READ NOW: You May Never Hear This Again

That, friends, is how you create scarcity.

Scarcity is the last of Dr. Robert Cialdini’s six key principles of influence (the subject of a series of blogs I started several weeks ago), and it centers around the basic law of supply and demand.

The less of something there is, the more people want it.

Remember back in 1985 when the Coca-Cola company made what Time magazine later called “the marketing fiasco of the decade”? Coke’s blind taste tests indicated that 55 percent of participants preferred the taste of New Coke. When participants knew which was “new” and which was “classic” Coke, preference for New Coke actually went up 6 percent (to 61 percent).

Company executives thought this would be a windfall when the public knew they were getting something new.

What they underestimated was the lure of scarcity. Participants in the taste test increased their desire for New Coke because it was not on the market. The same principle applied when Coca-Cola announced it was taking its classic formula off the market.

Because people thought they couldn’t have it, they wanted it more.

Dr. Cialdini explained this principle in a recent webinar, and said something I thought was really eye-opening: people are moved more by the negative idea of loss or lost opportunity than of the affirmative idea of gain.

He gave the example of a construction company that went house to house offering a free thermal inspection of homes. Following the inspection of things like insulation, weatherstripping and overall air tightness, customers were presented results in two fashions: how much money they could gain by making changes and how much money they were losing by not making changes.

Those who were presented with the loss framing – how much they were losing per month – were 150 percent more likely to make the changes than those who were told how much they could save.

Dr. Cialdini co-authored a book called “Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be More Persuasive,” and in the book, it says, “The tendency to be more sensitive to possible losses than to possible gains is one of the best-supported findings in social science.”

How does this affect you as a dentist?

This principle is why we encourage our clients to promote limited-time offers. That may be a fee consultation, lifetime whitening or whatever – but only if the potential patients acts soon.

The idea that the offer is going away and they may have missed an opportunity motivates people to action.

Once you get the patients into the chair, this also is a strong technique to get patients to accept the treatment you recommend. Rather than leading with the benefits of implants, veneers or whatever, lead with what the patient may miss out on if they don’t have the procedure.

Emphasize the pain rather than the gain.

So that is all of the six key principles of persuasion. In case you missed any of the previous discussions, here they are again with links:

  1. Reciprocity: People feel obligated to give to those who give to them.
  2. Liking: People prefer to say yes when they know and like someone.
  3. Consensus: People decide what to do based on what other people like themselves do.
  4. Authority: People want to follow the advice of experts.
  5. Consistency: People want to follow through on their written and verbal commitments.
  6. Scarcity: People want what they perceive to be in short supply.

Next week I’ll conclude the topic by telling you what Dr. Cialdini said about how the audience makes a difference as to which of the six principles is most effective.

Has anyone tried any of these principles yet, either at work or outside of work? Let me know.