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5 Psychological Tactics for Creating an Irresistible Offer

  • Sacha DoucetSacha Doucet

Updated by Tara Malone

Want to create an irresistible offer that your customers can’t refuse?

Believe it or not, the best place to begin is by tapping into your customer’s psyche.

As it turns out, certain psychological tactics that cause humans to react positively and buy your product have been successfully tested and verified over the years.

It has been shown that presenting information in strategic ways can increase profits.

If you can anticipate a customer’s behavior before they even visit your site, you can truly connect with them and make your offer irresistible.

Here are 5 psychological tactics you should follow to create an irresistible offer for your customers.

1. Sell Time Savings Instead of Money Savings

irresistible offer 2

You’ve probably heard how pricing plays a huge role in your bottom line. The psychology of a price ending in “7,” for example, means it’s a great value, and prices ending in ‘”9″ sell more because we tend to round down.

While sales can increase from pricing strategies for certain products (like luxury goods), pricing psychology doesn’t always resonate with customers.

In that case, what sells is time.

We all want more of it, to make the most of it, or to minimize wasting it. When you market a product as an experience, a customer will be far more likely to spend some extra cash.

One study done by Cassie Mogilner and Jennifer Aaker details how emphasizing emotions, identity, and experiences has a positive correlation with sales by establishing a connection with people. In one experiment, Mogilner and Aakar divided 115 students into three groups and asked them about their iPods.

  • Group 1 was asked, “How much time have you spent on your iPod?”
  • Group 2 was asked, “How much money have you spent on your iPod?”
  • The third group was not asked either question.

Next, all three groups were asked, “When considering your iPod, what thoughts come to mind?”

The end result showed a far more favorable attitude towards iPods when initially asked about time spent over those who were asked about money spent. The control group showed a less favorable attitude towards iPods than the “time” group but still more favorable than the “money” group.

If selling on price isn’t getting you the sales you want, try selling time saved instead.

So if selling on price isn’t getting you the sales you want, try selling time saved instead. When you want to foster a personal connection with your product or service, leading consumers to think about time can greatly boost positive perception.

Conversely, emphasizing the dollar value can not only leave individuals feeling less connected, but could potentially frame the product in a negative light.

What This Means for You

Think of the benefit your product provides the customer:

  • What kind of experience, solution, or emotion are you offering?
  • What differentiates your experience, solution, or emotion from what your competitor is offering?

2. Make People Feel Like They’re Part of a Group

The need for social connection is universal. Forming bonds with others influences our concept of self and being part of a community is a powerful tool in feeling connected. We will even override our physiological needs (like food) and safety to feel connected. We all want to feel close to others and have our own tribe who understands us.

According to Jason O`Shaughnessy in his book, Competitive Marketing (RLE Marketing): A Strategic Approach, how we connect and relate to others and the world around us affects our buying decisions. There are two primary ways we feel that we’re part of a group:

1. Culture

Culture in its simplest definition is a shared, common experience that influences how you spend your time and money. It’s important to keep in mind that this isn’t always marked by age, location, or ethnicity.

Culture is a choice where we can choose to opt in. For example, fashion isn’t restricted to certain demographics. TOMS shoes is modeled after the traditional alpargatas shoe made for Argentinian farmers, yet this Argentinian shoe is now worn by millions of urban North Americans.

2. Reference Groups

We all act in accordance with the groups we commonly interact with like our family, friends, and work associates. O’Shaughnessy details how we also have two types of reference groups:

Normative groups are how we establish norms and behavior. This includes things like how we dress and the verbiage we use.

Comparative groups make us feel like we’re either part of or not part of something. We use comparative groups to evaluate our personal qualities and buying decisions.

Apple famously utilized this concept during their 1984 campaign, where they compared using IBM products to being conformist and controlled. Apple continues this narrative to this day with their “Think Different” campaign.

What This Means for You

  • Think outside the box of typical cultural markers. How does your business fit in with a certain culture? Is there a subsection of culture that your product serves?
  • What normative reference group is your target customer a part of? How do they dress and what sort of language or slang do they use?
  • Is your product or service part of a comparative group? If so, how do you make your customer feel better by being part of your ‘tribe and not your competitor’s?

3. Utilize the “Foot-in-the-Door” Technique

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The foot-in-the-door technique is a well-known compliance technique that shows we love to comply with larger requests once we’ve agreed to a smaller request first. In marketing terms, if you ask for a favor and get a “yes” from the customer, you open the door for a bigger (and more expensive) “yes.”

The technique was first popularized in 1966 by researchers Freedman and Fraser in their study “Compliance Without Pressure.”

In the study, they divided 156 women into four groups: three test groups, and one control group. The researchers phoned the three test groups asking what kind of cleaning products they use. Three days later, they called all four groups and asked to enter their homes to see the cleaning products.

In the first three groups, 52.8% of participants allowed the researchers into their homes. A mere 22.2% of participants from the control group agreed to the request.

More recent studies have replicated Freedman and Fraser’s study to show we are more likely to go for drinks with someone if they ask us for directions or a cigarette first. We’re even twice as likely to stop a theft in action if the victim asked us for the time prior to the crime.

Be mindful not to offer the second, larger request too soon, though. One study done by Chartrand, Pinkckert, and Burger shows the technique can backfire if the second request is made without a delay. An example of this is offering a free ebook and then following up with an expensive course the next day.

What This Means for You

Offer something small that your customer will find valuable, such as a free (or inexpensive) ebook, free samples, or a trial membership. The customer will feel like you’ve already given them something of value so they’re more likely to reciprocate in the future with larger requests.

4. Master the Decoy Technique

Decoy marketing, or the “asymmetric dominance effect,” is when you highlight the offer you’d like the customer to purchase by offering other options look inferior in comparison.

The decoy technique works because consumer decisions are swayed by compromise on the options available. Consumers feel they’re getting the best deal when they have to rationalize against comparable options. This technique is employed almost everywhere you look, from food to electronics.

One example is the New York Times:

New York Times Digital Access Options

Here you can see the emphasis to select the middle option. It offers the “best value” because for a very reasonable $2.50 you not only get the digital access from option 1, but also exclusive behind-the-scenes stories and a bonus subscription (a $25 value) for free.

Option 3 offers more than option 2 with two bonus subscriptions and home delivery. However, unless someone is looking for home delivery they’ll feel the third option is excessive and will go for option 2. If only the cheapest and most expensive options are presented, most consumers will choose the cheapest.

What This Means for You

  • Consider bundling your products or services to make your offer seem more appealing than a la carte offers.
  • If someone goes for the most expensive decoy option, think of how you will provide added value.

5. Intentionally Generate Positive Emotions

Offering the same product or service in a positive light is a powerful tool. In one study done by De Martina et. al. (2009), it was found that you are more confident in your buying decisions if you don’t perceive any drawbacks.

Likewise, if you have to think too hard about how something could benefit you, there’s much more cognitive dissonance when making a decision to buy or not.  Essentially, the path of least resistance makes us happy.

A basic example would be giving two people $50. Participant 1 gets $20, but you give them an extra $30 for a total of $50. Participant 2 starts with $70 but you take $20 away.

Guess which participant would be happier?

When there is certainty that we have something to gain, the decision is made for us. We won’t gamble with the outcome. We see this tactic employed everywhere from the “buy 1, get 1 free” promos in supermarkets or 50%-off sales in clothing stores.

Likewise, if a proposition is framed in a negative light, we will risk certainty to gamble and hope for better odds. An example you may have seen is when an insurance company tries to get you to switch to their plan by framing it as wasting dollars with the other company.

What This Means for You

We like to feel good about our decisions rather than be coerced by why it’s bad to not buy it.

  • Frame your product or service as something that will provide a positive effect in terms of emotion experienced?
  • Present your offer as a no-brainer option that will positively influence your customer.

Ready to Create an Irresistible Offer for Your Customers?

As you can see, tapping into your customers’ psychology is crucial for creating your irresistible offer.

To recap, here are some of the best ways to get into the minds of your customers:

  1. Emphasize how valuable your product or service is in terms of time and not just money.
  2. Identify the culture and any other groups your product or service resonates with.
  3. Offer something of value that is either free or cheap. Your customers will appreciate it and reciprocate.
  4. Emphasize the product or service option you would like customers to purchase by offering similar but less desirable options next to it.
  5. Frame your offer in a positive light. We are more likely to be swayed by a positive presentation of information.

Now take a moment to consider which of these tips will work best with your product or service. After you zero in on the tips that are right for you, then you can get to work incorporating them into your marketing strategy.

Do this, and you’ll be well on your way to creating an offer that your customers can’t refuse.

6 thoughts on 5 Psychological Tactics for Creating an Irresistible Offer

Amar kumar

Hey Sacha,

Technology has created a more educated and independent class of consumer that no longer allows marketing messages to be forced onto them. This change has caused marketing departments to be more honest, less manipulative, and provide more value.

Psychological pricing uses the customer’s emotional response to encourage sales. By pricing products strategically, a company may increase sales without significantly reducing prices. Eventually, thanks for sharing these beneficial facts regarding this subject.

With best wishes,

Amar kumar


Hi Amar,

I agree that consumers are much more educated, and forcing messages on to consumers is a thing of the past. These psychological tactics, however, are part of the innate human condition and don’t necessarily have to be used in a forceful way 🙂

Thanks for your response.

Andrew Zubriczky

Great well written article on an extremely timely subject…a businesses online financial future! As a veteran marketer l am quite familiar with subliminal emotional and psychological triggers to increase conversions and compliance. Yet, if your copy appears honest, believable, and trustworthy, your online visitors will trust you. Consumers are getting wise to most of these. For example, in the offline world, what does the word SALE mean anymore?


Thanks for your kind words Andrew! And I totally agree, SALE doesn`t mean a whole lot anymore 🙂

Ettie Rutherford

Your information is relevant, easily understood and very practical to adapt.
Will certainly be of great benefit to me . Thanks a million


Thank you for your kind words Ettie! I’m glad you find the information beneficial.

Comments are closed.