Scarcity is one of the six principles of influence identified by Robert Cialdini.

If you hear that something is scarce, you want it even more.

In the UK we occasionally get petrol scares and en masse, the car drivers flock to the nearest filling station we predictable results. If petrol wasn’t scarce and it was just a rumour, our actions have created the scarcity that we feared as we all fill our petrol tanks to the brim.

This fear of loss is a very powerful motivator and creates a buying frenzy.

It happens even when we’re not particularly attached to the item. Knowing something is scarce increases its perceived value.

Marketers know this and that’s why limited quantities are such a powerful trigger for decisions. Fashion items guaranteed as unique are snapped up quickly and limited edition collectibles can quickly grow in value.

Sometimes they overdo it and try to create false scarcity – “there are just ten copies of this ebook for sale.”

Successful past launches can be used to create implied scarcity for the next.

Staying with fashion – “Last time, all her new original designs were eagerly bought within 27 minutes of the catwalk finishing”. It implies the same thing will happen again so if you like something and you can afford it, then you need to make the decision or lose out.

Using scarcity in business

  1. Limit quantity available for sale – even better number each one to create a collectable.
  2. Be difficult to get hold of. Successful people are busy people and can’t drop everything to see you.
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