Why Deadlines Work

Why do most sales and promotions have an expiration date? Why do some companies focus so heavily promoting deadlines?

Because they work. And here’s why:

When you employ deadlines as part of your marketing strategy, you are calling on two psychological effects – urgency and scarcity – that help you convince prospective consumers to take that next step and become a paying customer.

For most purchases, consumers are in control of when and how they buy. Most things can wait. Consumers can shop around, compare prices, and read reviews. There is no urgency, unless the company creates some.

Deadlines to take advantage of a special offer create that sense of urgency. The customer thinks, “I could wait, but then I’ll miss out on this deal.”

Scarcity is another psychological lever that marketers can use to their advantage. Often you will see companies employ scarcity by limiting the amount of inventory for popular items. You’ll see on a company’s website the number of items left in stock. Low numbers will tell consumers that if they wait, they may miss out.

But scarcity is also triggered by a deadline. Again, if a customer waits, they may miss out on a discount that everyone else is getting right now.

Scarcity and urgency are powerful forces when it comes to selling, in person or online. Don’t believe me? Try offering a discount with a deadline two weeks from today. I am willing to bet that you will see sales begin to increase with each day that passes, and that the day of the deadline is the highest single sales day in the sequence.