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Limited Time Only (Shh! It's A Secret)

Posted by Karon Thackston on: 2005-08-10 14:04:06

Self SEO > Copywriting Articles

by Karon Thackston © 2005

Under normal circumstances, you'd shout it from the rooftops. After all, when you have something urgent to say, you want others to know about it, right? But when it comes to “limited time only” offers, lately I've noticed a disturbing trend. Copywriters seem to actually be hiding the phrase! Let me give you some examples.

I received a fabulous email from a ladies clothing site at which I like to shop. It was for 50% off my entire purchase of anything on their site (clearance items or regular price). Wahoo! What woman wouldn't love that? Trouble is, I almost missed the deal due to procrastination.

Like most busy women, I was going to go to the site and shop… later. However, I happened to notice, way down at the bottom of the email in tiny, little type, that the sale ended in two days. Why would they think the phrase "Limited time only - sale ends Friday, July 15, 2005 at midnight" was insignificant?

When I saw that phrase, I immediately zipped over to the site and began bargain hunting. (Found some fantastic deals, too!)

Here's another example.

As I was sitting at a fast food restaurant eating lunch, I was fiddling with the paper "tent" ads on the table. One was for a new salad (nope, not in a healthy mood) and one was for strawberry cheesecake. That sounded good, but I was almost finished with my sandwich and fries so I really didn't have room. I wasn't going home so I couldn't take it to go. I thought I'd just pick up a slice the next time I ate at this place until I saw - at the very bottom of the ad in teeny, tiny type - the "limited time only" phrase.

I know this restaurant. They bring new, test items in and out all the time. If they said, "Limited time only," I knew they meant it. Chances are (since I didn't get to eat at this restaurant often) I wouldn't get to try their cheesecake. If I had known it was a limited time offer, I would have ordered a slice before I got full.

Don't Play Games With Limited Time Offers

Make a point to let customers know they have to act fast, or they'll miss out. The fear of being left out or left behind is a basic human motivator that can be triggered pretty easily. The trick is to actually let your customers know an offer is limited in some way. Here's how to create a powerful limited time offer.

Things go on sale all the time, so if you're selling clothing or food or office supplies, you might have limited time offers that end simply because the sale date has past. However, if there is a reason your offer is limited (limited supply of items, testing a new item, etc.), tell the customer. This can actually increase the sense of urgency.

Make your offer credible. How do you do that? By sticking to your word. If you say an offer will end on a certain date, end it or give a darn good reason for extending the offer. If customers see that you continually tout "limited time offer," but keep the discount running past the deadline, you'll lose credibility and sales.

Give a reasonable deadline. Customers need time to act. Car manufacturers run incentive offers for a month or longer in part because of the high cost of vehicles and the need for arranging financing. The online clothing site I mentioned earlier set its deadline at two days (customers could easily click over to their site and shop immediately). Depending on the item, the purchasing medium and whether there is a need for financing or such, you can adjust your deadline to whatever works best for you.

When your customers understand you're making an offer that will expire shortly, they are motivated to act now, rather than later. If you give them a good enough reason not to procrastinate, you can see a major surge in sales. Urgency is never something you want to hide in your copy.

About the Author

Copy not getting results? Learn to write SEO copy that impresses the engines and your visitors at Be sure to also check out Karon’s latest e-report on search engine copywriting: “How To Increase Keyword Saturation (Without Destroying the Flow of Your Copy)” at

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