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I’m browsing the Southwest Airlines website, exploring the possibilities for an upcoming trip. 

I haven’t even decided I’m definitely going on this trip, mind you. I’m still feeling into it, and there are more details to coordinate with those I’ll be visiting.

Oh good… There’s a flight each way that seems like the obvious choice. 

But wait… Right next to the price, I notice some small but powerful red letters: “2 seats left” 

Something happens in my brain. 

Suddenly this trip that I’m not even sure I’m going on is in danger of not working out. Someone might take my seat!

I leap into action. Out comes the credit card. 

Within 2 minutes, my spots are secure.

Meanwhile, I still don’t know if the dates and times I chose work for anyone else. 🤦‍♀️

I know I have 24 hours to cancel for a full refund, so the risk is low. 

But I promise you this: Without those little red letters, I would NOT have clicked the “Buy Now” button.  

And that, dear readers, is a true-life example of the power of scarcity to motivate buyers.


Unfortunately, there’s a lot of sleazy marketing out there that exploits the power of scarcity in dishonest or manipulative ways.  

Please don’t do that.

But let’s not throw the “potent fact of human psychology” baby out with the “unfortunate misuse of power” bathwater. 

If you believe in what you selling — and please, please, believe in what you’re selling — then helping the right people get over their inertia to invest in what you offer can actually be a good deed

The truth is, scarcity often isn’t something you’d need to manufacture (though that has its place too). It’s often something you merely need to reveal.

For example: Say you’re a coach (a lot of you are). How many more clients could you handle this month? 5, 10? Probably not 50. 

There’s a real number there, and a real limit to your availability. 

Simply make that real limit transparent on your next sales call by saying something like, “I’ve got 3 spots left in my practice this month, is one of them yours?” 

There. You’ve unleashed the power of scarcity.

PS – For more on the wise use of scarcity in marketing, I highly recommend the book Oversubscribed by Daniel Priestly.

PPS – I DIDN’T end up keeping those exact tickets. And yet my scarcity-induced impulse-buy helped me clarify that the trip was a good idea. I’m currently writing this from the plane…

This post was originally sent as an email to the Magic Words of the Week newsletter list. Every week, I share reflections on a word, quote, or phrase I think will help you thrive in your life’s work.

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