Master Urgency, Master Money
This scarcity formula = Alchemy
If you want to make the big bucks, you have to master urgency. Nothing will impact the perception of value on what you sell than its perceived scarceness.
Using urgency in marketing is so powerful it can sell crappy products that otherwise wouldn’t make a dime. At its worst, urgency is a manipulative tool which breeds buyer’s remorse. At its best, urgency can bring out the best in you. It compels action. It increases output. It prioritizes what to focus on.
The trick is in how you use urgency to better yourself and your market in addition to your bottom line.
To wield the power properly, use this formula:
Truth + Believability = Powerful Ethical Scarcity.
Let’s break it down.
You can dupe people into making a resource seem scarce when it isn’t. One of the all time great scams was DeBeers making you think diamonds are these rare minerals and since there are so few, they must be worth a lot!
In the marketing world, you probably have seen a webinar where someone says “We’re only selling 50 units and that’s it!” Almost never is that true. Logically, it wouldn’t make that much sense to spend so much time and effort on a product that you’d only sell so few of.
Most marketers lie here because it’s easy, more so than because they’re sleazy. These marketers know that if you make something seem limited, its demand will naturally go up. But how long do you think you can run this con before people start to become suspicious? And if you’re willing to lie about this, it will cast a shadow on everything else you say.
With a bit more thought, we can use effective scarcity that is also true, such as: “This deal is only available until the end of the webinar.” Then if you sell 1 or 1000, it’s still true. In fact, it can be spun as a benefit - “So therefore, I’m going to stay on and answer every question about this offer to make sure if it makes sense for you to buy it or not.”
I have yet to encounter an instance where TRUE scarcity was inferior to FAKE scarcity from a REVENUE standpoint. It just takes a bit more thinking. But it’s time well spent, because the result is something ethical, legal and more profitable.
Sometimes the truth can be stranger than fiction so you have to make sure people understand WHY the thing is scarce. Bonus points if the WHY is logical. Even better if its at YOUR expense. To help you understand, let me give you 10 examples I’ve used in the real world to make a real fortune.
If too many had this, it may be lose its effectiveness.
We had a software for 7-figure Amazon sellers several years back that was so effective, it put products at the top of search results that otherwise had no right to be there. We knew if we let this out to the free market, not only would everybody use it (and abuse it!), we’d have 150 knockoffs of the damn thing in a month. Instead, we cautiously rolled it out, first to 100 buyers, then to 300 buyers, and finally we capped it at 500 buyers.
It wasn’t a gimmick. We didn’t know how many users to let loose with it. By severely limiting it, we made sure the right users got it and used it properly - and we keyed in on the brands who would get the most benefit from it. By the time we exited the software, we had sold close to $10 million dollars of it.
It’s a lot of manual labor, so I’m reserving it for the most committed.
In a different Amazon offer, we had a bonus where we’d produce a list of 20 leads that a customer of ours could follow up with to try to become an authorized reseller for that brand. These were unique to each customer who bought the offer. As you can imagine, they were a lot of work to put together and had to be done by hand.
We weren’t the publisher for this product, just the marketing arm. So we’d beg the publisher to give us as many of these as possible to distribute as bonuses since we didn’t have to do any of the work to fulfill :) They’d come back and low ball us, and we’d haggle to get the number higher. Great! Now I can go to the market and tell them that I went to bat for them to get as many of these bonuses as possible, but I have a problem of who I can distribute the bonus to. I only want to give it to those who are most likely to use it so I offer it only on webinars for people who show up and stay on the whole time.
I’m contractually obligated.
About ten years ago we had this bright idea to go to other brands and get them to let us resell their “old” products at a greater discount than had ever been offered before. The rationale was there is a lot of good products collecting dust out there and we could breathe new life into them.
The deals we aimed at getting on these products were so ridiculous - true pennies on the dollars - we were genuinely concerned that there could be backlash from customers who paid full price for those products in years past.
In order to get these deals to close, we drew up a contract that stipulated we were only allowed to sell these products for as long as we were doing the web event. The moment we were no longer live, our reseller contract expired. This resulted in the longest webinar I ever personally did - 14 hours!
The single most powerful scarcity I’ve ever used is when I can show you the contract. I am legally not allowed to sell it to you after a certain time.
I haven’t prettied it up yet.
We did a $57.9 million dollar launch in 226 days on the back of this one. The hook was that the opportunity was so important, we didn’t want to delay putting it out there to the point that we didn’t have a proper members area yet, no logo for the product had been created, we didn’t even know how many modules it would take to teach, or even the best way to teach it. But we knew the thing worked so we rolled it out “beta” style.
We took on groups of people to go through the course. In exchange for it yet being smoothed out and packaged up nicely, we offered a nice discount and we’d throw in access to the full, final product when it was done.
When I’d pitch it, I’d say something like this: “The Mona Lisa is still the Mona Lisa whether its hanging up in the art gallery or hidden in the corner of a dark warehouse.” I’d also sometimes use this close: “I’m sliding it over the table to you in a brown paper bag. But you’d agree with me that if something truly is special, it doesn’t matter if it comes in a fancy package or not. It’s what’s inside that matters. We know that to sell it to the masses, we need to make it look pretty. But for those who get it, you know that the gift wrap doesn’t matter. It’s what’s inside the box.”
I hook up my favorite people.
Before I’d roll a campaign out to the world at large, I’d test it on my existing customer list. Because I didn’t have to pay for this traffic, nor put time into finding this audience, I could “pass the savings” onto my customers. Essentially the pitch is: “I reward people I like, and in business the people I like most are those that pay me money. Since you’ve paid me money, I’m going to give you the best deal possible. The only catch is it’s limited…” to whatever time frame is appropriate for the offer and circumstance.
If you earn it, I’ll give you a deal.
On occasion we’ve used the “Scholarship Model” for certain offers that, no matter what we do, we can’t get the cost down to a level that is palatable to the core audience. In these situations then, we make them earn their discount. Sometimes it’s a matter of writing out an essay and plan of action. Other instances it’s getting on a call and selling us on why they deserve the discount. We always limit the scholarships - otherwise it’d just be a gimmick.
Frankly, I don’t like giving away scholarships because it eats the margins of the product but I can’t deny the fact of its potency to increase sales significantly and create some really great customers results we’d otherwise miss out on.
Want to be my guinea pig?
Maybe my favorite reason why. The frame is “I don’t know if this will work. If it does - and I think it should - then it’ll pay off big. But if it doesn’t, you’ll be out your full money and some effort with nothing to show for it. Are you up for that risk?” It’s amazing how many people will respond to such an offer to be a pioneer.
Bonus points if you qualify it further: “I only want you to do this if you can lose $2,000 without losing a second of sleep. I don’t want you to lose it, I don’t think you will lose it, but I have no idea - this is unchartered territory, so I only want to work with those who CAN lose it if all goes south.”
Once upon a time we were partners on a software called WP Enlighten that was like a precursor to Click Funnels. We were too early to market with it - a lesson for another article - but how we rolled it out was masterful. We invited audiences to a webinar under the context that we were so happy to FINALLY be able to reveal this software that, in our delirium, we would make a deal that wouldn’t make sense logically or financially.
Taking it a step further, I said I didn’t even care if you bought, I just needed people to celebrate with, and to cap the celebration we’d be making a one time offer NEVER to be made again. The whole webinar was one long product demo and it crushed.
The product is flawed. I need to get rid of it.
I first caught wind of this one in the ancient Robert Collier Letter Book (written about 100 years ago). Essentially, Collier would sell all sorts of product by mail - from books to underwear! Some of his best promotions were on “damaged goods” - products that were essentially only cosmetically flawed, with no harm to the actual utility of the product. It was naturally limited in quantity, and the reason why was usually “it’s taking up space in our warehouse.”
An unscrupulous individual may decide to specifically DAMAGE products or intentionally misprint them in order to use this reason why. I wouldn’t go that far, but you can’t deny its power. The problem with discounts is they are often not believed. Consumers think you just artificially jacked the price up to cut it, so it’s not a real discount. Not the case with a damaged good sale.
I need money to make it.
Example: “I have two options. I can build it all on my own and spend another 6 months finishing this off and then sell the product to you at retail. Or, if you care to be one of [x] to buy it today, I can take your payment and hire the right team and get it in your hands in just 1 month from now. In short, you can get it for much less and get it sooner if you want to be one of our founding clients…”
I’ve used a variation of this many times and it almost always sells out without fail. The caveat is you have to people who already trust you and you better be able to deliver or you’ll lose more in reputation than you make in sales.
Try some of these examples on, tweaking them to match the context and flavor of your personality and offer. If you get good with these, start coming up with your own. Regardless, if you master this equation:
Truth + Believability = Powerful Ethical Scarcity
It will be one of the most effective money-making skills you can learn.