Introducing scarcity is one of the effective ways to market your online courses.
It is based on the principle of Fear of Missing Out (FOMO), which simply speaking means telling your users that the offer you are presenting is limited and they may not have the same opportunity in the future.
Now, scarcity marketing techniques can be broadly classified into two categories: Limited-Time (deadline based) and Limited-Number.
You must have seen both types of scarcity marketing techniques in action before as well, as it is used by businesses of all size and in almost every industry:
- Amazon offers daily deals that are available for a limited time.
- Travel sites display how many rooms are left for a hotel.
- One Plus One initially allowed its phones to be bought only through invite and got more than a million sales with this strategy.
- All types of clearance sales.
These are just a few examples and you can find 100s of them on a daily basis.
Now, let’s talk about why scarcity marketing works so well and how you can incorporate it into your funnels.
Why Does Scarcity Marketing Work?
Scarcity marketing techniques capitalise on human psychology – things which are scarce or exclusive are desired/valued much more compared to things which aren’t.
Scarcity marketing is all about sending a message across that the item in question is scarce and if you desire it, you have to act now! If the message is sent across in the right way, scarcity works and it can boost sales conversions significantly.
The same applies to online courses and digital products as well. However the exact strategy depends on the nature of your product, funnel type, your audience, pricing etc.
Now, let’s discuss the 6 most effective scarcity marketing strategies that work very well for selling online and how you can execute the same in your sales funnel:
1. Limit the Time Period for Enrolment in Your Online Course
Closing the doors is one of the most popular scarcity marketing techniques and is used by a lot of online marketers for their signature courses.
In this case, enrolment for a course starts on a particular date and then the gates are closed after a certain number of days.
If someone fails to enroll in the course during this period, he will have to wait until the next launch. Generally there is or rather should be a gap of at least a month between two course launches.
Bryan Harris from VideoFruit.com uses this technique for his Get 10,000 Subscribers program. When you try to enroll in the program after the launch period is over, you will be taken to this page where you are asked to join the waiting list.
This approach works really well because of the following reasons:
- Limited time period plus the realization that they will have to wait for months pushes users into taking action.
- It conveys a sense of exclusivity to the users regarding your product.
- Waiting list also means that you will have an audience for your next launch.
I recommend using this approach for signature products which have a hefty price tag attached to them. Courses selling in excess of $500 should consider implementing this sort of an approach in their funnel.
However, with this approach you need to be careful about the gap between different launches and you shouldn’t launch, say twice every month otherwise it will appear as more of a marketing tactic than anything else.
As far as execution of this technique is concerned, it’s very straightforward. If you use a solution like ClickFunnels or Leadpages for your landing pages, you can easily add a countdown timer that will redirect your sales page to an opt-in page when the deadline expires.
If your landing page builder doesn’t let you redirect your sales page automatically, you can manually remove the ‘Buy Now’ buttons from your sales page and instead add an opt-in form.
2. Limit the number of spots available in the course
Another popular scarcity marketing strategy is to limit the number of spots in the course.
The idea here is to send across a message that there are other people who want this course as well and if you don’t act fast, you will miss out on the opportunity.
Noah Kagan fromAppSumo uses this technique for his ‘How To Make A $1,000 A Month Business’ course. As you can see, there are only ‘182’ spots remaining in the course after which the doors will be closed.
Now you can either use this as an independent strategy or you can also combine it with limited time enrollment strategy.
In the 2nd case, the doors for the course closes either when the deadline is reached or when all the spots are filled. This is very powerful as it adds an sense of extra exclusivity and thus urgency to your courses.
I would recommend using this strategy along with limited time enrollment as limiting only the number of spots might not work for not so strong brands.
It is pretty easy to implement this type of scarcity. Once all the spots are filled, you can simply hide the ‘Buy Now’ button on your sales page and add an opt-in form to join the waiting list.
What is more challenging is to implement a live count of spots remaining on the sales page. A few people do it manually and update the number of spots remaining every x hours.
3. Offer Early Bird Discount to a Limited Number of Customers
In this case, an early bird discount is offered to a small number of buyers for taking early action which basically means you are limiting the number of spots in the course at a particular price.
You may or may not close the doors for the course after the early bird discount offer expires.
This strategy is highly recommended for new course launches as it helps you gauge the market demand, gather feedback and create extra hype around your new program.
Let’s take an example of how the early bird pricing is used. Say you are launching a new course which is going to be an evergreen course (the course will be open for enrollment always).
You can offer x% discount to first n buyers to make it rewarding for them to act fast.
This strategy can also be used to test the demand for your course and gather feedback. You can offer your course (before the official launch) to n people at x% discount and based on the response, you can judge the demand for your course.
You need to think through n – the number of people so that it meets your revenue goals and your audience perceives it as limited in number (shouldn’t be too high or too low).
As far as execution of this technique is concerned, it’s straightforward but may involve some more work.
If you are using a system that doesn’t allow you to create limited use coupons, you will have to create two sales pages – one with a discounted price and another with the original price. And then you will have to redirect the page once n customers buy the course at a discounted price.
However if you are using a platform like Teachable, you can simply create a coupon code and limit its uses to n customers. Once the coupon reaches its uses limit, the sales page will show the original price rather than the discounted price.
You can also offer multiple tiers of early bird discount – e.g. a super early bird discount of 50% for first 50 users and an early bird discount of 25% to next 100 users.
Another variant of this sort of strategy is offering an early bird discount till a particular date and it’s completely up to you how you want to incorporate it into your sales strategy.
4. Evergreen Discount for New Subscribers
This is a really powerful and scalable scarcity marketing technique. In this case, the user is presented a unique offer (e.g. 50% discount on the course price) and the offer is triggered based on an user action (e.g. when the user joins the email list).
The offer then remains active for a certain period of time after which the user can’t get the same amount of discount.
The most important aspect of this strategy is that it’s an evergreen offer – which means that the same offer is presented to every user irrespective of when he/she joins the email list.
Evergreen discount offers have become really popular in the recent years and there are a number of reasons for that:
- It is a 100% automated, ‘set & forget’ kind of a strategy and hence is highly scalable.
- This allows your course to be evergreen which means it is open for enrollment all the time and for the users, it means they can buy and take the course anytime.
- Despite the course being available for enrollment all the time, one-time discount offers help introduce a sense of urgency and push users towards taking an action.
Anyone who sells online courses or any other digital products which are evergreen in nature can use evergreen discount offers to boost their sales conversions. However, the important thing is to create genuine scarcity.
Implementing a scarcity like this is not straightforward and you would need a tool like Deadline Funnel to execute it.
You can use Deadline Funnel to create an evergreen funnel for your courses and also add countdown timers to your sales pages & emails. And the best part is that you can use it irrespective of whether you use WordPress, Teachable/Thinkific, ClickFunnels or for that matter any landing page builder.
If you are looking for a detailed tutorial on how to incorporate an evergreen discount offer in your sales funnel, you can check this detailed guide.
5. Evergreen Upsell Offer for New Customers
This is another example of an evergreen scarcity marketing technique. However unlike evergreen offers for new subscribers, this type of offer aims at increasing your revenue from people who have already bought from you.
Let me explain it by sharing case study of a client I helped execute a similar strategy. Nathan from StationX sells online cyber security courses on his Teachable school.
The moment somebody buys a course on his school, the student is presented with a special discount offer to upgrade his purchase.
The one-time discount offer is available to the customer only for next 48 hours, after which there is no way the customer can get the bundle at this price.
And then Nathan follows up with the customer via email and because of this strategy, Nathan saw the average spending from customers rise from $25 to around $40.
I recommend this sort of an evergreen scarcity technique to anyone who has something to upsell and wants to increase average revenue from his/her customers.
As far as execution of this technique is concerned, it’s very similar to that of evergreen discount offers for new subscribers and again you would need Deadline Funnel to execute it.
PRO TIP: These were just two examples of evergreen scarcity marketing techniques. How you are gonna use it is limited only by your imagination. For example, you can trigger evergreen offers when user completes a particular course or maybe even when he/she doesn’t make a purchase during a sales sequence (downsell offer) etc.
6. Offer Fast Action Bonuses to Your Customers
Generally when you do a launch or do any sort of a sales campaign (even evergreen campaigns), a large chunk of sales tend to happen close to the deadline.
Offering fast action bonuses can help you spread out this sales somewhat more evenly throughout the campaign.
You might have attended a webinar where the presenter offers fast action bonuses to those who enroll in the course during the webinar.
Or you might have seen somebody offering fast action bonuses to anyone enrolling in the course in the first 48 hours.
These strategies motivate users to take immediate action rather than taking action close to the deadline and give a further boost to your sales.
Bryan Harris from videofruit.com uses this technique to encourage fast action for his Get 10,000 Subscribers program.
If you are creating a regular fast action bonus offer, you can simply share links (obviously which will expire after certain time) to the bonuses to those who are eligible for it.
Creating evergreen fast action bonuses are a little trickier and will again require use of a tool like Deadline Funnel.
Scarcity does work and can help boost your online course sales conversion significantly. You should certainly consider incorporating scarcity into your sales strategy if you sell online courses from your own website.
However while incorporating scarcity into your sales strategy, keep in mind a couple of things:
- Don’t try to create a fake scarcity. It can cause irreparable damage to your business and your brand.
- Scarcity works only if you have some audience to sell to. If you are just getting started with online courses, focus on building an audience first.
- Use the right scarcity techniques which suit your product and your audience.
If you have any questions or any examples of scarcity that you have seen/executed, please let us know by leaving a comment below!