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Scarcity: Get Your Audience To Want It Now!



Take it,

Take it now

Why should anyone want to buy something today that is in abundance and can be acquired at any time? Perhaps they have an immediate burning need, for example they are in a boat and it’s sinking, at this point they are likely to take the offer of a life raft, but not if there are other options like a helicopter rescue. And, what if on the same sinking boat there are other pressing issues, such as fending off an attack by pirates, how does that then change the urgency in which they see your offer?


When I think back to pitches that have gone really well and then led to nothing I can always find some sort of external factor to blame but truth be told these external factors should pale into insignificance if you have thought your pitch through and included a sense of scarcity. What do I mean by a sense of scarcity? I mean a reason to take you up on your offer now as it will not always be available. Organisations that are successful at this include tech companies that plan obsolesce into their products (think software upgrades) and the fashion industry that lives off the idea of induced obsolesce, giving some highly trendy people the latest fashion so when it’s adopted by the high street they need to move onto the next thing to keep ahead of the everyday person.

Ideally your audience will beg after your pitch

I once met with a prospective customer twenty seven times over eighteen months before I landed a deal. By the end of the process I felt happy but it didn’t take me long to work out my cost of customer acquisition dwarfed the value of the deal! Had I included a compelling sense of scarcity I am sure the deal would have moved more quickly. Unless your buyer is making a distressed purchase they will use their discretion to move the buying process along, which is usually ten times slower than you want. The same applies for investors giving funds (unless they have a window closing), recruiters etc. They all tend to move more slowly than we want. So how do we generate a sense of immediate need? By a sense of scarcity, but what does that mean?

“I once met with a prospective customer twenty seven times over eighteen months before I landed a deal.”

Discounted prices and sales are great every day examples of how retailers drive a sense of scarcity (buy before prices go back up) but it’s not always appropriate:

  • Employ me now and I’ll give you 10% of my salary back
  • Invest now and we’ll give you 5% more equity

One approach I take in all my pitches is to give a sense of time and forward momentum, this opportunity is ‘now’, it won’t be there in the future. This forward thrust can make the audience feel like they’re an early adopter and bound to gain a halo from getting onboard. However, most audiences are reluctant to take risks, so they prefer to be a late adopter. For this group you can always create your own scheudle, for example if you’re a builder and are popular it should be easy to indicate your schedule is open only for the next month, after that any deal would need to wait much longer.


These tactics involve time, but if you have intellectual property that is of value and rare then you carry a sense of scarcity automatically. Certain consultants have a profile that means people would jump out of their bed to get their insight (imagine if the self-help guru Tony Robbins said he’d see you for an hour starting at 3am, would you get up to seek his advice at any time?) You should look to think creatively if you are to evoke a sense of scarcity, my post on not being needy should be your default and can often indicate to your audience you have something that is scarce that others want, so the audience best get it while it’s hot.


Limiting your availability, having something that more people want than you can supply are all great ways of generating scarcity ‘we’re looking for £1m in funding and have offers of £10m already but we’re not needy, we want the best fit for our company, that’s why we’re here seeing you’. I consider scarcity not just a persuasion technique but a fundamental consideration for your enterprise, if you can’t think of a reason why people should buy, sell, listen, employ you now, the likelihood is neither can they, in which case, you best join a queue.