Urgent Matters: Time wins over Sell-Outs in Copywriting

Advertisers know how to harness urgency, the feeling that you’ll be missing out on the awesomeness that everyone else gets to enjoy.  The golden news is, there’s a specific kind of urgency that makes people jump into action.

You’ll want to update your ad copy before it’s too late.

Oooh, see what happened there? Now it’s all scary and daunting. “Before it’s too late” is among the grand champions of urgency phrases. There is something about its warning that sounds helpful.  It’s as though they are looking out for you, but no one controls when the awesomeness is over.

There’s a big detail right there.

Audiences don’t like having something dangled over their heads that they can’t control. Here’s the difference.

GOOD: “Limited supply” gives an idea that the store could be out of Super Squeezy Squid Dolls tomorrow.  You never know: how many other people are shopping for one, too?

BETTER: “Limited time” gives the shopper a bit more control. She decides when to shop, even if it happens quickly.  There’s a sense that other shoppers’ excitement over the same Super Squeezy Squid Dolls won’t take away from her special price.

THE BIG PICTURE:When you’re writing for urgency, time wins over scarcity.

DRIVE HOME THE IDEA OF TIMING

Alright, so we know the Rolling Stones had it right.  Time is on your side. If you’re going to harness that concept to drive urgency, let’s drill into some hints that could help.

1. Short-term phrases dominate.

They show that your offer is ending quickly. Look to power performers like “by tomorrow” and “today” that beat out “this week only” and “this weekend only.”

Other gems include “act now” and “start now” that both beat out “hurry!” This might seem like a standard advertising rule of thumb that a small window of opportunity drives customers to take action. (Not too small a window, though, because “today” beats “now.”) However, there’s a twist.

2. Vagueness takes the crown.

The big winners that make audiences respond better than other phrases are:

In fact, “won’t last” outpowers the “act now” call to action, showing up 4 times more often in successful ads. These vague phrases pull a double-whammy for advertisers.  They drum up urgency while leaving the idea open to interpretation. Customers put pressure on themselves to act instead of resigning themselves to the idea that they’ll miss the offer altogether.

3. Here’s another revelation. No one likes the end.

If only the Mayans had listened. It’s better to live in the present than to predict doom of the future.  Well “doom” is a bit dramatic, but so is the push that your special offer “ends today.”

The phrase “today” appears in overwhelmingly more successful ads than “ends today” does.  If it’s an actual cutoff you’re after, try “until Monday” over “ends Monday.”

And remember the urgency rule of the Exclamation Point?  It holds true here.

“Today!” beats “today” as a better choice to build urgency.

“Hurry!” Beats “Hurry”

Soon!” beats “Soon”

No matter your approach, building urgency with a short time window does wonders. These examples all beat out any reference to your dwindling supply.

SCARCITY

But what if you don’t have that choice?  Sometimes you have just 50 dolls to sell.

Fair enough.  There are strong phrases that push this angle of urgency, too. “While supplies last” beats “limited supply.”  But you know what drives home scarcity and performs even stronger with readers?

Limited quantities.

This covers you in case of a sell-out and gets people to take action. While it’s not the sexiest phrasing, “quantities” resonate with people a lot more than “supplies” or “stock.”

If you have the flexibility with your offer, let the customer build up the excitement in their own minds. Tease the idea that your offer won’t last, and if you must give details, keep the timing short.

Now get working on your own ad copy updates.  Hurry!

Test your own word choice in Convertasaurus to uncover the phrasings that convert best.  www.convertasaurus.com

Posted in Case Studies
  • Eric Kinney

    This is great! The tool itself is fun to use but a collection of meaningful data well organized like this is wonderful. Using immediately, if I can do it in time, before it’s too late!

    • Sidra Condron

      Haha, I see what you did there, Eric. 🙂 I’m glad you liked the article for its compilation effect. That’s the angle we were going for–add some value by doing some related searches on our own and seeing if we could present some findings from the patters.

      Our blog here has a number of these from industry terms to variations on free giveaways. I hope you enjoy them.