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Do It Now: The Power of a Deadline

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If you’re hoping to jumpstart your sales, try adding a deadline to your offers. Unless there is a sense of urgency, customers may put off the decision to buy. They forget or they find what looks like a better deal, and your opportunity may be lost. The truth is, procrastination is seductive. That’s why it’s so easy to say “I’ll start my diet tomorrow.” But add urgency, like a rapidly approaching high school reunion, and suddenly the diet becomes a priority. The same urgency can be applied to your sales offers.

Here’s another way to look at it. Dozens of reality TV shows are on the air and are wildly successful. Not because they necessarily have a compelling concept, but because they make it compelling by adding tension in the form of deadlines and limits, and ultimately rewards. That’s how they pull the audience in, week after week. You can use the same strategy. Setting a deadline – linked to a special deal – lets customers know there is a benefit to be had, if they act quickly. Tell them the time frame, then tell them what action to take. “Buy now and get 15% off.” “Order today and we’ll pay the shipping.” “Purchase by midnight and we’ll throw in a free gift basket.”

Calls to Action

Combining an incentive – like a discount or freebie – and a deadline can create an effective action plan that can turn a window shopper into a buyer. “Actionable language and deadlines are the perfect catalysts for generating immediate response,” said Charissa Hurd. Hurd is a marketing professional with BizActions | PDI Global | Thomson Reuters. She advises advertisers, “the strongest muscles working in your marketing efforts are your calls to action. These are the all-important bits of your messages that communicate urgency and provoke action.”

When you’re setting a deadline, make it real. Businesses make a mistake when they repeatedly move a deadline, kind of like kicking a can down the road. For example, some online retailers post banners on their websites with messages like this: “sale ends June 30 at midnight.” But the next day, the “end” date rolls over. Customers quickly figure this out and feel you’ve insulted their intelligence.

A deadline can be compelling but may not be enough on its own to seal the deal. That’s where incentives come in. Set your deadline and then tell the customer the action to take and how you will reward them if they act quickly. “Every message you send should always have a call to action that forwards the purpose of your message and gives people a real reason to respond,” said Hurd.

Here are some suggestions for adding value to the deal and getting customers to follow your call to action.

1. Discounts. A discount is a great way to compel customers, especially in today’s economy. But to be effective, the discounts can’t happen very often. They need to be truly deadline-driven, or they lose their motivation power. You’ve probably seen stores that have the same items “on sale” all the time. Customers soon realize, it’s not a sale at all. So what’s the rush? The customer now knows there is time to look around.

2. Coupons. Consumers love coupons, but don’t push the expiration date out too far. Too much time to use a coupon causes them to be lost or forgotten. Set a short deadline and circle it in red. If you are dealing with the customer in person, point out the date. You might also consider selling at the regular price (or a slight discount) and offering a coupon on future purchases if the customer buys now. That can lead to not one purchase, but two or more.

Add a bonus. Tell your customer if she acts now or in a certain time period, you will give a cash rebate, a deep discount, or some complementary item or service, maybe throw in a gift basket. One online clothing retailer has occasional sales where customers who order within a time frame and spend a minimum amount, say $75, can get a pre-determined freebie, like a stylish raincoat or an overnight bag. The beauty of that is, it not only gets the customer to buy now, but it also prompts someone who would’ve spent, say $50 to shop some more in order to qualify for the freebie.

4. Limit the offer. Let the customer know, this offer is not being made to everyone. Who doesn’t like to feel they are part of a select group?

5.  Partner. Connect with a related business to provide a significant extra value. For example, if you are a carpet dealer, by forming a relationship with a local carpet cleaning service, you can offer a hefty discount on a cleaning as an incentive to buy now.

We all love deals. The better the deal, the better the bragging rights. Some customers just need a little push. Creating a sense of urgency isn’t hard or expensive, but should be well-thought out. Do it right and you can generate interest in your products and services that can motivate customers, close deals and power up your sales.

Teresa Ambord

Posted In: Sales & Marketing

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