The Truth About... Scarcity

12 replies
Hi Folks

Periodically we hear people on this forum complain about certain scarcity
tactics they come across, such as the classic "Buy by midnight or the price
goes up!" (but never actually does), or "Only 10 left at this price", etc.

Here's how I see it:

"Scarcity" is a valid marketing concept.

- It's been understood for thousands of years. When resources that we
want become less available, we may desire it more. (Nations have gone
to war over scarce resources!)

- Scarcity motivates people to buy now, rather than later (which they
often won't do, because things like Life get in the way).

- Plus, as human beings we tend to be more concerned about what we
may lose, than what we might gain!

However, for scarcity to be most effective, it needs two key elements -
and this is where many marketers fail to create effective urgency:


(1) Perception. It needs to appear credible.

If you really wanted to see your favourite band in concert, but you leave it
too late and all the tickets sell out, you really feel the loss, don't you? And
so next time they're playing, you may book the tickets earlier, because
you know darned well those tickets are in short supply.

The scarcity is real and credible for you, and so you act on it.

On the other hand, if you're a jaded marketer who has seen those "Buy
before midnight or the price goes up!" offers dozens of times, and not one
of them actually does put the price up past midnight, you're going to be
very skeptical of those types of offers in general.

However, many of your customers may have never seen the tactic before,
and so it may be effective on them - but what if they happen to miss the
midnight deadline, come back later on, and see the exact same offer?
What does that do to your credibility?

So the first key element to any scarcity tactic is that it needs to appear
credible. If you say you're going to put the price up by midnight, why not
actually do it?

If you're going to limit to the first 100 buyers, make sure you do that and
show how many are left! (I'll explain how to do this in a few moments...)

The second key element is...


(2) Justification. Why the deadline, limited quantity etc?

Someone on this forum asked a very valid question: "How can digital
downloads possibly be in limited supply? They're digital!"

This is why so many many here have a low opinion of scarcity tactics
online - because the scarcity lacks justification.

Well, all it requires is to think outside of the box a little bit.

To give you a specific example: When Frank Kern launched his "Mass
Control" product in 2008 - a digital, downloadable product - he limited it to
about 500 or so slots.

How did he justify that? Well, as part of the package, he was willing to
provide a kind of conference call, and hold the hands of his customers, to
make sure they got value for money. And so he said he'd probably only be
able to support about a maximum of 500 or so people this way - a very
credible
reason for limiting the supply.

If you sell software, you can bundle it with free installation, but only for
the first X customers, because your time to do the installations is limited -
and thus, the supply of this bundle is limited to the first X customers.

If you sell a PDF report, you could bundle a free 30 minute Skype
consultation, or an email consultation... and limit the number of these
packages, because you can only do so many of those - after all, your time
is limited, so the quantity has to be limited as well.

In other words, by being creative and thinking outside of the box just a
little bit, you can always come up with ways you can credibly justify why
even your digital offering is limited in supply.


The Technical "How To"

So how can you do these kinds of things, like putting the price up
automatically, limiting the supply and showing how many are left, etc?

For most of it, you could use a PHP script. For example, for some
campaigns I've run, I use my own Dynamic Deadlines to time when a
visitor arrives, and switch to a higher price or remove a bonus after a
certain time has passed (i.e. an hour, or a day), or as certain quantities
pass (i.e. after 10 sales).

Although my script is more sophisticated, you could perhaps implement a
simpler version with a little PHP programming (i.e. set a cookie, check
date... if past midnight, show higher price).

With PHP, you could also create a coupon code system, once again making
each coupon code time limited.

If you don't know any PHP, you could get someone to code it for you on
elance.com, or look for a coupon code script - there are many on the
market.

Just make sure that if you're going to use any kind of scarcity tactic, that
it (a) appears credible, and (b) the scarcity is justified.

Finally, I would also add... if you have the traffic and sales, it would be a
good idea to actually test out whether your scarcity tactic is working! Test
scarcity vs no scarcity at first...

... but don't forget you can test different methods of, and justifications for
the scarcity.

That way, you're not taking anybody's word for what works - you're
finding out for yourself!
#scarcity #truth
  • This was REALLY well-written, start to finish. Thanks for the solid, practical advice in the forum!
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    • Profile picture of the author Steven Wagenheim
      Paul, what a great post. Thanks.

      I can honestly say that scarcity, when done right and done honestly, not
      only works, but you actually will have people writing to you begging you to
      make an exception because they missed out.

      I have personally sold 9 products with true scarcity built into them and all
      9 have sold out.

      Be ethical and honest about it and give a good reason why you're limiting
      the quantity, and ...if it's a product people actually want...you can make a
      very good chunk of change in a very short period of time.

      Case in point, I'm prelaunching product 10 to my list today and have
      already made over $1,000 in sales in just 3 hours.
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      • Profile picture of the author George Wright
        Steven,

        You are the consistent King of Scarcity. I know, when I get an eMail for one of your PLR packs and you say "Only 25 will be sold." I better not try to be buyer # 26.

        George Wright

        Originally Posted by Steven Wagenheim View Post

        Paul, what a great post. Thanks.

        I can honestly say that scarcity, when done right and done honestly, not
        only works, but you actually will have people writing to you begging you to
        make an exception because they missed out.

        I have personally sold 9 products with true scarcity built into them and all
        9 have sold out.

        Be ethical and honest about it and give a good reason why you're limiting
        the quantity, and ...if it's a product people actually want...you can make a
        very good chunk of change in a very short period of time.

        Case in point, I'm prelaunching product 10 to my list today and have
        already made over $1,000 in sales in just 3 hours.
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        "The first chapter sells the book; the last chapter sells the next book." Mickey Spillane
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  • Profile picture of the author Paul Hancox
    Steven, congrats on your 10th product. Yes, I've also experienced people coming begging for the offer to be extended, to make one more slot available.

    Now that's real scarcity!
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  • Profile picture of the author Nicholas Ho
    Damn, one of the best and easy to understand post.
    Implement it right away!
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  • Profile picture of the author Lance K
    Originally Posted by Paul Hancox View Post


    Finally, I would also add... if you have the traffic and sales, it would be a
    good idea to actually test out whether your scarcity tactic is working! Test
    scarcity vs no scarcity at first...

    ... but don't forget you can test different methods of, and justifications for
    the scarcity.

    That way, you're not taking anybody's word for what works - you're
    finding out for yourself!
    Paul, you're entire post was excellent. But the part I've quoted above is extra excellent!
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    "You can have everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want."
    ~ Zig Ziglar
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  • Profile picture of the author zapseo
    The #1 most effective way I have of closing (especially new) clients is scarcity.

    Oddly enough, I can only think of one or two people who really pressed me on the reason why.

    But, being one person, I think the scarcity angle is probably fairly obvious. There's only so much copy I can write.

    I truly believe that using scarcity benefits us all. I think it's even the fMRI folks who have shown that we tend to increase our waffling about a buy decision the closer to the decisoni we come. Scarcity draws a line in the sand. You either want this, or you don't.

    It saves time. The client spends less time waffling, and we can get down the business a LOT sooner. Indecisivenss is a HUGE time waster. Just make a decision and move on.

    (You can always make a decision to make the decison later -- which I often do.)

    Live JoyFully!

    Judy Kettenhofen, Copywriter & Marketing Geek (script installs and stuff...)
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  • Profile picture of the author JeffLam
    Thank you Paul for the excellent and detailed article!

    Well, implementing scarcity without making it credible is outright lying and dishonest. A complete 'blackhat' marketing tactic in my opinion.

    And we all know that clean, legit businesses are the way to go.

    To add on for the 'justification' pointer:

    Another reason for the imposed scarcity for an ebook/software/program/service could be the reason of 'saturation'. Where if this method is being implemented by X (where X is the no. of copies you want to sell out only), the method may/will be less effective, hence diminishing your method's results.
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  • Profile picture of the author Mobosorous
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    • Profile picture of the author mlevenhagen
      Great post Paul. Especially the point about testing.

      I don't have a problem with scarcity tactics at all.. I understand that person I'm buying from (if it's digital) can't have unlimited special offers and deals. That's just plain silly.
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  • Profile picture of the author seoFool.com
    Paul, great post...I vaguely remember getting my degree in economics...which is basically just the study of scarcity and choice... you hit the nail on the head.
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    • Profile picture of the author Intrepreneur
      People have problems with scarcity but they don't have problems with this?



      I think this is worse. It's everywhere.

      I was reading through a childrens school book leaflet and it was plastered all over every page for stuff that was launched in the early 90's. (All that was missing was - Only 4 left - Only 3 - Last One - About To Disappear Off The Page Before Your very Eyes)

      Seriously good post too Paul, valued read.

      Mark
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      Started this stuff 2009. Time is what will teach you the skills you need.

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