The McRib sandwich.
Starbucks’ Unicorn Frappuccino.
Black Friday sales.
What’s the commonality between these things?
I’ll spare you the suspense: it’s that their promotional campaigns create a sense of urgency.
In my last post, I broke down what Josh Weltman, author of Seducing Strangers, classifies as introductory ads—campaigns that use curiosity to increase inquiries.
While the psychology of curiosity is certainly fascinating, leveraging urgency as a means of driving action is equally compelling. In fact, it’s what’s behind the second category of ad campaigns Weltman identifies as trial ads.
Weltman explains that trial ads “boost sales by giving customers temporary opportunities or limited-time offers.” They’re the perfect type of ads to run after a curiosity-driven campaign because inquiries are on the rise. And what better way to convert those leads into paying customers than through a special deal, free trial, or limited-time offer that they simply can’t resist?
It might seem odd, but one of the most effective ways to persuade people to take action is by limiting their ability to take it.
So with this in mind, let’s look at the psychology of urgency and how you can make your target audience want what your local business has to offer RIGHT NOW!
Most people tend to search for the best price or the best opportunity. However, when faced with an urgent situation, the brain goes on high alert. We not only recognize the importance of the situation, but there’s also a physical bodily response that follows. More specifically, chemicals are released that sharpen the mind, suspend deliberate thought, and enable us to take action quickly.
Rather than take time to think things through, we just do. This makes urgency all the more powerful because there is no cognitive thought process—something that would have otherwise caused friction in the conversion process.
In marketing messages, urgency does three things:
So what do we do? We take action.
According to a Journal for Consumer Research article on the mere urgency effect, completing an urgent task involves a more immediate and certain payoff. Without that sense of urgency, we might put off a purchase indefinitely, continue to consider all options, think more about our decision, or leave items abandoned in our online shopping cart.
As much as we like to believe we’re not influenced by persuasion tactics like urgency, the reality is we are. It’s human nature.
And as a local business owner, urgency is something you can use to motivate immediate action and generate the results you desire.
How do you do that?
At its core, urgency relies on basic principles of economics: supply and demand. When supply of a particular thing decreases, demand increases. It’s really that simple. However, there are a number of ways you can use this principle to create temporary opportunities or restricted offers to drive action for your business.
In this section, we’ll uncover some of the most compelling approaches.
There’s something about not being able to have what we want that makes us want it more. It’s called a scarcity bias and it’s how those “only 2 left in stock” or “while stocks last” signs get us. There’s no way we’re letting someone else swoop in and claim that item we now perceive as infinitely more valuable, so we hurriedly rush to the checkout with our credit card in hand.
Although you should always be careful about creating a false sense of scarcity that leads to skepticism, there are ways you can limit access to the quantity of what you’re offering.
In this example, Dr. Moss from Moss Family Chiropractic not only uses an enticing offer of free dinner with the doc, but he plays on scarcity beautifully by limiting the number of spots available.
For scarcity to work, though, you must have the right offer.
Let’s say you’re a gym owner. No one is going to believe you only have five monthly memberships left. However, if you’re running an exclusive workout class with limited space, you might have something you can work with there.
No matter what kind of local business you own, as the producer of a product or service, you can strategically and intentionally limit the amount of something you produce in order to raise demand. If people think what you’re offering is about to run out, they’re more likely to take immediate action.
Time is an essential tool in establishing a sense of urgency as it communicates the immediacy of your message and builds anticipation. If people feel like there’s no reason to rush, your campaign is dead in the water before it’s even had a chance to move let alone gain any kind of momentum.
Countdown timers are extremely popular on tripwire and landing pages in particular because they’re highly effective at capturing attention and turning ad clicks into conversions. Besides reinforcing the limits of the offer by being specific rather than vague about how much time is left, they provide visual proof that time is running out, heighten anxiety, and increase the pressure to act before it’s too late. In that moment, phrases like “I’ll buy it later” simply aren’t part of a person’s thought process.
But what if you don’t just want a countdown clock ticking away on your offer page? What if you want to incorporate some sort of visual aid into your actual Facebook Ad campaign?
CurlKit has an interesting and fun approach. Their marketing team created a series of countdown ads to indicate how many days were left on their special offer.
The great thing about this strategy is that it uses Facebook’s super powerful audience targeting and remarketing capabilities.
Another way to establish a countdown timer in your ad creative is through the use of video. This is your chance to think outside of the box and find ways you can use a countdown as an urgency trigger.
By definition, a flash sale is “a sale of goods at greatly reduced prices, lasting for only a short period of time.”
Check out this great example by Lori Kennedy:
As you can see, there are two key principles at play here:
The deep discount and high value of these types of offers make flash sale campaigns difficult to resist. People love a good bargain and the urgency factor eliminates second guessing. In fact, flash sales are highly likely to spur word-of-mouth growth, making them a favorite among marketers.
Here’s another excellent example by Groupon who offers an additional 25% off their already discounted offers.
Keep in mind that when you’re running a flash sale campaign, you can make more money on the backend of your funnel with relevant upsell offers. The ultimate goal of a flash sale is to reactivate old customers and motivate new ones to take a chance on you, so don’t be afraid to back your offer with a decent discount. The limited-time nature of this campaign induces urgency and its value is compelling enough to drive conversions faster than normal.
Holidays are one of the most profitable times for businesses. People are already in buying mode, so it’s the perfect time to convince them to try or buy what your local business offers. In addition, purchases during the end of year holiday season are fueled by bonuses. If you’ve done your job with introductory campaigns, running trial ads during this time is likely to bring in higher conversion rates.
Check out CAM Photography’s amazing holiday ad. They not only utilize urgency by offering a sweet limited-time discount for Mother’s Day, but they also combine their offer with a contest designed to increase their reach and generate brand exposure.
In some cases, you may even be able to get some extra mileage out of a holiday by advertising a smaller discount or shorter trial. Simply make your target audience know they’re still getting a good deal.
Depending on what you offer, you could use limited edition products to create urgency and drive sales. Few things excite people more than something that is unique and won’t be readily available—if at all—after the offer ends.
To entice parents to try their monthly diaper and wipes subscription service, The Honest Company offered a discount on limited-edition star-spangled diapers.
The time and effort it takes to create a limited edition item is a small price to pay if it leads to repeated monthly purchases.
Now that we’ve established the effectiveness of urgency and how you can use it to create killer campaigns that convert, let’s look at how you can practically apply this to your Facebook Ad campaigns.
When creating a limited-time offer, begin by establishing a clear vision for what you want to achieve. Do you want to increase gym trials or subscriptions? Do you want to boost sales for specific items on your restaurant’s menu? Are you hoping to attract new patients to your weight loss clinic? Do you want more yoga clients? Are you hoping to move more jars of your proprietary beauty cream at your day spa?
What about your audience? What kind of limited-time offer will strike a cord and compel them to act?
Clarity creates focus, allowing you to identify the service, product, or bundled package that will help you achieve your goals. In some cases, this might include a one-time deal that includes exclusive bonuses. Whatever you decide, you must get specific. If you’re aiming to increase pizza sales, it doesn’t serve your cause to promote a discount code for 25% on the entire bill.
Once you’ve determined what your goal is and which services or products can help you achieve it, figure out how you can legitimately create urgency for the offer.
Think about it. There’s a reason Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales do so well. They only come around once a year. So, if you’re offering something like a discount on a facial, it shouldn’t be an offer you repeatedly promote month after month. No one will feel any urgency because they know they can grab the offer in a few weeks if they feel so inclined. In addition, this type of false urgency can create the wrong impression about your business and leave a bad taste in the mouths of your target audience.
One of the reasons countdown timers work so well is because they are so specific. They’re not as vague as “while supplies last,” “holiday deals” and “sales end soon!” The whole point of a time-limited offer is to motivate people to act fast. You want something definitive that leaves no doubt in your consumers mind that they’ll somehow have more time.
With this in mind, create a clear timeline for when you’ll start and end your campaign. Besides allowing you to get clear and specific in your copy, establishing your offer dates lets you figure out when you’ll start and turn off certain ads, especially if you’re following in the footsteps of the CurlKit example above and running multiple ads per campaign.
The next step is to craft copy for your Facebook Ad. Since words influence purchasing decisions, it’s crucial to be strategic in your use of language. You not only want to convey the value of your offer, but also incorporate time-related vocabulary that ramps up urgency.
What kinds of evocative words or phrases tap into our deep psychological motivations and give us a sense that time is not on our side?
For limited-time offer ads to be effective, you have to make your audience aware of the opportunity slipping away. Be sure to draw attention to your offer’s deadline, reiterate its scarcity, and make it clear what they’re losing by tapping into that psychological reaction now commonly referred to as FOMO (fear of missing out).
One final tip is to eliminate all objections. One of the biggest reasons consumers are hesitant to pull the trigger on a purchase is because there’s risk involved. Addressing potential concerns before they even have time to fester can reduce friction and make people feel comfortable about trying or buying your products and services.
Nectar Sleep are pros at eliminating objections with their limited-time offer by including a 365 night trial, free shipping and returns, and a forever warranty.
Just as effective as urgent words and phrases are images and video. The right visuals not only capture attention, but they also help create awareness about the time-sensitive nature of the offer and the need to act.
Think about any time you’ve seen a product on sale. What color is the sign usually?
Answer: red. Why? Because it’s an attention-getter. It’s a color known to raise energy levels, increase your heart rate, and imply urgency.
Does this mean every image you use for time-limited offers should be red? Nope. Consider any of the ad examples above. Color is simply another tool in your arsenal for influencing emotions. No matter what colors you use, it’s all about capturing attention in the News Feeds of Facebook users. Your ad shouldn’t be bland. It should be impossible to ignore and one of the easiest ways to achieve that is through color, which is something you should always test when running Facebook Ads.
Here’s a great example from Target:
Notice how the message of urgency is reiterated in the image text.
Amazon also does this well, being careful not to limit their reach too much by restricting the amount of text they include.
Besides using product or service-related images in your ad creative, don’t forget that incorporating a clock, timer, or even a calendar into your image can also be impactful. Anything that implies there’s little time to act is sure to be a winner.
Although I’ve written a free guide on how to create a high-converting Facebook Ad funnel, I also want to show you another quick way to create an offer ad directly from your Facebook Page.
Step 1: Navigate your way to your local business’s Page and then click the ellipsis button within the status box.
Step 2: Click Offer/Discount from the menu of available options.
Step 3: Fill in your offer’s details. Once you’ve added in the relevant info and uploaded your visuals, you’ll be able to publish or boost your post. If you boost it, Facebook will load your ad into Ads Manager where you can select your targeting and budget. If you also decide to publish the post to your Page, be sure to pin it so that it’s the first thing people see when viewing your Timeline.
If you haven’t grabbed your complimentary copy of my comprehensive guide, you can do so by clicking the image below. It covers everything you need to know about setting up a complete funnel from the Facebook Ads to the follow-up email sequence.
Limited-offer campaigns are potent. They deliver fast gains for a business, which can be addictive for any entrepreneur. The problem is that running these campaigns over and over again can dull the sense of urgency. Consumers aren’t stupid, and the common result is that you have to throw more marketing dollars behind campaigns that attract fewer people.
Another problem is that continuous offers of trials and discounts impact profits. Many business owners then feel the need to cut back in other areas, which never leads to anything good. Make sure you think strategically about how and when you’ll run limited-offer campaigns so that you’re not tempted to overuse them.
Offers restricted by time or quantity increase conversions. Period.
No matter what industry you’re in, you can use trial ads as defined by Josh Weltman to bump traffic, trials, and sales for your local business while effectively moving leads further into your funnel. It’s simply smart marketing, so hurry up and get to it!
Have you ever use urgency to drive business goals? Did they work? Share your thoughts on trial ads in the comment section below.
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