Of the many proven sales techniques out there, creating a sense of urgency to inspire action is one of the simplest and most effective. Urgency – whether real or manufactured – causes people to act on impulse and make decisions they might otherwise avoid. It taps into our emotions and toys with rationality, putting us on the spot.
Whether it’s buying a house or buying a lottery ticket, a sense of urgency can generate demand for almost anything. And, it can be manufactured in an instant! “We just got an offer in on this house” or “the jackpot is now up to $41M” aren’t inherently sales-driven messages in and of themselves, but they do have the power to inspire action. If you don’t put in an offer on the house, it might not be there tomorrow. Or, if you don’t buy a lottery ticket, someone else might win the jackpot.
The great thing about urgency is that it can be easily conveyed through copy, making it an effective sales tactic across a variety of mediums:
- Direct mail and email advertisements
- Web copy and landing pages
- Blog posts and sales-driven articles
- Press releases and media alerts
- Product descriptions
- PPC and social media ads
Introducing urgency into your copy isn’t hard and, when done properly, can give your messaging the edge it needs to get readers to act now, rather than putting off the decision indefinitely. In order to properly capture an urgent tone, however, you need to make sure your copywriting is well-structured and void of tropes that might have the opposite effect.
Let’s take a look at the right (and wrong) ways to add a little urgency to your copywriting, to give marketing messages the boost they need to inspire action.
The wrong way to introduce urgency
In an effort to introduce an urgent tone or convey a sense of timeliness in writing, it’s easy to make some key mistakes. The difference between a marketer and a copywriter is knowing how to inspire a feeling, instead of just crafting a marketing message.
First, don’t confuse urgency with excitement. Conveying urgency in your copywriting means more than just adding exclamation points! Forget about bold or underlined lettering, too. These don’t make your message urgent. In fact, they may detract from the real urgency of the message by drawing the reader’s attention away from the facts.
Another no-no when introducing urgency is using too many descriptors. It’s very easy to create skepticism in place of urgency if you push too hard. Hyperbole like “once in a lifetime deal” or “red-hot, super-amazing, limited-time offer” may seem like a great way to induce a sense of urgency, but the hyperbolic presentation overshadows the timeliness of the writing. As a rule of thumb, if it sounds like a used car dealer might say it, don’t write it.
Finally, don’t portray urgency in a way that’s overbearing. If you put too much pressure on readers, they’re going to bail out by default. Trying to steamroll people with copywriting that’s high-pressure just doesn’t work. Make your message urgent, not combative!
A smarter approach to urgent copywriting
Instead of playing with font and emphasis, the key to adding urgency is through qualifiers and descriptors within your content. Crafting a message that parlays urgency with the value proposition starts with the words you use and how you’re using them. There are blatant ways to do this and there are subtle ways to do this:
- Blatant examples are ones we’re all familiar with. “For a limited time only” and “while supplies last” are staples of urgency, giving readers the incentive to act immediately before they miss out. Think of a store closing sale with signage that reads “this sale is good until it’s gone!” You don’t know when the sale is going to end, so you better take full advantage of it while you can.
- Subtle examples may include statements like “limit X quantity” or “personalized for you,” which give readers an inclination that the offer they’re reading about may only be temporary, without explicitly saying so. In this scenario, think about a sale you might see at the grocery store for something like canned soup: “10 for $10, limit 10 per customer.” There’s the illusion of scarcity because the quantity is capped, enticing shoppers to take full advantage of their access to inventory.
How you choose to portray your message depends entirely on how you want it to be perceived. Blatant urgency tends to whip people into a frenzy – like opening the doors to a department store on Black Friday! Subtle cues allude to an unspoken sense of urgency – people quietly take advantage of an opportunity without drawing attention to it. Both are effective strategies when paired with the right medium of conveyance.
Context clues are your secret weapon
Don’t forget to also leave behind context clues in your writing. Sometimes, alluding to the timeliness of something is even better at creating urgency than explicitly stating it. If there’s any inclination of scarcity contained within your writing, the reader will pick up on it, creating a sense of urgency that manifests naturally.
If you’re talking about a Christmas sale, for example, the indication is that the advertised deals will be gone as soon as Christmas is over. In this way, you create urgency by tying a message to a specific timeframe. You don’t have to tell people “this sale ends on December 27” because they can infer it based on the unspoken timeliness of Christmas.
A last-ditch effort
When you really and truly want to convey a sense of urgency, don’t underestimate the power of the “last call.” Explicitly telling people that it’s their last chance to take advantage of an opportunity presents the ultimate do-or-die moment. Beware this type of ultimatum, however: If over-used, it can become ineffective and drive customers away. Make sure you’re saving it for when it counts and that the value proposition matches this top-tier level of urgency. If you’re trying to generate last call-level hype about something that doesn’t warrant it, your efforts are bound to fall flat.
Urgency is a tool, not a weapon
You’ve likely heard the statement “if everything is urgent, nothing is urgent.” This is true for copywriting, as well. If everything you write is laced with a sense of urgency, future messages will lose their appeal and their sense of timeliness. It’s also not a good idea to use urgency as a threat – nothing will turn your readers off faster than a hard sell that makes them feel bad.
Using urgency as a writing tool allows you to convey the timeliness of action on the part of a customer. Present the offer, frame the situation and let them do the rest. If wielded correctly, a sense of urgency woven into your writing will be the spark that causes people to act. When used improperly, urgency may fall flat and come off as insincere… or worse, underhanded.
If you’re not already, it’s time to start incorporating a little bit of urgency into your marketing and sales copy. The longer you wait, the more sales may be slipping through your fingers because your customers don’t have the incentive to act.