Note: This is part of a 7-day challenge called “Please Don't Starve” which is intended to help you create and sell your first product in a week. To learn more about the challenge, click here. Today is Day 7.
Why does anyone buy anything? Because the cost of not having it is greater than the cost of acquiring it. This is true for almost everything but especially for sales and marketing. If you want to thrive as a creative professional, you need to understand what it takes for someone to buy from you.
Otherwise, you just might starve.
Listen to the audio version of this lesson here:
My friend Carrie Wilkerson, who is a bestselling author, speaker, and business coach, says there are only three reasons people buy anything:
And if people aren’t buying, it’s due to a lack of one or all of these areas, meaning it doesn’t feel scarce or urgent so the customer can simply wait. Or more often than not, they just haven’t heard about it.
Don't assume people have heard about you
When my book The Art of Work came out a few years ago, we had this huge marketing campaign and sold over 20,000 copies of the book in the first few weeks it was out. I had every friend, influencer, and acquaintance I knew on the Internet talking about it. For six weeks, I had sent at least one email per week to my subscribers, talking about the book and how excited I was about it.
Now, the book was out it and it was an instant bestseller. I continued to talk about it, do interviews about it, and share the principles of the book through a separate podcast.
Then, one day, I casually shared something on my Facebook page about the book and someone commented, “Oh, you have a new book out? Congratulations!”
My defense mechanisms were immediately triggered, as I was certain this person was being snarky. Okay, okay, I thought. Hardy, har-har. I know, I know; it's been a bit annoying, but give me a break. This writing gig is hard work, and it took me two years to write this thing. What's the big deal if I spend some time and energy talking about it to ensure everybody hears about it.
I replied to the person, saying, somewhat defensively, that I understood we may have over-marketed this book and would cool it down now. I thanked the person for their feedback (though inwardly I was seething with resentment). Then they responded, “Huh? No. I didn't mean that at all. I seriously didn't even know you had a book out. Wow! That's amazing! Is this your first.”
Wow. Now, here was a person who was my “fan” and not only did they not know I had a new book out; they also didn't know that I had published three books before this! It made me realize that people aren't really paying as close attention to us as we think, and to get any message out, we have to say it over and over again.
How to close the sale without being sleazy
So, if you want people to buy something from you, you have to create enough awareness, scarcity, and urgency that they can't avoid it.
This means that you have to:
1. Run an effective & creative marketing campaign
It's been said that it takes the average customer seven impressions before they are willing to buy something, so your job as a marketer (and make no mistake, you are now a marketer of your creative work) is to raise enough awareness over time that people can't help but know about your product.
In my experience, by the time you are thoroughly annoyed with talking about it, you’re just starting to raise awareness about it. Just like in the story above, we are far more familiar with our own stories and messages than our audiences are. Keep finding new ways to beat an old drum, and more people will hear what you have to say.
This is especially applicable to books. Launch week feels like it should be the end of the journey after spending months or years working on your book, but you’re really just beginning. What happens after that really determines how many people will hear about your product and have an opportunity to buy it.
The launch is just the tip of the iceberg. Having a campaign that continues for weeks, if not months or years, after your product is launched into the world is crucial to its long-term success.
2. Limit access to the product
We want what we can't have. It's a basic human principle. And if we can have it all the time, how valuable is it really? You have to make your product scarce, at least initially, to communicate its value to your customer.
For you, this might mean only taking a certain number of spots for your course or program. It might mean limiting how many clients you work with or even the time of year that you offer it. It might even mean that you turn people away who want to pay you money so that the next time you offer the product, you have a wait list of people who are guaranteed to buy.
You can do this by cutting off when people can use the product or even by initially restricting the number of units available. Every time Apple launches a new iPhone, they intentionally ship a certain number of units to each store so that people line up outside on launch day. They always sell out, which creates a significant amount of buzz and demand. The next week, the ship the remaining units to stores and the sales continue.
If you are able to legitimately tell people “only 5 units left,” then you are in a good place. Scarcity drives demand.
3. Make a time-sensitive offer
Human beings tend to only buy things when we have to. When the car breaks down, we finally take it to a mechanic or maybe even decide to buy a new one. When the garbage disposal stops working, we break down and call a plumber. And so on. Purchasing decisions are almost always driven by some kind of perceived or actual urgency.
For example, has a “sale ends today!” sign outside a store ever influenced you to go inside and buy something. Deadlines move people, and so it will be for you and this product you're launching. If you want the most amount of people to buy, you have to give them a deadline. This could be a temporary discount price that will expire soon. It might mean you are going to cut off sales entirely or raise the price. Maybe you remove the special launch bonuses. Whatever you do, you'll need to tell people this offer is good only for a limited time and tell them when it expires. You'll have to set a deadline.
In the words of product launch expert Jeff Walker, “Something bad needs to happen the day after you close the cart.” Human beings like to avoid loss, even perceived loss, and so if you miss out on a good deal, that's usually a painful experience. So we as creators must find ways to honestly and ethically tap into this natural tendency of many people to wait to the last minute and not make a purchasing decision until they absolutely have to.
Set a deadline. You don’t have to stop selling, but the offer needs to be urgent enough that people want to avoid the pain of missing out on it.
A quick note on the ethics of selling
My ethics behoove me to tell you that this is not about manipulating or coercing people into doing things that are not good for them or helpful. My desire is that you would use these techniques for the good of there, and not for mere personal, selfish gain.
Like the doctor who reminds her patient that if he doesn't stop smoking by thirty, he may not see his daughter's wedding, we must be more concerned for our audience than for our own well-being. As creators, our job is to help them make the decision they want to make but need to be persuaded to make.
Leveraging these tools of awareness, scarcity, and urgency can help.
A few quick reminders:
- Making people aware of your product is not a license to be annoying or spammy. Respect people when they say no. Listen to them when they tell you they don’t want it or are not interested. But also understand that it’s not your job to say no for them.
- Creating false scarcity or urgency will only undermine trust and hurt you in the long run. If you say you are going to do something, do it. Do not say that the discount expires tomorrow and then not do it.
- People really do enjoy buying things, so you don’t have to feel bad about letting them pay you for something that will legitimately help them. Get excited! You’ve worked hard on this, and now it’s time to tell people about it.
And that's it. That's all I have for you. Make sure you leave an update in the Facebook group (or join us there if you haven't already done so) and share what you learned from this challenge.