The Smarter Ways to Use Urgency Online

When you sell a high-end product, I am thinking of a luxury car or a diamond watch here, there is a natural element of scarcity.

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

When you walk into a supermarket, you expect the cereal aisle to be full of options.

With anything that is less cheap and interchangeable, it doesn’t.

Apparently, 800,000 new watches from a high-end brand make their way every year. If I saw them all on the shelves of a store, they would seem much less valuable, even at the same price.

This is not revolutionary. I doubt you will be impressed if I tell you that as supply decreases, costs increase.

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

If you sold physical books, that’s fine.

But what if you sold e-books, audio programs, or online courses?

The cost of duplicating bytes is essentially zero, so there is no shortage there.

There is no “act now, supplies are limited!” when it comes to data.

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

The basic (but effective) scarcity tactic
It was not difficult to find the solution.

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

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

Sure, servers can crash and never work again.

But that is rare, especially today.

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

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

Or whatever the offer is.

It creates urgency, because now time, not supply, is in short supply.

Some people will resent it. After all, it wouldn’t cost you anything to leave the bond there forever.

In my view, you’re doing them a favor. If your offer helps them, and I really hope it does, because most of my advice is counterproductive to snake oil, then you’re gently pressing them to get it now.

And the sooner they start, the sooner your life will improve.

Also, most people accept this. Even if you didn’t like it before, it’s been a staple of internet commerce for so long that everyone is used to it.

So, as I say, it works.

And the better the bonus, the better it will work. Happily I paid for products that I’ll never use just to get the bonuses, so that’s a handy rule of thumb: make it worth the price, if not more.

But ultimately, that approach is bogus scarcity.

It is false because it is cutting access to a digital resource, which costs you nothing to host.

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

It simply means that when you use real and genuine scarcity, it works even better.

Create digital scarcity by charging more often
You can create a feeling of scarcity around something by raising the price.

The more it costs, the less people have it (or can get it).

But note that I didn’t say “charge more.”

I said charging more often.

Now this may not work for your offer or your market.

And even if it does, it will take a lot more work.

The benefits?

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

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

As I say, this does not work for all or for everyone. It requires a great depth of material to create, plus it is a continuous job for you.

If your market has a burning problem, they want the solution now. If it works, they no longer need more. If not, they won’t have the patience to stay.

But if you have something that builds and builds and builds …

(Training is a good example for this: each lesson adds something for them.)

… then you can convert it from a book to a magazine.

  • A book you buy once.
  • A magazine that you buy every month (more or less).
  • A book is the author talking to the readers.
  • A magazine allows readers to write, creating dialogue.
  • A book puts money in your pocket once per customer.
  • A magazine keeps them coming back whenever you add value.
  • And the best part?

If someone is a subscriber, they will receive the next delivery of their product. If not, they don’t.

So while they could wait until next month to buy …

They get more by buying now.

Urgency, right at the bottom.

Urgency in a service
What happens if you offer a service?

If your service scales, you may still have a subscription. For example, hypnosis scales if you know how to hypnotize a group of people online.

But maybe the subscription idea doesn’t work for you.

You can still easily create urgency with your services.


By reducing the number of slots in your schedule.

We have already established that time can be scarce. And if we are talking about your time, it definitely is. I know there is a lot you can do at any time.

By seeing fewer customers in a week, it may seem like you’re reducing your income. And it could, at least in the short term. But, if you understand your market, you more than make up for it:

It creates a real shortage, which increases its perceived value. An hobbyist is willing to work with anyone at any time. A professional is willing and can set your hours.

It makes some of the clients work for it. If they are eager to see you and can choose days, that is easy for them. If you only see them on Thursdays, they may have to skip a golf game to see it. That minor inconvenience makes them invest more in you and in your process.

It allows you to raise your prices. The demand for your time is high and the supply has decreased, so it is fair.

Now, you may be nervous about seeing fewer customers. If you cancel weekly, that’s a bigger portion of your income than before. But once the time gap is full, you can create a waiting list. Waiting lists are great for your financial stability (and therefore peace of mind). If someone retires, they don’t need to fight to find a replacement; a simple email to your waiting list will suffice.

Abundant ideas to create scarcity
This article is lengthening a bit, and the irony is not lost on me.

Let me say here: This is not the last word on scarcity. There are many ways to make what you offer weirder without going dark.

If nothing else, you could combine these ideas.

For example, you could offer a free ebook and a discounted subscription to anyone who books a session with you.

(With a time limit on that deal, of course).

Either way, you are free to take the time to do all of this well.

On the other hand, if you are thinking: eBooks? Subscriptions? Bonus reports? Who has time for all that?

You are not alone in thinking that. If you are prone to writer’s block, abandoning projects halfway, or chronic shortage of time, I’ll get down to business.

Take less than an hour, even during lunch or dinner, and complete my writing course. In the end, you will be able to produce more than enough for what you need.

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