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.
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.
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 turn it from a book to a magazine.
A book you buy once.
A magazine you buy every month (or so).
A book is the author talking to the readers.
A magazine lets the readers write in, creating a dialogue.
A book puts money in your pocket once per customer.
A magazine has them coming back as long as you’re adding value.
And the best part?
If someone is a subscriber, they receive the next instalment of your 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 heart of it.
Urgency in a Service
What if you offer a service?
If your service scales, you could still have a subscription. For example, hypnosis scales if you know how to hypnotise a group of people online.
But maybe the subscription idea doesn’t work for you.
You can still create urgency easily enough with your services.
By reducing the number of time slots in your schedule.
We’ve already established time can be a scarcity. And if we’re talking about your time, it definitely is. I know there’s plenty you could do at any moment.
By seeing fewer clients in a week, it might seem like you’re reducing your income. And it might, at least in the short term. But, if you understand your market, then it more than makes up for it:
It creates real scarcity, which increases your perceived value. An amateur is willing to work with anyone at any time. A professional is willing and able to set their hours.
It makes some of the clients work for it. If they’re eager to see you and they have their choice of days, that’s easy for them. If you’ll only see them on Thursdays, then they might have to skip the occasional golf game to see you. That minor inconvenience makes them more invested in you and your process.
It lets you raise your prices. The demand for your time is high and the supply has dropped, so it’s only fair.
Now, you might be nervous about seeing fewer clients. If one cancels per week, that’s a higher chunk out of your income than before. But once the supply of time slots fills up, you can create a waiting list. Waiting lists are great for your financial stability (and therefore peace of mind). If someone pulls out, you don’t need to scramble to find a replacement – a simple email to your waiting list will do the trick.
Abundant Ideas for Creating Scarcity
This article is getting a little long – and the irony’s not lost on me.
So let me say here: this isn’t the final word on scarcity. There are plenty of ways to make what you offer rarer without becoming obscure.
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 have the freedom of taking the time to get all this right.
Then again, if you’re thinking: eBooks? Subscriptions? Bonus reports? Who has time for all that?
You’re not alone in thinking that. If you’re prone to Writer’s Block, abandoning projects halfway or chronic time shortages, then I’ll get to the point.