Blog: Available For A Limited Time Only!

My favorite part of almost every episode of Inspector Gadget was when Chief Quimby would show up in a garbage can (shown), or locker, or sewer grate and give Gadget his assignment.  The best part was that each time Gadget would finish the letter it would self-destruct, making the message all the more important and secret.  Well, Gadget would inadvertently trap it back with Quimby, resulting in the hilarious cartoon explosion of blackface followed by the Wah, Wah, Wah sound. Classic.

Yesterday, I picked up Zaxby’s for dinner for my wife and I and I noticed a sign that said something like: “Our 20th Anniversary Birthday Cake Milkshake Now Available.  Available for a limited time only!”  So I of course bought one, these kinds of specials don’t come around all the time, right?

In his book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion (non-affiliate link), Dr. Robert Cialdini talk about what he calls “The 6 Weapons of Influence”.  One weapon, which is an advertising and marketing tactic used for years is what is known as “Scarcity”.  Simply put, the tactic of scarcity creates not the desire to have something, but the desire to “not lose something.”  Opportunities seem more valuable when they are less available.  This is nothing new, we see it everyday.

Scarcifying Forever

This post isn’t about the time-tested tactic of scarcity and whether or not it’s effective (we all know it is), I’d like to ask a question today because I don’t really know the best answer.

Here’s the question:  How can the principle of scarcity be applied to what we do online since once something’s uploaded, it’s there forever?  Basically, how do we scarcify forever?

Here is what I imagine people will say and my thoughts/concerns in advance:

  • If it’s a video or ebook, only offer it for a few weeks for free them make it a “subscribers only” item or available for purchase.  This is actually the best idea I had thought of, but I’m still wary because once you put something out there on the Internet, how can you stop it from still being available other places after the deadline?
  • Use copyright on the information and them simply discontinue to service/product after the set date. It might be now illegal for someone else to copy it around the Internet, but lot’s of illegal things happen online.  What would be the best metrics/resource service to use to make sure it’s not still floating around out there?
  • Offer it for a “limited time only” in hopes to get people attached to the service or idea with the plan to continue it anyway. Sure, but that kind of feels like a cop-out.
  • Why would you offer something for a limited time only?  Don’t you want repeat business? The principle of scarcity works because the impending absence creates an additional value to what you are presenting.  Yes, I would like repeat business.

Okay, those are my thoughts, but I need yours.  What?  Not all blogs have all the answers.  I’m out here learning just like you.  So, leave your comments and ideas and maybe we can get a good discussion going on this topic, but act quickly, this blog is available for a limited time only and will self-destruct in 30 seconds.

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About Joey Strawn

Digital marketing sociologist and public relations specialist with experience on national and local campaigns with a love for film and the things it says about our culture and business. Joey is the Senior Social Media Strategist at ISM in Nashville, TN and is in the business of helping people and companies deal with the new universe of social media in their marketing and PR endeavors.
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5 Responses to Blog: Available For A Limited Time Only!

  1. John Morgan says:

    Joey,

    I use scarcity all the time in my marketing and teach my members to do the same. However, many times online it comes across as being fake. I never use scarcity unless it really is limited.

    For example, in our coaching program we do a lot of hands on work and one-on-one work with the members. Naturally we can’t work with 100’s or we’d never sleep. So it’s truly limited and when a spot is open it fills up quickly.

    On our basic level however, there is no limit to the number we can take on and therefore we do not.

    But there are some great ways to use scarcity that will help you.

    #1. The price. Just because it’s online doesn’t mean the price will be the same forever. Maybe you’ll sell the 1st 100 units at $___ but once those are gone the price will go up. Very good way to get the fence sitters to take action.

    #2. Bonuses. It’s always good to stack value and offer some bonuses. Sure they can buy the product online down the road but then the bonuses will no longer be offered. (Example: I’ve given away free tickets to events as a bonus before. Obviously that’s a limited time bonus because once the event is done who needs a ticket 🙂

    As you can see there are many ways to use it effectively. The key is to be honest about it.

    • Joey Strawn says:

      Those are great ideas, John! Thanks for stopping by and commenting today. To be honest, I hadn’t thought of those options and am very glad you posted them. That was the whole reason behind the blog.

      I guess it comes down to control what you can control. You might not be able to control it being on the (as my grandmother says) Interweb forever, but you can control how much it costs and the bonuses that are attached. Thanks for the wonderful insights and continue to stay awesome!

    • John – I definitely see the value of using scarcity in coaching programs – you can only take on so many people at a time in a good coaching program.

  2. Here’s another real question that seems to be on a lot of minds these days:

    I see your scarcity tactic

    but is it just that – a tactic?

    I’m wondering how many people get turned off rather than turned on by the scarcity thing?

    • Joey Strawn says:

      I agree totally. That’s basically what I was referring to as a cop-out in my pre-response section. It seems sketchy when people offer something “For a limited time” and you know it’s really not. No consumer wants to think that they are just tactic-fodder.

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