Time, Please!

“Without a sense of urgency, desire loses its value.” – Jim Rohn

Mill Brow sits on the hills atop Marple. And though it is just a fleck on even the most detailed maps of this part of England, the hamlet is huge for me … because this is where my dad was born.

The old granite house he lived in as a young child was converted into a pub after World War II. Late-night revelry there now ends shortly after 11:00 p.m. when the landlord rings the bell and announces, “Time, please!”

The next words out of the landlord’s lips – “Last orders!” – brings a flurry of activity. Wine, pints of foaming ale, and whisky chasers are ordered for downing in the next 30 minutes, before official “chucking out time.”

Pubs in Britain are open 12 hours a day, but there’s no greater buying rush than those last few minutes before closing time. People will come to the pubs just for last orders, acting as if they’ll never again be able to buy alcohol.

There’s a marketing lesson to be learned here. Because if you can set similar deadlines in the minds of your customers, you too will create wildly enthusiastic buyers for whatever you’re selling.

The most effective marketing campaigns don’t come from saying, “We’re open all the time. Just pop ’round whenever you are ready to buy. We’ll be here.” They come from suggesting that if your customers don’t take action NOW, they will lose the opportunity. (“Order now! Don’t delay.”)

Think of how you feel when you are up against a deadline. Rushed? Pressured? Stressed? Anxious? Excited? As a marketer, you create a deadline by saying that you have a limited supply of your product that will run out (as the recent rush to buy PlayStation 3 reminded me) … or that it is so exclusive it’s available to only a limited number of people … or that it will only be available for a very short time. In doing so, you create a sense of urgency, a feeling that your prospect must act immediately.

You can also play to your prospect’s self-created deadline (“Christmas is only three weeks away!”) or perception of a deadline (“I need to lose weight soon”).

The sense of urgency is a powerful emotion. And once you’ve created that sense of urgency, you’ll be communicating with a more motivated person.

But you cannot set artificial deadlines.

For example, just because you, Ms. Enthusiastic Marketer, would like to press your prospect to buy your product, you cannot reasonably say “Only 10 available” if that’s not true.

Here are some ideas for deadlines you can use to motivate people to take action:

  • Order now. The first 10 people who order will receive, absolutely free, a one-hour telephone consultation with leading business guru O.K. Business.
  • Membership in this exclusive club is strictly limited. Once we’ve sold 100 memberships, that’s it. The club is then closed to all new applications.
  • 475 Fortune 500 CEOs can’t be wrong. Order online now, and within one minute you will have the secret to doubling your professional fees.
  • Call now for an instant decision, and see how you can get a 0%, no-fee card that suits your lifestyle.
  • The last time we offered this, we sold out our entire stock within 12 hours. We’ve been able to secure a few more … but you need to order now to avoid disappointment.
  • This offer expires in 24 hours. Order now to ensure you don’t miss out.
  • Your baby is due in just 12 weeks, but is the nursery ready?! This book and free DVD will show you how to create a special place for your baby in just half a day!

You can also do a countdown to a specific date or quantity on your order form:

  • There are only 100 (with the 100 crossed out and 37 “handwritten” above it) spots left, and we expect to sell out in just 13 hours!
  • Only five places remain. Remember, we won’t be offering this seminar again until 2009!

Another possibility is to offer information about an exclusive event, but require your prospects to give you their e-mail address to find out more. Then you send them e-mails extolling the virtues of your event and counting down to a specific date … reminding them that they have only seven … no, three … no, just one day left to sign up or they’ll lose their chance.

You’ll get even more ideas that you can adapt for your own marketing campaigns from the direct-mail and online promotions you receive, and by watching QVC and the Home Shopping Network on TV.

The best part about this marketing tactic is that it is almost universally applicable.

I’m often asked what to do if you sell a finite collection of products that people can buy anywhere. If that’s the case, you can create urgency or exclusivity just by adding on bonus items that create a unique or special value that’s available only from your company. For example, if you sell snow shovels, you could include a pair of insulated leather gloves with Kevlar palms that keep you warm and help prevent blisters … then put a time limit on this special offer.

No doubt about it, setting a time limit on your offer can dramatically boost your sales. A number of marketers have done “split tests,” where they split their mailing list in two and offer the same sales promotion to both halves … but add a time limit to one of them. The time-limited half almost always outperforms the “non-urgent”one, usually quite significantly.

There are many ways to use this marketing technique in your business. It will be well worth your while to spend some time brainstorming ways to increase the desirability of your product by creating deadlines in your customer’s mind.

[Ed. Note: David Cross is Senior Internet Consultant for Agora Publishing in Baltimore.]