
    4) Here’s why you should trust us.

    A great touchstone should be easy to understand. It should have simplicity, it should be brief and it should have a sense of immediacy to it.

  3. Believability – If your customer doesn’t believe you, they’re not going to buy from you. Your offer can’t be too good to be true. So you need proof.

The first example of an Irresistible Offer is from what Joyner calls “one of history’s greatest advertising campaigns”. It consisted of seven words that virtually revolutionized an entire industry.

The seven words are “30 minutes or less … or it’s free.”

Of course, the industry those words revolutionized the pizza industry.

Tom Monaghan started “Dominos” in Ypsilanti Michigan in 1960. Monaghan’s business had its up and downs, but it wasn’t until he adopted his time guarantee statement that things really started to take off.

Tom Monaghan says that “The 30 minute-or-free guarantee was as responsible for our growth as anything.”

It worked because people almost viewed it as a challenge. They’d time it. They wanted to see if their pizza would arrive within 30 minutes. In fact, they wanted the driver to be late so they’d get a free pizza.

You may recall that back in 1993, Dominos was forced to stop using the “30 minutes or it’s free campaign” because of a lawsuit involving one their drivers. He was in a traffic accident as a result of hurrying to make the guaranteed time.

However, by then they were the number one pizza delivery chain in the United States. As of 2004, Dominos had 7,000+ locations and over $4 billion dollars in annual sales.

Another example of a great Irresistible Offer is Columbia House’s “10 CDS for 1 Cent” Often copied, it’s still used today.

Remember the four points every touchstone should try to address? Here’s how this offer stacks up:

Here’s what we’re selling – cheap CDs
Here’s how much it will cost you – one penny
Here’s what’s in it for you – cheap music
Here’s why you should trust us – It’s low risk, what do you have to lose?

Now of course if you do sign up for this deal, you have to agree to purchase additional CDs at the regular price, but when you work it out – the ROI is still very high.

Joyner then talks about what he calls “one of the best touchstones ever written” (which doesn’t talk about price at all). It’s Federal Express’s …

“When it absolutely, positivity has to be there overnight.”

Here’s how it addresses the four touchstone points:

Here’s what we’re selling – overnight delivery
Here’s how much – we’re not saying, but we think this service is so valuable to you, that you don’t’ care about the price.
Here’s what’s in it for you – your deliver is made on time, you can stop worrying
Here’s why you should trust us – we’re Federal Express

Later on, near the end of the book, Joyner goes on to list some of the other great Irresistible Offers he’s seen. Here are a few of my favorites …

“Be All You Can Be” – It was used by the U.S. Army for over twenty years, before they changed to the far weaker “Army of One”. “Be All You Can Be” immediately puts a powerful offer in your mind: Leave your life behind. Come to use and let us mold you. We’ll turn you into the best possible person you can be. There is greatness inside of you waiting to be unleashed.

“You give us 22 Minutes. We’ll give you the world.” – This is from WINS Radio in New York. You’re in a hurry, tune us in – we’ll keep you informed.

“We’ll beat anyone’s advertised price or your mattress is freeeeeeeee.” – This is from Sit ‘n Sleep in California. It’s a bit illogical – why wouldn’t they just beat your price instead of giving it to you free? – but it communicates one thing very
effectively, you’re guaranteed to get the best price in town from them. They used it for over a decade.

“We will honor the lowest price you can find for up to 60 days after your purchase.” – Circuit City generated trust and credibility and they ensured their customers that they were going to get a good deal. Plus it eliminated waiting for a lower price as a reason for customers to delay a purchase.

“48-hour parts service anywhere in the world – or Caterpillar pays.” Similar to Dominos, in a split second it addressed and alleviated the fear that a company has a $200,000 machine sitting around collecting dust.

“Ten Years Trouble-Free Operation.” – Before the commercials with the lonely Maytag repairmen, Maytag’s originally offer was “Ten Years Trouble-Free Operation”. Which is what everyone wants from a washer or dryer – something that gets the job done and doesn’t have to be replaced in a very long time.

“If you’re not satisfied for any reason we’ll take it back without a receipt – no questions asked.” – Nordstrom’s doesn’t compete on price. They’re known for their great customer service. Their satisfaction guarantee adds to the ROI of their offer and the “without a receipt” portion, sets them apart.

So how can knowing how to craft an Irresistible Offer help you in business?

For starters, it’s another service you can offer your customers. Many businesses don’t put much thought into their Irresistible Offer. Mainly because they don’t even know such a thing exists or the impact it could have on their business. Their “Irresistible Offer” begins and ends by merely identifying what business they’re in.

Plus, understanding what goes into creating an Irresistible Offer can only help when it comes to crafting more powerful headline and leads.

Lastly, you could create an Irresistible Offer for your own business. If you’re a full-time copywriter, perhaps you could use something like “When your next sales letter absolutely positively has to be a blockbuster …” (with apologies to Federal Express of course).

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Published: June 10, 2009

3 Responses to “Better Than A USP?”

  1. Well said! I think this will work better for my market (aviation) than long-form copy. I started writing mine tonight.

    Paula WilliamsJune 10, 2009 at 10:54 pm

  2. Most copy I have read is much too long-winded and is more focused on talking at the prospect instead of to the person. I agree that a well thought out concise statement is the most important element in any sales letter to a prospective client and entice them to take action.

    Frank WilkinsonJune 12, 2009 at 11:51 am

  3. Thank you John. Another great article.

    Guest (Yulanda)December 12, 2011 at 8:20 pm


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