The use of urgency in marketing is nothing new, limited time offers have been around since well before the internet began and they’ll likely be around for a long time yet to come. However the internet has brought with it this trend of just using urgency as a marketing tool – even when there really is no urgency – and that’s what I want to talk about today.
This post will be borderline rant, so I warn you it may get lengthy.
Let’s look at some hypothetical examples and compare the hypothetical results…
Scenario #1: Three Month (90 day) Training Course
You create a training program to teach about something you know. That something could be how to play the guitar, how to set up a blog, how to tie your shoes, how to fill in the blank with anything you know how to do and others want to learn how to do.
You plan to offer live Q&A calls once per week so this training course has a definitive start and end date, therefore to be included in the calls a person must register by a certain day. Of course you say as much on your squeeze page and you may send out reminders to your list that the last registration day is approaching. Maybe you even do a countdown; three days left, two days left, one day left, registrations are closed. Then you close the registration page and you begin your course with your students.
That is one example of a proper use of urgency in marketing materials. If the person wants to attend the live version of the course they need to register by that day or they’ll miss out on the opportunity to ask their questions on the calls. Being on the live call is a huge value point and should be expressed through urgency. You might offer a replay of the audios (or videos) and training materials bundled together later on as an ongoing promotion that is open-ended forever and ever – that is totally fine and a very smart use of content that you’ve already created.
This is where things could potentially go sour though.
Let’s say you take the replay recordings and you package up with those materials, you even include some great bonuses. Then you say “buy now, only available at this low price for three days” – and you leave that message up forever trying to convince everyone that visits the page that they’ve landed on amazing discounted price. You promote this frequently and the whole internet sees you doing so. Maybe you even have affiliates who promote this for you. You expect cash to come rolling in from the countryside.
Newsflash: no one believes you.
Your sales page never changes, your pitch and price is always the same. In my own opinion, you’re throwing your integrity as a business person in the trash can when you use blatant false urgency calls to action.
People are not the fools you think they are. You’ve just insulted the intelligence of your customer and they are going to click away and go find someone who has more respect for them.
Scenario #2: Membership Site
Let’s say you have a useful monthly membership that helps people do XYZ and your database is packed with resources for the low price of $10 per month. You throw in surprise bonuses from time to time that make your members swoon with adoration and they become a loyal active community that will stand behind you on everything. Awesome!
When you’ve done that, it’s beautiful and if you want to see more income then make those loyal active community members your affiliates, pay them a commission, and they will shout from the rooftops about you. Chances are they would shout from the rooftops about you even without a commission, but that monetary incentive gets them shouting a little louder.
Unfortunately, membership sites are often the ones that most frequently abuse the use of urgency and create false claims. You’ll frequently find membership sites where the portal says the price is a limited time offer, but it has been that same limited time offer for two years, three years, five years… Again, you’re not fooling anyone. We see through your fake limited time offer and we’re not buying.
Another thing membership sites will claim is that membership is limited. Something like “only 200 spots” or whatever. Now, many niche communities are limited in size because they are limited in resources. That’s perfectly okay. What’s not okay is pretending that you only have X number of spots and just leaving the registration open. Do what you say you’re going to do. If you change your mind, change your description.
Bottom line, be honest about what you’re offering potential members. If folks sign up and they see you’re not doing the things you said you were going to do when they signed up, guess what? They’ll just leave and never come back.
Scenario #3: “Live” Webinar Training
This is another one we see often where there can be both real urgency and false urgency used in marketing. You’re offering a live webinar on your favorite topic and you’re going to share some sort of visual presentation. Cool beans. You have a date and a time all set, your webinar room only holds 100 or 200 people depending on the software you’re using. That’s pretty common and a good reason to encourage sign ups. Just like in the training course we talked about earlier you have a definitive start date, and in this case you even have a specific start time.
You sell all the seats and the presentation is a success. You offer a nice call to action at the end and everyone compliments you on a job well done. You now have 100 happy customers that are in your funnel. Congrats.
Where this scenario tends to go sour is when you take the replay and you pretend it’s live. You promote it as “live webinar today” to everyone, every day, every hour, and the buyer is redirected to a replay of your event where they cannot interact with you. They expected a live event and they are not fooled by your replay.
What really frustrates me here is that most people are more than willing to purchase a replay of an event they know they missed out on! By pretending to be live and serving up a replay you’re insulting your customers intelligence. Take that replay, get it transcribed, have a full package of video, transcript, checklist, worksheets, and all that great stuff together and sell that instead of your “pretending to be live” recording. As a side note, it’s also nice to send those extra things to the people who attended the webinar live, they’ll appreciate you all the more for it.
If you’re using false urgency in your marketing then you’re missing a huge opportunity to attract affiliates.
Your affiliates aren’t fools either. They realize when you are creating these false claims, imaginary deadlines, and nonexistent limits. You should also be aware that many of your affiliates may also be your customers. They are recommending you because they bought from you and they liked what they received. When you use a false sense of scarcity/urgency these affiliates are often the first to know and they will often stop recommending you if they think your marketing message is no longer in line with their business ideas and ethics.
When did we become so inconsiderate in our marketing efforts?
Let’s say you have 120 loyal affiliates with various degrees of reach and you run a limited time offer through them for one week at a hugely discounted price and ask your affiliates plus a few JV partners to promote the deal heavily for you. You tell them that this offer will only be available at this price one time – ever – period. They of course promote it because you offered up a great value and they want to share that with their own list, group, friends, etc… The promotion is a smashing success and everyone makes extra money.
But then two weeks later you want more money, so you decide to run the exact same promotion through your affiliates again and leave it open for six weeks. No one promotes it. Know why? Because two weeks ago you told them that this offer would never be available ever again and that’s what they told their lists, their groups, their friends because they trusted you to be honest with them. They don’t like to made the fool and they will likely never promote you again once you’ve lost their trust.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on the use of urgency/scarcity -real and fake- in marketing. Leave a comment below and let’s discuss!
P.S. Thank you for making it to the end of this lengthy article. I turned off the sidebar => so that the page wouldn’t have quite as much scroll and so that we could focus on having some discussion below. I look forward to your comments.
P.S.S. All examples and scenarios in this post are hypothetical and made up from crazy things that I’ve seen people doing online in the past few years, some with affiliate marketing and others with just crap marketing. Please do not take offense from any of my made up examples in this rant.
Transcriptionist, passionate cross stitcher, writer at heart, wife, mom, and finder of lost shoes… Loretta Oliver, married to the comic book geek of her dreams and mother of four amazing young men, has been working from home full time since 2001. With a busy transcription service business, a few niche sites, and a handful of other internet marketing projects on the go, the computer is always fired up and the ideas are always flowing.