Why Urgency Succeeds Like Nothing Else
In A Bad Economy

Urgency

Let’s say you have to pee.

So this is a normal bodily function, eh?

It means if you feel that sensation and you don’t go soon enough, you’ll be in trouble. But how many of us go use the facilities when we first feel the sensation?

And how many of your customers are buying your products or services in a bad economy?

  • Should you discount?
  • Should you put in bigger signs?
  • Should you send out a zillion emails?

Or would it be more prudent (yup, prudent), to understand the factor of urgency?

So what’s this factor of urgency?

Let’s analyze the situation:

  1. The client has the need for your product/service.
  2. They know you’re the right person.
  3. They even know where to go, and what to do.

They should be rushing to buy your product or service. But good grief, they’re holding out.

Holding out?

What are they holding out for?

If a person has a backache, shouldn’t they fix the backache right away? If they have a backache that drives them insane shouldn’t they be rushing to fix it?

Yes, they should, and no they don’t rush. In fact, they’re doing something quite the opposite:

  • They’re putting up with the pain.
  • They’re putting up with the frustration.
  • They complain about it often enough, but won’t get it fixed.

Surely that’s madness.

Yes, but not on their part.

It’s madness on your part!

You are the person to blame. You haven’t provided them an incentive.

  • Or haven’t given clear instructions.
  • Or haven’t created enough risk reversal.
  • Or haven’t created urgency of any kind.

Which takes us back to someone in a dire need to pee. They’re going to be uncomfortable soon enough.

So why won’t they go?

  • There’s no incentive: Is the toilet you’re providing right next to where they are?
  • There are no clear instructions: Do they know where to find the toilet? Can they see the signage?
  • Have you created a well-lit toilet area? Or is it dingy and kinda scary?
  • And is there an urgency? Is this the last toilet for the next 50 miles?

Urgency isn’t created with one angle. There are half a dozen angles, at the very least.

And each urgency angle has its own job to do

Each angle removes one more objection, and creates one more reason to act right away.

You see, humans don’t behave the way you think they behave.

  • They don’t fall madly in love at first sight.
  • They don’t buy stuff the moment they see it.
  • They don’t even pee when they first need to.

They wait, and wait, and wait. So it’s your job to minimize that waiting time.

You do that by repeatedly educating your customers using different angles. But education alone isn’t enough.

You have to give them a reason to buy, and you can’t be shy about selling. It’s the education combined with the sales that creates the factor of urgency.

This understanding of urgency is critical in any economy.

But here’s what happens in a good economy

People buy easily, because hey it’s herd-mentality… You’re buying, I’m buying, so it’s okay to buy.

But then the economy closes in. The clouds graduate to that menacing shade of inky-blue.

And all this time, the herd-mentality hasn’t gone away. Everyone is still following the herd.

Except now, no one is buying

You’re not. And yup, I’m not. So in that worsening economy, urgency becomes ever-so critical.

Even when people are quite clearly in trouble. Even whey know they have a need for a product or a service, they’ll wait.

And the only thing that will get them to act is an even bigger problem.

So let’s look at an example:

Let’s say your customer needs to fix his roof. It’s raining. There are a dozen leaky spots in the house, and two dozen buckets.

But this customer is still waiting.

Unless someone educates him that if he does fix the roof, he’ll pay a lot of bucks. But if he doesn’t, then he’ll end up paying twice as much, as the damage worsens.

And then, that ‘educator’ must provide the incentives, instructions, risk-reversal and yes, urgency. Over and over again, from multiple angles.

You see, creating urgency isn’t a one step, it’s a series of steps.

We have to go when we have to go, only because we feel safe to go. It’s your job to create that safety net, with repeated education and sales.

And that’s when the customer really goes.

Aaaaaaaaaaaaah.

What a relief, huh?

For both parties too. :-)

About the Author: Sean D’Souza offers a free report on ‘Why Headlines Fail’ when you subscribe to his Psychotactics Newsletter. Check out his blog, too.

Print Friendly

Smarter is Better Solutions for Smarter Content Marketing

Here’s what we’ve got for you:

  • 15 high-impact ebooks on content marketing, SEO, email marketing, landing pages, keyword research, and more.
  • A 20-part Internet marketing course that lays out a comprehensive path for your own online strategy.
  • An organized reference guide to the “best of the best” of Copyblogger.com, and how it all profitably fits together.
Free Registration

Take The Conversation Further ...

We'd love to know your thoughts on this article.
Meet us over on Google+ or Twitter to join the conversation right now!

Comments

  1. I remember that NL cover! And the entire issues!

    The next month, the cover was a dog’s body in a garbage can, IMSC.

    Thank you for the nice memory. Oh, and your post was good, too. :-)

  2. Interesting way of looking at this. Supply and demand is another way to get the customer to buy something if they know its limited. Especially if everyone else wants it too. Herd mentality.

  3. This is good advice. I would take it a step further (but this is from a guy who spent a decade in traditional advertising agencies). If you’re going to invest the time to ratcheting up your efforts to create immediate urgency, you need to make sure that it’s not a one and done deal for people. Spend a little more time and energy to enhance your brand every chance you get. The first thing most companies, small and large, cut when times get lean is their advertising budget. So, in effect, every dollar you spend actually goes a little further in times like these than it would when everybody’s rolling in the dough. Your voice sticks out a little more just by simple math.

  4. I spent time in advertising agencies too (I started out with Leo Burnett) and I can tell you quite categorically, that most companies probably overdo the branding.

    I was at an airport yesterday, and there was this brand of taxis on the carousel, as the carousel went round and round. And my client and I got into a discussion about the value of that branding. I of course said, that it’s important to brand because that way you’d eventually associate that brand with something ‘safe’ and therefore choose that brand over another—even when there was no apparent difference between one taxi service and another.

    But branding alone was not enough apparently. Because as we left the airport, we both tried to remember the name of the taxi service we’d seen on the carousel. And we couldn’t remember. Just five minutes had passed between us removing our bags off the carousel–and it was gone from our memory.

    Now obviously, a repetition of that brand over and over and over again will indeed make a difference. Over time, we’d remember the name. But that wouldn’t make it more urgent for us to take that cab service. It would only be a more top-of-mind cab service, instead of an unknown cab service.

    So urgency has its limits.
    Branding has its limits.
    The education is what needs to be ongoing. Otherwise the customer simply doesn’t buy–even when they’re ready.

    Sean
    http://www.psychotactics.com

  5. Hey Sean,

    Great post!

    And great comments between yourself and Writegud. I recently got into a discussion about branding vs. urgency (okay, it wasn’t presented that way, but that was the upshot…)

    Here’s my conclusion: branding is important for building a long-term relationship with your client. So if you have an unlimited supply of something, or unlimited choices, branding makes more sense because you want them to keep coming to the well.

    On the other hand, if you have but one product to sell, and it will only sell once, there is absolutely no value in branding. Sell the item, say goodbye and good luck to your customer.

    For example, if you are selling Coke, brand is important because you want them to come back in the future and buy another Coke. And this is key: you want them to buy Coke, and not just a “cola” or a “drink”. It’s like your taxi cab scenario — if you had a good experience with that company, then all things being equal you will search them out again. Otherwise, you’ll just take the closest taxi (or cola or drink) to you.

    On the other hand, if you are selling just one book with no plans for a future one, then brand means nothing. You just need to make that one sale.

    These are the extreme examples, but yes, both branding and urgency have their limitations. And education plays a role in both.

    I think that it is worth noting though that if you evaluate your product or service, and what impact you want to have on your potential customers (i.e. long-term vs. one sale, etc.), you can identify how to balance these two in your own marketing.

    ~Graham

  6. that was ok, but damn you really like those 1 line paragraphs don’t you? I know a lot of the pro bloggers say thats how to write effective copy but do you think you need to do it every single line?

  7. But of course, if you take the trouble to sell one product, hey, why not create the brand–and create another product? :)

    Good point. Loved it, Graham. :)

  8. Nice post. And of course I had to pee but put it off to finish reading the post and to write this comment.

    There are lots of products with names masquerading as brands. Just telling people it exist doesn’t make a brand. Getting someone to buy something gets you closer. Urgency is a great way to do this.

    I also like your emphasis on telling them what to do. I often get resistance from clients over including a “Click Here Now” button. Yes I know that consumers know they can click on banner ads. But, over and over again, I can prove they are more likely to if you tell them how and tell them to do it right now.

    Great post. Thank you. Got to go now. Really, I have to go.

  9. I really like that incentive bit. If the customer doesn’t fix the roof, he will just end up paying more for a project to fix the original project plus additional damage that occurred because he didn’t act. Then it will seem like a good deal.

  10. Good things: The additional learning offered in the entire area of these posts and comments! AND the thought that the next time you need a taxi and are observing a carousel, the brand may be the most attractive to you first. AND the brain cells that don’t insist that you carry thoughts of brands on the surface of your mind when you don’t need a taxi or a Coke.

  11. Undoubtedly, branding can be overdone. Like chocolate, a company gets a little taste of it, and then can’t get enough for a while.

    I think the reason that we really love some brands and really hate others comes down to how they handle their branding efforts. If it’s the equivalent of putting a logo on anything and everything (like a taxi company on a carousel) it’s not memorable, it’s just cute. Or worse, annoying.

    But if a company takes advantage of smart, strategic opportunities, the benefits can pay off big time.

    So, Sean, you’re right. I should amend my earlier post to say that education (on everyone’s part) is essential to making strategic decisions in order to elevate a brand. There’s a difference between getting noticed and being ubiquitous.

  12. You can get noticed by doing really silly things. But that won’t make you a brand. A brand really is a ‘relationship’ between you and the customer. But that relationship won’t lead to urgency. Urgency stands alone. It’s getting the horse to the water, and then getting the horse to drink without having to ‘persuade’ the horse.

  13. I’m not disputing the importance of urgency. I was only talking about the continued importance of well-built brands. Established brands don’t need urgency to survive, they will use it to boost sales. Emerging brands can do so quicker with urgency as long as there is substance behind the push.

    If urgency is getting the horse to the water and getting it to drink without being persuaded, a brand can make that horse choose to come to the water on its own. In fact, it will look forward to going to that watering hole. (Or perhaps your kids have never screamed “MCDONALDS!” in unison from the back seat of your car.)

  14. I have kids? Hmmm…not that I know of ;)

  15. As grandpa used to say: if you are going to sell something, sell groceries, people will always have to eat.

  16. Let us not forget the importance of increased company value and the push it gives you in struggling markets.

    Urgency is good as well, but to say it succeeds like nothing else is a big statement.

    Everyone needs something. Urgency will help them buy now and company value will dictate (not in whole) which company the guy needing to pee is going to buy the toilet from.

  17. “Surely that’s madness.”

    Madness? This is Sparta!!!!!!!!!

  18. As grandpa used to say: if you are going to sell something, sell groceries, people will always have to eat

    Darn. I knew I was in the wrong business. :)
    Heh, heh.

    That’s not exactly true. The ‘grocery’ of today’s world is in the field of information. Of the ten top blogs on the planet, 6 or 7 are about information technology. When you look at the top entrepreneurs on the planet, they’re pretty much all the information business.

    So unless Grandpa was Mr.Sam Walton, he’s probably a bit dated in terms of what’s really selling.

  19. Love the humor in this post. You’ve made it quite memorable for me–I don’t think I’ll be forgetting this one. ;)

  20. Here’s the problem with urgency: is it really urgent to the customer or is it a thinly veiled attempt at being concerned for their well-being to the point they listen to you & your message.

    This article is almost a continuation that goes back to The Harpoon of the Net post.

  21. This article is almost a continuation that goes back to The Harpoon of the Net post.

    I think that’s true Mark, but maybe not in the way you mean. I’m a big advocate of educational content marketing (the Net approach), but if you’re all education and no selling, you don’t succeed.

    One great thing about content marketing is it allows you to build a relationship with the audience that makes selling easier and allows for multiple promotions over time. But if you don’t give people a compelling reason to act on those promotions, you’ll be unhappy with the results.

    I’ve seen what Sean talks about over and over… people who want what you’re offering, but they won’t do anything about it until you give them a reason to act now. Often it’s the fear of missing out that drives people to action more than the desire for gain.

  22. Very true, Brian. I agree with that 100%.

    However, I’m interested in getting people’s feeback on this: sometimes advertising/marketing only ‘sells’ a mediocre or average product, which leads to mediocre results. If you’re looking for successful sales easily, you can either a.) sell an incredible product with average service or b.) sell an average product with incredible service.

    Do you think this is true?

  23. Yeah, Mark… it’s getting harder and harder to sell bad products, and average is tough too in competitive markets.

    The sad thing is when people with incredible products go broke because they don’t want to sell it. A truly incredible product will spread like wildfire once the word gets out and around, but it still takes a major effort to get noticed with all the noise.

  24. I think of key tactics like urgency as little harpoons you can use when the fishies are comfortably caught in the net.

    There were some really fascinating comments on the harpoon/net post, and a lot of them revolved around the content marketer’s tendency to undersell. There are a lot of incredible content resources around the Web that are run by passionate, talented broke people.

    That’s what’s unique about Copyblogger, IMO–it teaches both great content and effective selling. Unless you’re just in it for fun, you need both.

  25. Mark:

    Good advertising makes a good product sell faster, and a bad product fail faster.

    Except if you’re selling to a get-rich quick crowd. You can sell them bad products forever, and they’ll buy forever, because they think that getting-rich is like a magic potion.

    If you’re not in the get-rich quick market (and we’re certainly not) then your products must be not just good, but superlative.

    Even your free reports should be out of this world. Every article, every single piece you put out should be exceptionally classy. And this can’t be done overnight. The sleek iPods you see today, were geeky white, clunky objects just five years ago.

    Now they’re crisp, clean, and don’t have the geeky look of the Kindle (which hopefully will change too).

    Today’s customers are tougher than ever—which is a good thing for people who do good stuff. I mean you look at Brian’s ‘Teaching Sells’ and you’ll see what I mean. It’s really outstanding stuff. And way too under priced. (No, I don’t take an affiliate fee for this) :)

    But do you think the entire list of 30,000 readers would pick up on his offer? No they haven’t. And that’s why he had to have the ‘price going up’ offer. Of course, if he made that price 500% more, it would still be under-priced.

    So urgency does help people to take action.

    And urgency isn’t just at the point of conversion, but also at consumption. Once you buy, doesn’t mean you’ll consume. But that’s another story. (If that story interests you, you can look up ‘Psychotactics’ and ‘consumption’ on Google for more details).

    Ok, now I have to go :) As in go from the computer. Not go to you-know-where.

    Sean

  26. Hey Sean:

    Thanks for the insight! Fairly or unfairly, I think some products & their subsequent copy/sales letters get lumped into the ‘too good to be true’ category, so people can’t justify the cost or purchasing the item. Maybe that’s me…

    Which leads to the recent post – sometimes you need to zig, while everyone else zags.

    I hope I don’t sound like I’m discrediting the post, because I found most of your article to be spot on. I just enjoy everyone’s feedback. It’s the only way you learn!

    Cheers,
    Mark

  27. I still think you guys are missing the “value” aspect and the importance it plays.

    Take a look back at Sean’s comment (#4) about the brand of taxis on the carousel.

    They could have advertised how urgent it is to hire that company and “get a taxi” because . . . maybe the area has a high crime rate and walking is not advised.

    Ok great, so I need a taxi and guess what, I don’t remember the name of that company on the carousel. Why? Because I didn’t see the value of that company, just the urgent reason why I needed their service.

    However, if they were to advertise “Free Taxi Rides To Anywhere In The City,” I betcha we would make note of that company’s name and go find them.

    Why might they advertise that? Maybe they have a deal worked out where drivers work for tips only and the company makes money through advertising (everyone wants to advertise with them because of their popular free rides).

    This company never included a sense of ugency, but rather a sense of value to their customers. The value is “keep your money and buy more beer.”

    Like I mentioned before, I think urgency when mixed with a great value is a key to success in bad economies.

  28. Great example John :) And nicely linked to the comments.

  29. Hey thanks, Sean. I really did enjoy the read and found it insightful. I went to bed last night thinking, “How could that taxi ad of been more memorable?”

    My answer was value.

  30. Great post, and I really like the pee metaphor it really illustrates clearly the point you are making.
    Thanks,
    JR

  31. Thanks for the excellent article on marketing in a bad economy…….site promotion is still very important in this type of economy……..

  32. Exactly, it’s all about how fast you provide solution to a problem to a particular prospect.

    There must be reason to do anything like buying a product and you must provide that reason to your customer.

  33. Hey Sean D’Souza,

    Glad to see your articles featured here on Copyblogger.
    You are in good company my friend

  34. Nice article..thanks!

  35. Interesting way of looking at this. Supply and demand is another way to get the customer to buy something if they know its limited. Especially if everyone else wants it too. Herd mentality.

  36. I guess these days are the prime time to apply your tips.

    BTW, what a vivid example you had here. Peeing? In fact, I want to pee for almost 30 minutes but I wanted to finish reading a couple of articles first but thanks to your “Aaaaaaaaaaaaah” at the end of this post I have to go right no….!