Three reasons why you need to use scarcity in your marketing starting right now

How can you help a customer make the right decision about buying from you? Find out why you need to use scarcity in your marketing.

Do you know what the most painful part of buying something is? The answer may surprise you, because contrary to what most businesses think, it’s not paying money. It’s making a decision to buy.

Think about it, how often have you deliberated on buying something really cheap? Something that may even cost pennies?

The simple truth is that we don’t like to make a bad decision. We don’t want to be wrong, or regret a purchase. So if we are buying something with any form of ‘newness’ in it, we can agonise other the purchase.

Three ways that ‘newness’ makes decision-making difficult

So what qualifies as ‘newness’? This can be one of three things:

  1. Buying something from a new business or vendor
  2. Buying a new type of product or service
  3. Buying something to solve a new problem

Let’s look at each in turn to see why they are so difficult for us.

1) Buying something from a new business or vendor

When we buy something from a new business or vendor, we are trusting that this vendor will deliver the quality we are expecting, that the transaction will happen smoothly, and the after sales experience will be pleasant.

If we are buying online, we will also need to register our details and input our payment details which also adds an unwanted layer of effort and thought process.

We worry that we’ll make a purchase, and what we buy won’t solve the problem we were hoping it would. That we will regret the experience, put ourselves at an inconvenience, waste our time and maybe even be conned.

It’s much easier to simply buy from a vendor we have already proven to be reliable, even if that vendor is more expensive. So even if we find something we want or need from a new vendor, we can find ourselves searching for alternative options, and spending a disproportionate amount of time deliberating before buying.

2) Buying a new type of product or service

When we are buying a new type of product or service, we need to not just make a decision about whether a new vendor is right, but whether we actually need this product or service now.

We worry that we will buy it and be disappointed. Maybe it won’t be what we hoped, or solve the problem we wanted it for. Perhaps we will realise we didn’t even need it.

It can be very easy, therefore to get stuck in decision-making limbo – telling ourselves we need more time to find the best possible product or service to solve this problem, and put off actually committing to a decision.

3) Buying something to solve a new problem

Similarly, if we are trying to solve a new problem, we can face many of the same doubts. Is the solution we are choosing the right one? Will it actually solve the problem at all? Is this the very best vendor with the very best solution?

Do we even need to solve the problem? Maybe it will go away on its own? Or someone will come up with a better solution if we just wait?

Again, as much as the problem may inconvenience us, it’s often easier to put off making a decision than it is facing up to the need to decide… and risk getting it wrong.

Why we don’t like to get things wrong – and how it costs us

What emerges from all these scenarios is our fear of getting something wrong. As Susan Jeffers explains in her book Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway, we tend to assume there are only two possible outcomes from making a decision:

  • Getting it right
  • Getting it wrong

In this scenario it is natural to fear making a decision. After all, you may have a 50% chance of regretting your choice!

But this isn’t an accurate scenario. In reality life isn’t so black and white, and by making a decision and taking action we will learn and experience more, and uncover more resources, personal skills and and connections.

Even if a decision doesn’t deliver you the expected results, it will usually teach you something and reward you in some way – even if that reward is ‘just’ life experience.

And the problem with allowing this fear of failure to stop you from making a decision is that you often risk losing far more than you may risk by making a decision.

For example, by waiting you lose time and opportunity. Your problem may worsen, and others may get an advantage over you. You can also lose a price advantage as companies often raise prices as time goes on.

How delaying a decision cost me money

Here’s a perfect example of this scenario. I am taking my daughter on a trip to France this weekend. When I booked the flights I looked into parking at the airport, checking out the dates and pricing.

I considered booking then, and even kept the car park tab opened on my browser for a week. But I didn’t commit. Why? Because I worried that I may later find a better option for parking, or even change my mind about driving… even though both scenarios were unlikely.

This was a baseless fear as the carpark’s cancellation policy meant that I could get all my money back if I changed my mind.

But in order to actually book, I had to go through the effort of navigating their payment and booking process, and the possibility of the hassle of getting a refund if I changed my mind.

So I left the decision until last night, when I realised time was running out and I needed to finalise the details of my trip. But when I went back to the car park website, I found that the price had gone up!

It wasn’t a huge increase, but enough to make me regret not booking earlier. And it rammed home the point to me that our fear of committing to a decision can leave us worse off. I also questioned why I didn’t just save myself time by booking earlier, instead of going through the process of finding the site and inputing dates etc twice.

Why TOO much choice is bad for us

It’s not just me that regrets wasting time making decisions. Psychologist Barry Schwartz came up with the phrase Paradox of Choice to explain that while having more choice enables us to achieve objectively better results, it also leads to increased anxiety, indecision, paralysis, and dissatisfaction.

Apparently, having too much information available when making a decision doesn’t make it easier to choose – instead it usually leads to a bigger fear of making the wrong decision. And, as I explained above, this just causes us to get caught in a web of indecision and worry.

This can be a waste of time and money. A survey by LexisNexis discovered that, on average, employees spend more than half their time at work receiving and managing information rather than using it to do their jobs.

Your marketing needs to make it as easy as possible for customers to make a decision

So what does this have to do with your marketing? Simple: your customers are going to go through all the thought processes and fears I outlined above when making a decision to buy from you – especially if they are new customers.

This means your marketing needs to help them through this process. It has to reassure them you can help them. That you can be trusted. That you genuinely understand their problem and can solve it. And that they won’t regret their decision.

But more importantly, your marketing needs to make it easier and less painful to make a decision than it is to put a decision off. You need to avoid people leaving your website open on a tab on their browser for a week!

And how can you do this? The answer is through scarcity.

How scarcity helps your marketing – and your customers

The job of scarcity in marketing is to ensure that NOT making a decision is more painful or comes with a higher risk than deciding right now. It also helps reduce buyer’s remorse, and potentially saves hours spent mulling over a decision… time and energy that could be much better spent on other thoughts or activities.

What scarcity should never do is encourage the wrong person to buy the wrong product. It is about finding the right people – people who need what you sell and who you can genuinely help – and making the buying process easier for them.

Imagine if the parking website at the airport had let me know that the price they were offering was a special price only available for a limited time. And that if my plans did change, I could easily get a refund just by clicking a button. The price scarcity plus the elimination of a worry would have increased the likelihood of me booking the car park when I first found it.

Why scarcity is an HONEST tactic

Scarcity can have a bad rap, and it is true it is sometimes abused by less ethical businesses to force people into making decisions without doing due diligence.

A classic example of this is pushing people to commit and give credit card details on a chemistry call. Or falsely claiming there are a limited number of places on a course, or physical number of products available.

But used properly and ethically, scarcity is an honest marketing technique and, for all the reasons above, can actually help people save time, save money and get the help they need with much less agonising and time wasted.

How can you use scarcity in your marketing?

There are many different ways you can use scarcity in marketing to make it easier for your customers to make the right decision.

The first thing to note though, is that all these strategies should be used as part of an ethical marketing plan that reaches out to the right people and shares enough (accurate) information to help them make an informed and correct choice.

It’s also important that the motivation or limits to making a decision is appropriate to the purchase. For example, if you are selling tickets for an expensive programme that requires a big time commitment, you don’t want to force someone to make a decision in 30 minutes, without having time to review the marketing information or consult others.

With the above in mind, here are some ways you can use scarcity in your marketing:

  • You can offer a time-limited discount or extra bonus if a customer buys within a specific timeframe.
  • If you run courses, you can offer them as cohorts rather than giving the option to join at any time.
  • If you have an e-commerce website you can add an extra product at a discount at checkout.
  • You can let customers know how quickly products are selling or how many you have left.
  • You can offer limited edition products, or limited runs of products.

The idea behind all of these is to create some kind of ‘deadline’ to making a decision to purchase. To remove the option for someone to agonise for hours about a purchase, and make the right decision for themselves in a timely manner.

It is also important to ensure that your marketing gives people enough information to make a decision, but not so much information that you confuse them or cause them to get stuck in decision-making limbo.

How we are using scarcity

So how are we using scarcity in our own marketing? We have a number of free resources that help businesses with specific pain points, including writing sales emails, improving their sales, and writing a business plan.

For people who want to take that learning up a gear and get more help from us, we offer mini-courses. And once someone has completed our free resource, we reward them with a time-limited offer to access the appropriate mini-course.

This offer takes the form of a link to a special discount sales page that expires in 15 minutes. Why 15 minutes? Because the mini-course isn’t a big purchase, and is a natural next step to solve a problem. The sales page has enough information to make a decision and is short enough that you can easily read through it in that time.

We want to help you avoid my car park scenario, and waste time debating whether or not to make a purchase now. And to feel a pang of ‘Oh I still need to make a decision’ every time you see the open tab on your browser.

But more importantly, we want you to get access to the help we know you need as quickly, easily and cheaply as possible. And these offers achieve all three.

How can you use scarcity?

So how can you use scarcity in your marketing? Where do you think your customers get stuck in analysis paralysis? And how can you help them get the solution they need?

Think about all the ways you can create scarcity – while ensuring that you are genuinely giving your customers the resources they need to make an informed decision.

Get our free business and marketing resources

Like more help to grow your business and improve your marketing? You can get access to the three free resources I mention above right now via these links:

Photo by Markus Spiske