Use Scarcity To Sell, Not Scare


Takeaway selling, for the uninitiated, is a way to limit the supply of a product or service in some way to increase scarcity of an offer. Because it’s a proven fact that scarcity sells. It’s the age ol’ law of supply and demand. The less the supply, the greater the demand, as people don’t know how much they want something until it’s about to be taken away from them.

As Jim Rohn once said, “Without a sense of urgency, desire loses its value.” Why? Because procrastination is the biggest killer of sales — particularly online where the chances of a prospect staying on or returning to a website (in order to think about buying), in today’s click-happy world, are scarce.

It’s like the time you walk into a department store and check out a new shirt you’re interested in. Since there’s none in your size, you ask the sales representative if one is available. The clerk goes into the backroom, and emerges a few moments later, saying, “I found one in your size, but it’s the only one we have left in stock.”

Now, how much more desirous are you in that shirt?

I’m a firm believer, and I’ve grown even more convinced over time, that great copy is not meant to induce action, especially online — it’s really meant to prevent procrastination. Why? Because copy should not sell people and pressure them per se. It should help them buy what you sell and prevent them from making a wrong decision.

And procrastination is a decision in itself — a bad decision at that.

Online, people find your site through research, searching for specific information. Or they were propelled to visit your site through some affiliate promotion, ad or offer made elsewhere. So to a large degree, and unlike the offline world, they’re pre-qualified. They’re interested. They’re in the market. (Granted, not all the time. But again, they are to a great degree — at least to a greater degree than a bunch of people on a direct mail list you have no knowledge of, other than some basic demographic data.)

Nevertheless, as the saying goes, “People don’t like to be sold. But people love to buy.” So scarcity, used properly, helps them buy — and not pressure them to act. Look at it this way: if you give a chance for your prospects to procrastinate, they will. Guaranteed.

So use takeaway selling in order to stop people from procrastinating rather than getting them to take action now. In other words, shape your offer — and not just your product or service — so that it is time-sensitive or quantity-bound. More important, give a reasonably logical explanation to justify your time-sensitivity or else your sales tactic will be instantly discredited as it appears disingenuous.

How do you do that?

I’ve always used one of three ways…

In my experience, there 3 types of takeaways you can use:

1) Limiting the time
2) Limiting the quantity
3) Limiting the offer

The first is done by adding a deadline on the offer. A realistic deadline, and not some script that changes everyday. For instance, how many times have you come across a salesletter where the offer had a deadline, which seemed to “magically” bump ahead each time you visited the website? That’s what I mean. (People are not stupid!)

This is done very well when the product or the price is changing after the deadline, or simply no longer available or temporarily inaccessible. Take Thomas Pierce’s, for example, which is no longer for sale. Well, for now at least.

The second is limiting the number of units (stock) or openings (clients) available. Again, back it up with a realistic reason. Something logical. Something justifiable and real. Perhaps it’s “fire sale” (products discounted because of minimal cosmetic damage, for example), or perhaps it’s a way to deplete old stock and to make way for the new.

Whatever the reason, as long as it’s credible and logical, scarcity can become a powerful too. Remember, people buy on emotion first and then justify their decisions with logic. In fact, if you give them logical explanations in your copy further down, many will actually use your suggestions — whether consciously or unconsciously — as a way to back up their purchasing decisions.

You make the excuses for them. You make them feel as if they “own” your reasons for buying now, in other words.

In terms of services, this is done by limiting the number of people for a number of reasons — such as a service provider who can only take on a certain number of clients because there are so many hours in the day, or because it would dilute the value of the service. Etc, etc, etc.

Also, even making the offer something that’s secretive, exclusive or otherwise unavailable to the general public, can arouse stronger motives in the psyche of your readers. People are intrinsically curious. And people always love to get some kind of “insider’s edge” over the rest of the world.

Take my friend Ryan Deiss’ private site, for example. They currently have an extensive waiting list and only open their “doors” every so often for a very specific number of new members. Once they’ve reached that number, the offer is “closed.”

The third is the offer. And this is done through limiting other elements that are part of the offer, such as the guarantee, the bonuses/premiums, the price (not a discount, but perhaps an imminent increase in price, perhaps to cover the extra costs in dealing with more customers), the packaging (perhaps since the product is bundled with other products or components that won’t be available after “X” amount sold), the extras (perhaps as in free support, free installation or free shipping, etc), and so on.

I like them all, especially when the product is truly limited, such as Frank Kern and Ed Dale’s recent Underachiever Mastery course I wrote the copy for, which was strictly limited to 700 packages, and the site was taken down once they’ve reached the limit.

(The reason? The course helps people make money with tiny, ultra-targeted niches, where very little competition if any exists. But if too many people bought the course, then chances are that the competition in any given niche will grow and thus lessen the potential profitability of people buying and applying the techniques in the course.)

But for convenience and flexibility, I prefer the “fire sale” as well as the third (which is limiting the offer, especially with bonuses and extras). Because often, bonuses can be limited and changed, without limiting the sales of the core product or service.

This not only creates more believability (because it reduces the perception of the owner’s “control” over the limitation, which may appear as self-serving or manipulative), but also reduces skepticism as the bonus may actually have been sold elsewhere or is currently being sold elsewhere, and therefore the 3rd party may put a limit on the quantity to distribute.

For example, I did this with Stephen Pierce’s copy I wrote, where Stephen was giving away a software program that complemented his infoproduct he was selling — one that was truly being sold by someone else on another website at a real price. Stephen managed to secure permission to distribute only a certain number of copies from the 3rd party as a free bonus to his infoproduct, making the offer truly scarce and valuable.

In negotiation skills training, they call this approach the “higher authority” or “third party” gambit, where the limitation is outside of the owner’s control — making the takeaway truly a takeaway, and not some manipulative ploy.

This is crucial, because too many people use takeaway these days as a tactic, not as a reason.

So add a deadline to your offer, limit the number of products you sell (or the number of new members you allow to join), or shape your entire offer so that one of more elements are limited.

Again, there is a caveat: to make sure that people believe your need to limit the offer, give a reasonable and logical explanation to justify your time-sensitivity, or else your tactic will be instantly discredited.

Here are some examples.

If you add a deadline or limit the number of members you accept, you must explain why you’re doing so. But you can also be vague, too. (Although a real, tangible deadline is best.) Here’s an example of what I put on some sales letters I’ve written — they sell memberships to private sites and offer personal consulting to their members:

Example #1:

“To be candid with you, I don’t know how long I’m going to keep the doors open to new members since this information is extremely sensitive and limited. I don’t want to dilute the value of this information for my paid members. If you were a member, wouldn’t you want the same, too? So, I must restrict the number of users for quality control purposes.”

(In the above case, it is very true. The author sells access to a limited number of “hot” real estate opportunities that he finds through his unique system, which he also teaches his members. If too many people join and get their hands on the opportunities or the system, it will surely lower the value of the information to the member-base, and contradict the whole purpose of the site, which is to gain access to hot, insider’s information. Otherwise, why would one join?)

Example #2:

“We’re only human, and there are only so many hours in a day and so many people we can physically attend to! So, in order to limit the number of hours of coaching we do provide, we must put a cap on the number of new members for obvious reasons. We can only guarantee that people who sign up through [date] will qualify for membership, completely custom-tailored support and this incredible set of free bonuses worth over $[amount]! ‘You snooze, you lose’. So, join today. I’d hate to put you on a milelong waiting list!”

(This example demonstrates the importance of the support they offer private members and, at the same time, drives home the idea that such a service is limited. I’m sure the owners can hire part-time help, if the need ever arose. But nothing can replace expertise that comes from straight the experts — the more people join, the more individualized coaching they must provide, and the less time they have.)

Example #3:

“If you act by midnight, Friday on [date], you will get the 3 bonuses included with your special offer. But keep in mind, however, that these bonuses come from various third parties, including [3rd party name], over which we have no control, and can be removed at any time without notice. I’ve only secured permission to give away [amount] copies of this bonus bundle. So the time to act is now!”

(The above is an example of the 3rd approach, where the offer is limited through a bonus. You can also accomplish this by tailoring your offer, or even making a special backend or alternative offer to an accumulated list of non-buyers, after they’ve seen the original offer.)

So, add some kind of constraint, such as a time-limited or quantity-bound offer. Such limitations implore at some unconscious level, “You better read this and take action now!” But above all, always make sure to back up your limitation with a logical, genuine and easily justifiable reason in order not to appear misleading or disingenuous.

For the more you make them feel that procrastination is a bad decision, the more people will feel compelled to buy of their volition — and not pressured into buying.

About the Author: Michel Fortin is a direct response copywriter, author, speaker and consultant. Watch him rewrite copy on video each month, and get tips and tested conversion strategies proven to boost response in his membership site at today.

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *