The saddest sign in the world.

EAT24 and The Ingenuity of Marketing to Pain Points

I’m always on the lookout for interesting marketing tactics to steal. Recently, one from eat24 really caught my eye.

One night last week, I was looking for a place to grab a bite to eat in San Francisco. First thought: a fantastic Indian restaurant that I frequent in the Tenderloin (which, to avoid Cronut-ing it, will remain unnamed).

So I head over to grab some Pakora and — because I live on the Internet and forgot that physical locations have Hours of Operation — see that they’re closed.

Cue record scratch

On closer inspection, I see the “Sorry We’re Closed” sign is branded by eat24. That’s strange! A restaurant being unavailable to the people who are trying to eat there is the epitome of something you want to avoid being associated with. Why would eat24 want to be associated with negative experiences?

Immediately after seeing this sign, I begin to think about where I’m going to grab dinner at this late hour. Instinctively I grabbed my phone and opened the eat24 app.


Later that evening, after emerging from my food coma and getting my wits back, I began to think about this a little bit more.

If you haven’t put the pieces together, this is a great idea for one key reason. Much like Uber’s Google Maps integration, eat24 has established a new acquisition channel that addresses people’s pain points at the very point they’re experiencing pain. It’s the equivalent of Excedrin being there right when they know you’re getting a migraine. For brevity’s sake, let’s call this type of acquisition Marketing to Pain Points.

Succinctly, Marketing to Pain Points is when a company reaches a specific potential customer at the exact moment when the customer is in need of the company’s product.

While there are near endless applications of this type of acquisition, the challenge — as in everything — is in pulling it off. By definition, meeting customers at a moment of pain is more akin to an interception than anything else.

Which is what makes eat24’s execution of this tactic so impressive. Not only are they relieving customer pain, but they’re doing it by co-opting their partner-competitors: restaurants.

How do they get away with this? After all, it’s reasonable to think that a restaurant owner doesn’t want to send its business to an app that will then connect customers with other restaurants.

Well, eat24 does it by having a very keen understanding of the individual restaurateurs’ motivations. If I own a restaurant, I do care where you eat when you’re in the neighborhood and I’m open. But when I’m not open? I couldn’t care less!

If it’s 10pm on a Sunday and I’m asleep, do you know how much money I’m losing at that moment when you decide to eat elsewhere? None. So someone comes along and gives me a free, useful sign as part of a larger package of perks? Thanks!

So not only does eat24 show an understanding of how to acquire new customers, they all turn this into a win-win-win for themselves, the restaurant, and most critically the customer.

Is it useful to put up a billboard advertising that people can order food on their phones? Maybe. But if you’re creative, there are approaches that you could take that will really drive customers to you, and they’ll be customers that come in motivated to buy what you’re selling.