The Science of Persuasion – How to Use Scarcity

science of persuasion - scarcity

We’ve previously covered The Science of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini and specifically discussed how 2 of his 6 principles of persuasion (Consensus and Consistency) can be applied by our target market – emerging B2B tech companies thinking BIG.

This post looks in more detail at how we might apply the principle of Scarcity – particularly from the point of view of inbound marketing.

Very briefly, The Science of Persuasion tells us the 6 shortcuts that people make in their decision making, particularly in our complex world which is so full of choice and demands on our time.

The principle of Scarcity says that people want more of those things they can have less of, meaning they are more motivated to act by the fear of what they’ll miss out on rather than by what they’ll gain.

It may seem that this principle is one that belongs in the world of B2C with its ‘Buy Now, Save 20%’ marketing approach, but the principle of Scarcity also has a role in B2B and is something you can leverage in your business.

Here’s a simple example to begin with. Let’s say you’re running a webinar. Using “Don’t Miss Out…” in the subject line of the e-mail invitation you send to your prospects will produce a much higher open rate than something more traditional along the lines of “Learn How…” This leverages the motivation not to miss out rather than what they’ll gain (learn). The same principle can be applied to other marketing efforts for the webinar.

Time-based scarcity is another relevant example. Typical for growing B2B tech companies would be the end of quarter (or year end) deal – trying to get a deal closed using special pricing only available for a short period (e.g. before the end of the quarter). This can work and a savvy buyer may play along for the better price if they ‘like’ you (see the principle of Liking).

However, if you play this Scarcity card badly, you may not get the deal closed and you’ve revealed a lower pricing point to the buyer who may look to apply this in the subsequent period. Yes, you can explain that the lower price was a one-time offer but there’s the potential for creating a bad taste in the buyer’s mouth. Also, don’t make the offer in the first place unless you’re sure the buyer can go through their internal purchasing cycle in line with the terms of your offer.

Similarly, “pricing is going up from next year so get your orders closed beforehand and don’t miss out!”

Time is just one resource that can be used to produce scarcity. Limiting the number of participants for a webinar can work if you explain why there’s a limitation. Maybe you want a limited group for an exclusive Q&A with you?

Perhaps you have a separate implementation service for your product and you offer free implementations for all new customers before the end of the year. Or, if you offer different levels of implementation service – all new customers this quarter receive a free upgrade to the next level of implementation.

You can play tunes on the principle of Scarcity. The bottom line is that people are more motivated by missing out than they are by gaining. What can you do in your business?

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