The Smarter Ways to Use Urgency Online

When you sell a high-end product – I’m thinking a luxury car or diamond-studded watch here – there’s a natural element of scarcity.

Which is great, because Scarcity is one of Cialdini’s principles of influence.

When you walk into a supermarket, you expect the cereal aisle to overflow with choices.

With anything that’s less cheap and interchangeable, you don’t.

Apparently, 800,000 new watches from one high-end brand spring, tick and wind their way into existence every year. If you saw all of them on the shelves of a store, they’d seem a whole lot less valuable – even at the same price.

This is hardly revolutionary. I doubt you’re impressed by me telling you that as supply dwindles, costs rise.

But this created a real problem in the early days of the internet.

If you sold physical books, fine.

But what if you sold eBooks, audio programs or online courses?

The cost of duplicating bytes is essentially zero, so there’s no scarcity there.

There’s no “act now – supplies are limited!” when it comes to data.

So the marketers had to create the same sense of scarcity and urgency on something infinite. Luckily for them, they already had everything they needed.

The Basic (but Effective) Scarcity Tactic
It wasn’t hard to find the solution.

After all, who in the marketing world hasn’t heard of the ‘limited time offer’?

With physical products, there’s always a vague sense of urgency. If they run out of stock, you might have to wait for them to get more… assuming they ever do. With data, they never run out.

Sure, the servers might go down and never come back up.

But that’s uncommon, especially today.

So even though quantity is unlimited, you can still restrict time.

You’ve seen it before, I’m sure. Order this eBook before the deadline and you get a free report.

Or whatever the offer is.

It creates urgency, because now time – not supply – is scarce.

Some folks will get resentful. After all, it wouldn’t cost you anything to leave the bonus up there forever.

The way I see it, you’re doing them a favour. If your offer helps them – and I really hope it does, because most of my advice backfires for snake oil – then you’re gently pushing them to get it now.

And the sooner they start, the sooner their life improves.

Besides, most folks accept this. Even if they didn’t like it before, it’s been a staple of internet commerce for so long that everyone’s used to it.

So like I say, it works.

And the better the bonus, the better it works. I’ve happily paid for products I’ll never use just to get the bonuses, so that’s a handy rule of thumb – make them worth the price, if not more.

But, ultimately, that approach is fake scarcity.

It’s fake because you’re cutting off access to a digital resource, which costs you nothing to host.

That doesn’t mean it’s bad, ineffective or even dishonest.

It just means when you use real, genuine scarcity, it works even better.

Create Digital Scarcity by Charging More Often
You can create a sense of scarcity around something by raising the price.

The more it costs, the fewer folks have (or can get) it.

But note I didn’t say ‘charging more’.

I said charging more often.

Now, this might not work for your offer or your market.

And even if it does, it’ll require a lot more work.

The benefits?

Built-in scarcity, a reliable income stream and more value for your customers.

What you do is you take your offer – something they pay for once – and turn it into a subscription – something they pay for again and again.

Like I say, this doesn’t work for everything or everyone. It requires a significant depth of material to create, plus it’s ongoing work for you.

If your market has a burning problem, they want the fix now. If it works, they don’t need any more. If not, they won’t have the patience to stick around.

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