The Art of Scarcity

One piece of commonly accepted wisdom among the Internet Marketing expert crowd is that you have to “earn” a sale by asking for it.  They spend a mess of time talking about a bunch of crap that effectively boils down to asking people to, “buy my stuff”.

That’s one way of getting a sale and if we’re being honest, it’s the most prevalent way.  You talk about something you do, explain the problem it solves, list the benefits and then tell the person how they can buy it.

It turns selling into an “event”.

But that’s not the only way to sell things and I’d argue that it’s not even the best way much of the time.

Don’t get me wrong – there are times where you’ve just got to make the offer and tell people how to take you up on it.  One of the biggest failings that I see with some people is that they never make an offer at all for anything and are afraid to try and sell to their audience.

People who never ask for the sale are usually poor and frustrated.

However, I’m a much bigger fan of a different type of selling that we do in our content business that never really gets talked about – we’re intentionally scarce.

Let me wrap a caveat around this…

I’m not saying we do “scarcity-based” selling because I hate that model – there are no fake pressure tactics where we say for a limited time there are four places left and then they’ll be gone forever.

That’s not what I’m talking about at all.

Our content service is just… well… “scarce”.

We don’t talk much about it with clients, we don’t do ANY promotion at all and we never sell – I can’t remember the last time we produced any kind of “quote” or whatever.

We get 95% of our business from existing clients referrals and the rest comes from someone reaching out to me personally and saying, “Hey, I heard through the grapevine that you have a content business…”

In 2015, we took down our dedicated website for the content business, so the only marketing channel is now word of mouth.

When clients refer to what our content service does, they say that it’s “boutique” which I kind of like because it lets us be choosy about who we work with and how we choose to do business.

Don’t get me wrong, we still have a bunch of transactional type clients that we’ve had for years who buy things like article re-writes and some basic SEO type content, but the bespoke stuff is where we tend to focus.

The great thing about this “scarce” approach is that by the time the person reaches out to me to talk about their requirements, they’ve already self-qualified to a large extent.  The conversation is never about whether or not they’ll hire us, but whether we do the type of work they’re looking for, how much and do we have the capacity to turn it around in the timeframe they’d like.

I’d say about 75% of those conversations go nowhere.

The majority come down to the fact we don’t do what they want or they’re looking for content in a market we don’t serve.

The next highest impediment to coming to an arrangement is whether we have the capacity to deliver in the timeframe they’d like – most times, these clients are looking for something unrealistic in a short period of time because they’ve been left in the lurch.

Interestingly, a good portion of these people approach us with future projects and we end up working together.

The final hurdle is price but generally speaking, because of the “boutique” and “intentionally scarce” approach, people who reach out to us aren’t what I would consider “value buyers”.

This model works for us, but there are some downsides.

You don’t really start out like this, you have to kind of grow into it over time.  When you’re starting a business from the ground up, you need to be willing to take on some crap work and get the turn over happening so that you build your momentum.

This model has a pretty limited ceiling financially – when you’re not out there promoting what you do, your market potential is inherently limited.

That said out content business is limited by supply more than potential at this point and there are PLENTY of multi-billion dollar “boutique” hedge funds and big law firms that only accept new clients by referrals, so “limited” is relative.

It’s also not a great model if you want to be interwebz famous.  If you’re looking for a huge profile and to be a “big hitter” in your market, then being low key and boutique isn’t really conducive to that.

You don’t see me appearing on “round up posts” talking about the latest trends in a bunch of topics but I know that we’re WAAAAAY more successful than 80% of the people who seem to be in every single one.

The bottom line is, this kind of “intentionally scarce” and low key approach can work for you, but you have to be willing to go down that path and fully commit to it.

When you get it right, it’s a great way to run your business.

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