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When getting your audience so interested in your product or service that they MUST have it, creating the incentive to “buy now” (or at least, very soon) is a time-honored sales and marketing tradition. This is called a “sense of urgency”. But people want to know: does it actually work or is it just a gimmick? Why has it been used for so long? Can you do it without annoying your customers but still encourage them to buy what you’re selling?

Well you see, despite their amazing powers, the best marketers aren’t exactly word magicians or genius tech wizards. They’re simply intense and devoted students of the intricacies and weirdness of human nature. And what they do know is that human beings have a tendency to put off decisions, and an unfortunate side effect of this procrastination is eventually forgetting what they were putting off the decision about. As you can imagine, this is the death-knell for sales.

Good marketers know this, and the goal of a well-placed, well-timed, well-done sense of urgency is not to push a customer into making a decision by inducing panicky feelings or making them anxious. With today’s customers being even more well-educated and smart to lots of marketing tricks, tactics like this will turn your customer right OFF. Sense of urgency is a reminder, a nudge, an incentive to keep the offer top-of-mind and ultimately to get them to take action (within a reasonable time frame).

A Natural Sense of Urgency

To create a non-gimmicky, non-angering-your-customers sense of urgency, use limits that make sense for your product or service, a natural sense of urgency that isn’t simply pulled out of thin air.

For example, if you want to go to a concert of a band you love, you KNOW the number of seats are finite. They have a limit. So to make sure you get a seat, you buy a ticket early. Simple as that. To replicate this natural mental process, all you have to is make sure your limits make sense for your product or service. This could be a limit like days, hours, classes, number of seats, products, tickets, whatever.

You will see this sense of urgency all the time and have encountered it hundreds of times without really realizing it. Emails that say “Buy Now!” or “Sale Ends in 3 Days!” or “For a Limited Time!” are all using this sense of urgency to get the customer to make a decision. The infamous sales phenomenon of the post-Thanksgiving “Black Friday” (and now with the additional “Cyber Monday”) is an extreme example of a sense of urgency, with a very limited time frame of 24 hours, but it works. Within this time limit, people rush out as early as 3 in the morning to scoop up deals and are rewarded with excess savings.

Does This Really Work?

Does the sense of urgency actually work to drive sales and up conversion rates for your business? You don’t have to take my word for it, you can ask science. With a little A/B testing, you can very simply test the conversion rates of your ads yourself, comparing the ones with the added sense of urgency and ones without.

The sense of urgency was also tested in this marketing experiment (which Brian Clark over at Copyblogger talks about).

In their experiment, conversion rates rose by over 500% when a gentle sense of urgency was applied to their copy. That’s a HUGE percentage, and while results may not be typical, you can see that using a sense of urgency DOES work, as long as it’s applied in a natural way that makes sense to your customers. So get out there and start experimenting yourself, before your business fails and you have to file for bankruptcy. See? Too MUCH urgency there.