How to Grow Your Side-Hustle with The Power of Scarcity
If your side-hustle needs a sales boost, consider using the power of scarcity. While you may not want to limit the sale of your actual product, there are multiple ways to inject real scarcity into your business.
We want what we can’t have.
There’s nothing like a deadline, or the threat of ‘doing without’ to encourage humans to buy. While attempting fake scarcity is never a good idea (like those countdown timers you see on emails and websites), there are multiple ways we can inject real scarcity to boost sales.
Humans are naturally lazy.
We work best on a deadline. If we don’t have a hard cut-off, we put most of our to-dos off for tomorrow. And tomorrow never comes.
If you operate a business that sells non-essential items, as most of us do, this lack of motivation can be detrimental to your sales. Customers have no fire beneath them to make a decision. They know your product will be there tomorrow… and next month.
Why make the decision today?
We want more for our side-hustles. We want sales now, at the moment we ask for them. Not tomorrow. Not next year. To accomplish this boost in sales, we’ll use the power of scarcity.
I’ll share multiple ways you can encourage your readers to open their wallets today, instead of next month… or never.
Close the Doors
Closing the doors on your side-hustle is the most-motivating. We give the reader a window in which to buy our product. She knows once the window is over, the doors are closed.
Whether you launch (or drop) your product once a year, or once a month, having a hard-stop to the sales period is a proven way to boost your sales into a small window.
We want what you’ve got.
We’ll wait until the last minute, but we’ll buy. We don’t want to miss the chance, or to have some Schmoe down the road get your product before we do.
This method works well with courses. There’s naturally an unlimited supply with digital products. If you close the doors on enrollment, you’ll boost your sales a lot. Just make sure you’ve got a great marketing plan during launch week or you’ll have to wait until the next launch to try again.
I’ve seen this work really well on Instagram with handmade products. A creator makes a limited production run of a handmade item.
On certain days, he makes a public ‘drop.’ This is an announcement with a photo. “I’ve got 20 of these. When they’re gone, they’re gone.” I read the comments. Even creators will five-figure followers can sell-out in a matter of minutes.
Scarcity is power.
If you run a handmade side-hustle I encourage you to release your work in limited batches, versus having it available at all times.
Major, coveted brands have been built this way and there’s no reason you can’t do it with your own little business. I’ve seen this work with tattoo machines, handmade handkerchiefs, t-shirts, wooden spoons, furniture, art, and everything in-between.
A Better Price
I you’ve got a product that is for sale all the time, you can still benefit from the power of scarcity. Instead of advertising a ‘sale,’ reduce the price of your product, dramatically, for a very short window of time.
Maybe you have a birthday deal, where you cut your price in half, for 24 hours, every year on your birthday.
Maybe you give a special price during launch week, each time you launch a new product. This will give your new release an added boost when it needs a boost the most.
Perhaps you choose a random holiday, like Boss’s Day and cut your price for six hours.
Although price-cutting won’t have the sales power of actual door-closing, you can give your sales a period boost without having to take your product off-line
The Reverse Sale
I like this one a lot. And I’ve used it multiple times over the past 20 years I’ve marketed online.
Instead of cutting your price, use your current price as a baseline. Tell your readers that you’re about to INCREASE your prices on a specific date (note: this better be a real increase, not some fake, furniture store increase-decrease scam).
Your old price becomes a great deal.
That inner scarcity demon will be ignited in your readership and you’ll see a nice boost in sales, just before the deadline.
Note: be prepared for a drop in sales, immediately following your price increase. This is to be expected. Your customers just watched the price go up.
The reverse sale is a good way to scale-up your business once or twice a year, by building a naturally-occurring price bump every year.
We don’t want to pay more than we have to. We’ll recognize the increase as scarcity. Many of us will (if we want to buy your product) buy your product.
Sliding bonuses work very well during product launches for products that don’t disappear after the launch.
The way this works is to have a front-weighted basket of bonuses that slowly decrease as the deadline nears.
Let’s say on day one you offer three bonuses. By day three you have two bonuses. One the last day, you’re down to a single bonus.
While your customer knows she can buy your product next week, she also knows she won’t receive the added value of the additional bonuses if she doesn’t take action today.
The Vanishing Deal
The vanishing deal is similar to the sliding bonus. Instead of a series of sliding bonuses, let’s say you offer a free consultation (valued at $500) for any customer who buys today.
They can see your regular rates on your website. You’ve got social proof with customer testimonials, from people who’ve paid full-price.
Now, when you offer a limited number of free consultations, which vanish in a day or two, you can use this as a scarcity carrot.
The added bonus doesn’t cost you anything but your time and the added boost is sales could be far-greater than the number of free consultations you gave away.
When your customer can see a huge amount of value, versus the price she pays to get your product, the decision to buy becomes a no-brainer. This is why scarcity works so well. We help lower the barrier to the sales decision.
Scarcity is Motivating
Think of the last time you bought when motivated by scarcity. Even if it was lemonade from a stand. You passed the stand in your car. You had a moment to weigh the options, knowing you wouldn’t return to the stand later. You stopped and bought a glass.
Scarcity doesn’t have to be sleazy either.
As consumers, we know what you’re doing. If we enjoy your work we actually appreciate scarcity offers. These help us make a buying decision. Sometimes we need a little push to make that final yes/no decision.
Not every customer will buy.
Some people will leave your list when you make a scarce offer. This is a good thing. You want to cull your list periodically. This helps ensure you build a tribe of people who really want your work.
The Scarcity Better Be Real
I mentioned this earlier, but there’s nothing worse for your side-hustle than false scarcity. Even having a ‘limited time offer’ on a digital product makes you sound like a sleazy vacuum salesman.
Do what you say you’re going to do.
If you say you’ll increase you prices, the new price better stay increased for the next six months or longer. There’s no reason to dupe your customers into buying your product.
You can fool people once, but that’s no way to build a lifetime business. You want recurring customers, not one-time sales. While the power of scarcity is very strong, it must be engineered with great care, else you come across as a fraud.
Fake scarcity is obvious.
We’re skeptical-enough of real scarcity. There’s no reason to hurt your business with phony countdown timers, fake calls-to-action, and artificial inventory numbers.
Operate your business the way you would want a business owner to treat you. You’ll sleep better knowing you take your customers seriously. Maybe you won’t make as much noise as the scammers, but your business will still be around next year. Theirs won’t.
Scarcity is Easier with an Email List
When you’ve got a direct line to your best customers, it’s easier to send a scarcity campaign in a measured way.
Unless you’ve got a large social following, it’s hard to get enough power on social with a scarcity window, because, without paying for ads, you can’t ensure your readers will see the scarcity offer at the right moment.
With email, you know everyone on your list will get your email when you send it.
Email is the last, great direct marketing tool. You don’t have to pay to reach your entire customer list and you’ve got just as much right to your customer’s in-box at the biggest names in your industry.
Email marketing, combined with scarcity, is another great tool to help grow your side-hustle. While you don’t want to use scarcity frequently (it’s dilute the effectiveness), a planned scarcity campaign delivered using different methods, a few times per year, is a great way to boost your sales.
August Birch is an author, email expert, and entrepreneur from Michigan, USA. As a self-appointed guardian of writers and creators, August teaches indies how to make more work that sells and sell more work once it’s made. When he’s not writing or teaching, August carries a pocket knife and shaves his head with a safety razor.