How To Get Buyers To Take Action With A Strange But Effective Concept

by Russ Henneberry

Last updated on March 5th, 2018

That’s the goal, right?  We want buyers to take action.  The action of buying.

But it’s not easy.  Time-starved, highly caffeinated Internet surfers are a tough crowd to pin down.  In most cases, you need them to take action now or they vanish.

But here is the strange part, and hear me out here…

Perhaps, buyers aren’t taking action because your offer is too available.  It’s too easy to get.

The concept we are going to discuss in this article works because of two hard-wired human principles that Dr. Robert Cialdini outlines in his book Influence.  Those two principles are scarcity and urgency.

It’s The Law

You can’t fight it and neither can I.

Humans find an offer more appealing if it is:

  • Rare
  • Fleeting
  • Temporary

It’s one of those hard-wired survival elements built into our brains.

Here is the more important way to think about this.

Humans find an offer less appealing if it is:

  • Abundant
  • Here to stay
  • Permanent

Let me illustrate this point with a story…

I received a call a year or so ago from a man that was running a conference for business owners in my home town.  He hired me to help him sell more tickets.

I looked at his landing page and evaluated the offer.

It had one major problem. There was only one price for the conference and you could pay that price today, tomorrow or the day of the conference.  It didn’t matter when you bought your ticket, same price.

Can you guess (based on what we’ve learned so far) when he sold the most tickets?  Yep, the day before the conference.

Why?  Because the offer was going away. The offer was becoming scarce and it created an urgency to take action.

Launch and Launch Again

So, how did we sell more tickets?

Sorry to disappoint but we didn’t reinvent the wheel.  We simply applied a structure that all successful conference organizers put in place.

We created a tiered offer.

Here were the tiers:

  • Early Bird Price ($249)
  • Regular Price ($399)
  • Door Price ($499)

We filled up the conference because we were able to create scarcity and urgency three different times as the conference approached.

Here’s what it looked like in a nutshell:

  • Offer 1 – We have a great conference coming up.  Get the best price of $249.  Offer ends in 30 days.
  • Offer 2 (Scarcity Offer) – Early Bird Pricing goes away in 48 hours.
  • Offer 3 (Scarcity Offer) – Regular Pricing goes away in 48 hours.
  • Offer 4 (Scarcity Offer) – You are going to miss the whole dang conference if you don’t sign up now.

This is powerful stuff.  To illustrate, take a look at what the original offer sequence looked like:

  • Offer 1 (Permanent Offer) – We have a great conference coming up.  Attend now for $399.
  • Offer 2 (Permanent Offer) – We have a great conference coming up.  Attend now for $399.
  • Offer 3 (Permanent Offer) – We have a great conference coming up.  Attend now for $399.
  • Offer 4 (Scarcity Offer) – You are going to miss the whole dang conference if you don’t sign up now.

This second sequence contains only one scarcity offer.  It was no mystery why he was selling most of his tickets in the 48 hours leading to the show.  You can buy it now or buy it at the door for the same price.  Without scarcity, there is no urgency to take action.

The Consumer Electronics Show (one of the largest shows in the world) is no stranger to this concept for selling tickets.

Consumer Electronics Show

Events lend themselves well to scarcity but this can be applied to products and services as well.  Why do you think there are so many “24 Hour Furniture Sale” offers on television?

Once you understand this concept, you will see opportunities to apply it to what you are selling.

Here is a riddle:  When is a U.S. quarter worth more than 25 cents?

Answer:  When there are only 100 of them available?

The U.S. Government understands the concept of scarcity and urgency.

US Mint Scarcity Offer

You Can’t Make This Stuff Up

My conference organizer client needed this tiered system for more than just putting butts in seats.

He had another problem.  Because he would sell all his tickets the day or two before the conference, he never knew how much food to order.  Heck, he didn’t even know if he was going to break even or lose his shirt on the conference.  The conference was much better organized when there was a steady flow of paid attendees as the event approached.

In other words, this scarcity wasn’t manufactured.  There was a real reason for it besides just dangling an offer with a threat to take it away for no real reason.

Communicating real scarcity in your offer is both an ethical and intelligent way to do business.  But creating false scarcity is often transparent to your potential customers and can give you a poor reputation.

I know I roll my eyes when I see a weak attempt at creating urgency through scarcity.  You do too.

Furniture stores, car dealerships and clothing retailers are just a few that go overboard with the scarcity and urgency concept.  You can’t have a sale every weekend and expect people to continue to respond. At some point, we will catch on.

Furniture Offer

Take a long, hard look at your offer.

Is it too available?  How could you introduce scarcity and urgency to buy?  Ask yourself, what real reason could I give for a buyer to take action now?

And I stress the word … now.  Because if they don’t do it now, they won’t do it.

It’s just the way we roll online.



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Russ Henneberry

Russ Henneberry is the Editorial Director at Digital Marketer. He's worked on digital marketing projects for companies like CrazyEgg, and Network Solutions. You can connect with Russ on Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ or on his blog.


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  1. jen says:
    June 28, 2012 at 5:08 am

    I like that reasoning and it makes sense why my one product is not selling at all. I will have to rethink. Brilliant!

    • Russ Henneberry says:
      June 28, 2012 at 10:48 am

      Glad you found it useful Jen!

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