The Godfather Guide to Direct Marketing: Make Me an Offer I Can’t Refuse

godfather marlon brando You Must Persuade Me to Act or Your Beautiful Promotional Piece Will Sleep with the Fishes

I was perversely inspired to write this because of a recent gorgeous direct mailing I received from local French restaurant.

They did a lot of things right. There was some beautiful photography that captured the essence of this charming little bistro. They described how the restaurant and its cuisine were uniquely appealing. They shared some impressive awards and recognitions for their excellence. They included their Web address. And, they even provided a little map that showed me exactly how to find it.

There was only one thing missing. But it was the most important thing: They failed to make me an offer that would entice me to dine at the restaurant. In fact, there was no offer at all.

So here’s a lesson we all learned long ago from the Godfather: make me an offer I can’t refuse and I will respond promptly and positively. For this restaurant, there were certainly plenty of possibilities. It could’ve been free appetizers, free glasses of the house wine, buy one entrée get one free, 50% off a bottle of wine or free desserts. But they offered me nothing.

Even worse, there was no call to action, offer or no offer. On one side of the 3" x 7" promotion piece the name of the restaurant served as the headline. On the flipside, the only thing resembling a headline was "recipient of many awards".  They didn’t ask me to take any action at all.

For me and I’m sure for most of the recipients who aren’t familiar with this restaurant, we will probably toss the promotion piece without taking any action. It appears to be a pretty expensively produced item so that means between postage, design, and printing they have spent a lot of money. But, I think most of that money was wasted because they neither asked me to come to the restaurant nor offered me any compelling reason to do so.

I am not a direct marketing expert, but I do know this: If you make me an offer I can’t refuse, you increase the likelihood of taking the action you want me to take by orders of magnitude. Moreover, if you had told me to bring an offer-containing promotion piece to the restaurant, you could have measured the results of your marketing efforts precisely. Finally, whatever you gave away would have been more than balanced by the money I spent on everything else during my visit–not to mention the money I would likely spend on future visits.

The direct marketing lesson: When you make your prospective customers an offer they can’t refuse, it will work for you just as effectively as it worked for the Godfather all those years ago.

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  1. Posted October 4, 2009 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

    It is true that most restaurants assume that once their direct marketing flyers are out of the door they will improve their visibility. Which is mostly not the case, as this blog suggests no offer no action no attention no visibility. Poor direct marketing efforts not only hurts the restaurants cash flow, but it also has the potential of driving customers away.

  2. Posted October 14, 2009 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

    Very interesting post and a great example of direct marketing failure!
    I have a related question Newt. I have noticed that many “enticing offers”, whether they come from a B2B or B2C, seem to be pretty standard i.e., special offers of competitors seem to be almost the same. Common examples: bank mortgage offers, car sales offers,cell phone plans etc.
    What can a company do to ensure that its “enticing offer” real stands out? What are you thoughts?