Yesterday, I read a great sales letter via the legendary Gary Halbert.
If you ‘re not familiar with him, it’s because you’re not a student of copywriting like I am. That’s ok. Suffice it to say that the guy was responsible for selling MILLIONS in goods and services through persuasive writing in his day.
He understood, no, he embodied, the power of persuasion.
He knew EXACTLY how to find a hot list of prospects, what to say to them to grab their attention, how to keep it and how to make the sale.
Of course, most business owners haven’t got the time, interest or inclination to learn the skill of persuasive writing. I don’t blame you. After all, most copywriters who are any good have been at it for years.
Let me share an example with you. Chances are pretty good you have a computer right? You probably have Word or Pages, am I right? You can type.
Those are all prerequisites for writing copy that sells but they’re not sales tools. You can’t just type, “Buy my stuff” and have that turn into sales. (Though plenty try…~sigh~)
Of course, you’re smart enough to realize this. You might even know that sales writing follows proven psychological principals. Principles as old as humanity.
People Want What They Can’t Have
This is often known as the “scarcity” tactic or, the principle of encouraging people to buy now rather than waiting (and forgetting about it.)
If you have a service business, it’s probably pretty hard to create true “scarcity” of your service, right? I mean, it’s not like selling blenders on QVC where you can actually run out of an item.
No, you can’t run out of law services or SEO services or whatever you’re selling.
So how do you create scarcity without sounding like a cheesy infomercial ready to throw in a set of Ginsu knives?
I’ll get to that in a minute.
First, let’s talk psychology.
It’s human nature to want something that’s rare or expensive or that you think you can’t have. Think diamonds, Maseratis or a love interest who just isn’t that into you.
It turns out that you’re tapping into a complex human emotion where someone wants what she or he can’t have. And it’s not limited to the dating world.
Here’s an illustration:
You may have heard the story of the world famous violinist who played for 43 minutes in a Washington, D.C. subway station at rush hour.
Some passersby threw money into the violin case at his feet but few felt compelled to stop and listen. No one was eagerly pushing their smartphones into his face and taking selfies.
He’d recently played to sold out crowds in Boston and New York where tickets started at $100 a pop. Some of those same people who passed him by, may have held tickets to see him that night. Or enjoyed his soundtrack from 1998’s The Red Violin, an epic about a violin that travels the world bringing mayhem to it’s owners along with it’s glorious sound.
But in the subway station, he was out of context so no one stopped.
The Power of Context
Can something be scarce if you have no context for it? Think of Jackson Pollack or other painters of the modern movement. Curators swoon while you may think your 5 year old niece’s work looks just as good.
Or the value of land in say, parts of the American South where your nearest neighbor could be a mile away vs. Manhattan. It’s all in your perspective.
That perspective creates context and context can create scarcity.
- Box seats at the Super Bowl
- Tiffany jewels
- A vintage Chanel suit
Each of these have limited availability and are considered valuable — to the right people.
Well, that’s great Jen but I sell services not products. How do I build scarcity around that?
One way you do it is to create customized processes or service offerings. Put your own spin on it.
For example, if you’re a dog walker you can offer the “playful Fido” package which according to your website is geared for energetic puppies. You stop by mid-day, and take the puppy on an extra – long walk or to the dog park. You also include basic “puppy manners” like sit and leash walking.
Because you’ve created a special offering, you can charge more for it. After all, you’re doing way more than taking pup for a quick spin. You’re helping puppy burn off energy in a positive way — energy that otherwise might be spent chewing a hole through your couch.
Other dog walkers can offer a similar service but they’ll have to come up with a different name.
What if you’re an accountant? You can do the same thing. Create customized offerings around end of the year filings vs. quarterly filings.
Increase Demand for Your Services
No matter what business you’re in, you can create greater demand for your services by becoming more visible. Write for prominent blogs, speak at events your customers attend, these will raise your “value” in their eyes and it will shorten the sales cycle because people will know of you and trust you quicker.
You’ll also be booked further in advance. Which means people will have to wait to work with you and you have greater leverage because you won’t feel like you have to work with everyone who asks. You can pick and choose your clients.
You’ve created context for your services — you’re excellent at what you do. You’ve created scarcity because you have limited time and so many people want to work with you.
You’ve tapped into the power of persuasion.