After my wife passed, I decided to relocate into a smaller home and my current home is up for sale. Moving always reminds me of something that happened when I was shopping for a new home in the past.
Part of the process was furniture shopping. Since we were slated to move several months down the road, I was looking for an extended layaway plan that would help me temporarily store the furniture until I move into the new house.
But something strange happened, which reminded me of the power of applying pressure in copywriting.
After shopping around a few stores, I came across a big chain department store that carried what I was looking for — a bed, a couch, a dinner table, and chairs, all at reasonable prices. (In fact, they were all on special, which was nice.)
I walked in, spoke to a salesperson and asked if they had an extended layaway plan. After I asked him, he used what seemed to be the “good cop, bad cop” routine on me, which is a common sales tactic I'm all too familiar with.
“Let me check with my manager,” he said. He left, spoke with someone in the neighboring electronics department who obviously didn't look like a “manager.” (In fact, the person seemed like a normal sales rep from the electronics department.)
Five minutes later, he returned, and said:
“Sure, but my manager said only if you buy today.”
Huh? Ya, right.
Now, I may be naive at times. But I used to be a salesperson, too. I even use urgency tactics in my copy all the time. But I hate using pressure tactics when they are glaringly obvious. (And I certainly hate it when they're applied on me.)
What was important was the layaway plan. The availability of the furniture was also important, yet the salesperson thought the pricing was the issue and focused on the layaway request as a way to apply pressure.
He didn't ask why I needed those pieces of furniture. And he certainly didn't ask why I needed the layaway plan. He simply assumed that all I wanted was a layaway plan to take advantage of the special pricing.
So, realizing the salesperson's tactics, I looked at my watch, nodded, and decided to leave in order to “think about it.”
That wasn't the end of it.
The salesperson made a valiant effort to get my money that day. He threw several offers at me — again, without asking any further questions. He never even bothered explaining why he needed the money today if I wanted a layaway plan.
(The special was on for a whole week, for that matter.)
But knowing he was deceitful, the pressure he used only pushed me away even more. Needless to say, I never asked to see “Gerry” again.
But I did want that particular set of furniture. My heart was set on it. So I took another chance, made another trip to the store and on what seemed to be the last-ditch attempt to get the furniture I really wanted, I met “Jim.”
Jim was truly the epitome of great customer service. And clearly the opposite of “Gerry.” The contrast was glaring and refreshing.
He truly empathized with me.
After learning about my previous, unsuccessful trip to the store, Jim was apologetic, and never once mentioned anything about himself, his store or his product (the conversation was entirely focused on me and my needs).
He asked a lot of questions to fully understand the reasons why I needed the lengthy layaway plan. He even asked me to pull out the floor plans so we can correctly measure the space and appropriate layout for the furniture.
He then extended the layaway without any so-called “manager's” approval, and as a good faith gesture gave me free furniture shampoo, free polish, free installation, and free delivery for my troubles.
“Mr. Fortin, look at it as our way of saying ‘thanks' for giving us a second chance,” Jim added. “Others would have never returned like you did. I'll extend your layaway without question since you're kind enough to give us that chance.”
Thank you indeed.
This situation says a lot about how to write good copy. Being empathetic, being concerned and, above all, being interested in the prospect before applying any “pressure tactic” is crucial to instill trust and credibility in the mind of the reader.
I'm not condemning the use of scarcity and urgency in copy. As Jim Rohn once said, “Without a sense of urgency, desire loses it value.”
But never use underhanded tactics, let alone make it so blatantly obvious, and always add a logical, commensensical “reason why” to justify why you are applying pressure in the first place. It's as simple as that.
(For instance, how many times have you come across a salesletter where the offer had a deadline, which seemed to “magically” bump ahead each time you visited the website? That's what I mean. People are not stupid!)
But the greatest lesson that I pulled from this, is this:
Never pressure people to PUSH them into purchasing. Instead, use pressure to PREVENT them from procrastinating.
There is a fundamental difference between the two.
Prospects who take the time to visit a store — or in this case, read a salesletter in depth — is certainly interested and qualified in the offer. (That is, if you did a good job to qualify the reader in your copy.)
Money means security to most people, and they don't want to part with their security. So prospects don't need pressure to buy. They need pressure to prevent them from procrastinating, which is a typical, “knee-jerk” reaction to any offer.
When you use pressure and scarcity tactics, such as making your offer quantity-bound or time-limited, be truthful. That goes without saying. But more important, always — yes, always! — back it up with a real, genuine and logical reason.
Using obvious and deceitful tactics, such as a script that modifies the date, or a quantity that seems to remain the same for ages, is going to work against you.
(Of course, if you're a snake-oil salesman and you're only concerned with making one-time sales and then leave town, you probably don't care. But if you want to build long-term business and a solid reputation, avoid sales tricks like these.)
Each time you use pressure in your copy, always back it up with a logical explanation as to why you're doing so. Tell your reader why you are limiting the offer. And be not only genuine but also unique.
For example, say you add a bonus from a third party. Explain that the bonus comes from another source and you only secured permission for a certain quantity. Or explain why you put a limit or a deadline on your offer. Don't just say “it's for a marketing test.” (Yawn!) Be specific. Explain the exact reason why you're limiting the offer. Even if it's trivial or seemingly redundant.
(It isn't to your prospect. Trust me.)
If you don't have a reason, manufacture one. And by “manufacture” I don't mean lying. I mean coming up with a real reason why the offer is limited, even if you have to make one. (And I did say “make one,” not “make one up.”)
Oftentimes, the easiest way is to either limit the particular set of premiums that come with the offer, or state that you can only guarantee that particular offer until a certain date or quantity. (Even if you don't change it at the exact moment that limit has been reached, although you should.)
The latter if pretty useful particularly with digital goods like downloads, ebooks and software, since they are obviously unlimited.
If you include copy that specifically explains why the offer is or can be limited, you not only instill urgency but also credibility and believability.
Procrastination is the biggest killer of sales — particularly online where the chances of a prospect staying or returning to a website (in order to think about buying), in today's click-happy world, are scarce. (Yes, pun intended.)
Takeaway selling is in fact based on the concept of supply and demand.
As the saying goes, “People don't know how much they want something until it's about to be taken away from them.” Look at it this way: if you give a chance for your prospects to procrastinate, they will.
So, add a deadline or some kind of constraint, since such limitations implore at some unconscious level, “You better read this and take action now!”
But always make sure to back up your limitation with an logical reason in order not to appear misleading or disingenuous. That's the key. (In fact, what will push them will not be the limitation in itself but its justification.)
Adding a deadline or a cap on the number of new clients, or even making the offer something that's secretive, exclusive or otherwise unavailable to the general public, can arouse stronger motives in the psyche of your readers.
But give your added sense of urgency some level of credibility.
For example: “We were overshipped on these cassette tapes and, in order to clear out inventory, we are discounting them by [X] dollars. However, we only have 541 left in stock, so please act soon.”
“One of the bonuses includes [X] hours of individualized coaching worth $[X]. But there are only so many hours in the day. So I must limit the number of coaching students to 50. So, I urge you to act now.”
Or, “During our recent move we slightly damaged 178 pieces of our stock — while the damage is hidden and insignificant, I can't sell them as new and must let them go at a one-of-a-kind discount.”
It's all about customer service. Because, if you use pressure to prevent prospects from procrastinating, they will thank you for it. You preemptively reduce buyer's remorse, get less refunds and returns, and increase repeat sales.
Plus, they will believe more in you and your product, they will feel happy with their purchase and they will even use the logical explanations you gave them to justify their own decisions to buy.
(As you know, customers like to buy. They just don't like to be sold.)
Remember, people buy on emotion first and then justify their decisions with logic. If you give them logical explanations, many will in fact use your suggestions as a way to back up their purchasing decisions.
They need not be convinced into buying now. They need be convinced into not procrastinating. As Brian Tracy once noted:
“A man convinced against his will… is of the same opinion still.”
Michel Fortin is a certified digital marketing expert and renowned copywriter who specializes in a unique combination of SEO, CRO, and UX to improve traffic, leads, and revenue for his clients. For the better part of 30 years, he's produced countless wins, generating in excess of $300 million in sales and results that have broken many industry records. He has worked with thousands of businesses ranging from individual entrepreneurs to enterprise-level multinational companies. He's the author of two top-selling books and often speaks at industry events. To connect with him, visit his LinkedIn profile where he is most active.