As I may have mentioned once or twice (!), last Tuesday – 31st March – was the last day to apply for the £2000 Government Growth Voucher. This is a scheme that has been running for 15 months. Now, I know the Government didn’t make a great job of promoting the scheme but I’m not sure that alone explains the behaviour I’ve experienced in this last week. Because I have had more enquiries in the last 10 days than in the previous 10 months. Seriously. It has gone berserk here – in a good way!
One of the things I teach when I’m working with clients is Robert Cialdini’s brilliant work ‘Influence’ – what he describes as the ‘psychology of persuasion’. One of the key ‘weapons’ of influence he talks about is SCARCITY which, in marketing terms, manifests itself either as a deadline – scarcity of time available – or there being only a limited number available.
The fact is we find it incredibly stressful to have our options limited in this way and we are compelled to act.
If you’re interested in the theory, Ciladini explains this by referring to ‘psychological reactance theory’ which was developed by a chap called Jack Brehm. He explains that, as our opportunities – or freedoms – are threatened, our desire to reassert control becomes overwhelming.
So when scarcity is increased – or the time to access is decreased – we will instinctively react against the interference by wanting the item more than ever before. And one easy way to regain our freedoms and put ourselves back in control is to buy or possess the item under threat.
The evidence is all around you …
Theory aside, you only have to watch the opening day at Harrods Sale to know this is not fanciful stuff. As I recall, someone died in the crush due the manic crowd wanting to access the amazing one-off bargains at a new IKEA in West London some years back. The local branch of Next has a queue around the block at 4am on Boxing Day each year for their sale – they employ people to manage the crowd and hand out bin liners to assist people with their shopping. Extraordinary behaviour.
And don’t fall into the trap of thinking ‘I can’t use scarcity or deadlines in my business’. Yes you can. Everyone can. Whether it’s limited a limited time to access a special rate for a new product, or only people who register by X time will be eligible for the bonus service. Having a limited number of slots for new clients or only so many spaces on any given programme.
Even running events and webinars with their built-in deadlines give you scope for creating a marketing buzz and getting people talking about you and demonstrating the behaviour you want. And, if you’re struggling, one of the best ways to get great ideas is to watch what other people do and adapt them for your business.
So, thank you Mr Government for creating a deadline in my business – all I had to do was pick the ball up and run with it.