Scarcity and marketing: We want what we cannot have (easily)

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scarcity principle
scarcity principle
From: Persuasive Web: Where Psychology Meets Conversion
Connecting Emotionally With Users Online Is NOT Just About the Emotional Benefits of Using Your Product

There’s plenty of behavioural science behind the seemingly obvious economic principle about scarcity. If we are marketing something that is scarce, rare, in short supply (or which will soon be that way, or even better, unavailable) then demand skyrockets and prices go up. Even more powerfully, if we sense we are about to lose something, we may suddenly “want” it more than before. This is the scarcity principle at work. See this cited Wikipedia reference:

Numerous studies have been conducted on the topic of scarcity in social psychology. One of which sought to examine the effects of scarcity rhetoric in a job advertisement for restaurant server positions. Subjects were presented with two help-wanted ads. One of which suggested numerous job vacancies, while the other suggested that very few were available. The study found that subjects who were presented with the advertisement that suggested limited positions available viewed the company as being a better one to work for than the one that implied many job positions were available. Subjects also felt that the advertisement that suggested limited vacancies translated to higher wages. In short, subjects placed a positive, higher value on the company that suggested that there were scarce job vacancies available.[3]

So, how do you apply this principle in enhancing your marketing effectiveness in AEC practices? Well, if you know you have something or there is some situation where scarcity applies, certainly let others know — especially if it is something they currently have, but won’t have much longer.  You can set time limits for availability (perhaps based on factual circumstances). You can demonstrate competition for your services and make it clear that if the first purchaser doesn’t do business with you, a second is waiting in the wings to go forward.

Like all social psychology, these concepts can be abused, and if they are (and you are caught out) you will experience the effects of “negative reciprocity.”  For example, some Internet marketers use a time clock indicating the offer will soon end. Unfortunately for the credibility here, if you go back to the same offer the next day, you’ll see the same time clock and “disappearing” offer.  This doesn’t work. What would work is, if you know there is demand for something, establishing that there is a limited number and posting that number — and showing its decline (hopefully rapidly). Just don’t return with the same offer (especially to the same audience) the next day.

I think that, for practical purposes, it is hard to systematize scarcity in your marketing. After all, you have genuine economic scarcity issues, you don’t really need to do much in the way of marketing, and if you try to fake it till you make it, you will likely be exposed as a fraud. Proceed with caution.

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