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Slow and Steady vs the Quick Knock-out: Marketing Fight Night

This guest post is by Barb Sawyers, of Sticky Communication.

In one corner of the ring, we have me,  a new online marketer who has bought into the content marketing philosophy of trust. I hope I can go the distance! In the other corner is the nimble Ninja, who swings fast and furious to end the match quickly.

Who’s your money on?

Experience, backed by the many limited-time offers I receive every day, suggests that Ninja is your best bet.

But let me explain why I think you should place your wager on people like me.

I keep reading advice from people like the Web Marketing Ninja who, in this recent post, applies the traditional marketing principle of urgency. He even advised online marketers to threaten to double the price. At least he didn’t tell them to try the fake scarcity punch, as many hard-liners do.

But what if you’re selling something that’s neither urgent nor scarce? What if you don’t feel comfortable raising and lowering your prices or pulling products off and on the shelves to whip up buyer frenzy? What if you don’t want to look like a late-night infomercial huckster? What happened to all those books and blogs about building online trust?

Maybe the answer lies in the middle. Maybe urgency—and scarcity—can be deployed to provide a little nudge, as long as they are grounded in reality. No knockout punches, please.

What to do if you’re new

So I thought about how I could apply authentic urgency and scarcity without eroding trust to boost sales of my ebook, Write like you talk—only better.

I’m thrilled when somebody visits my site and immediately buys the book. But I think people are more likely to purchase if they’ve read a few of my posts, and maybe scanned the reviews. When they’re in a panic about that white paper or whatever their boss has told them to write, they’ll be back, brandishing their credit cards. I’ve kept the price low enough that people don’t need to wait for a fire sale.

How I fixed my pitch

Still, my approach wasn’t an overnight success. So I went back to my pitch page, ready to apply some advice from the masters.

People who don’t buy my book today will not die a horrible death. But they could get in trouble with the boss for not finishing that white paper on time or with their loved ones for being stressed and cranky. If their problem is urgent, the solution must be quick.

So my authentic urgency is based on the buyer’s immediate need and my fast-acting solution.

I revised the page to explain that they could expect to start seeing results—in terms of easier, faster, and friendlier writing—as soon as they started applying the three steps from the book. To be catchy, I added that they needed to buy it “before another sentence falls flat.”

Scarcity was more challenging, as I’m not going to yank an ebook that I just started selling. But what if, like urgency, I consider scarcity from the buyer’s point of view?

Products are authentically scarce if they are unique.

My product is scarce because it’s the only one that bases writing advice on something people are already comfortable with: talking. Instead of forcing them to relive high-school English, or memorize and apply 173 tips, as some other books do, it focuses on the big common writing pitfalls to avoid and the most powerful memory-enhancing steroids.

In addition to my concern that extreme urgency and scarcity tactics will erode trust, I don’t think this old bag of marketing tricks always works.

Like many shoppers, I love to find a bargain. But I won’t buy a new dishwasher simply because there’s a good deal this week, unless mine has died. If I need a dishwasher, I will scan the flyers for a sale.

On the other hand, I will respond to a limited-time offer if I’m looking for an excuse to buy those cute shoes or if I’m already looking for an online course like yours. I also go for the specials when I’m grocery shopping—a big expense with two teenagers to feed—but only on items we eat regularly or might like to try.

The limited-time offer, or urgency, gives me a little push. That’s all.

Let me stress that I will not buy your ebook or SEO software because you are threatening to double the price next week or soon as I leave the seminar room or site. I’m too smart for the nimble Ninja. I think my buyers are too.

Like me, I hope they would rather buy one thing they really want than ten things they were pressured into buying.

What’s more, I believe manipulative tactics are for commodities where cheaper is always better, rather than for intellectual property that smart people will talk about around water coolers and on Twitter.

And let’s not forget the ancient wisdom of Aesop and his fable about the tortoise and the hare. Slow and steady wins.

Sustain the success

So maybe the Ninja is going to rack up a few quick knock-outs. If the money is on only one match, I’d place my wager with him.

But if we’re betting on who’s going the distance to maintain the champion title, I think people like me stand a better chance. Then again, I’m not yet a proven online marketing success.

Are you? If so, please weigh in. I have teenagers to feed.

Barb Sawyers believes that business writing should be friendlier, easier and more fun. She blogs at http://www.stickycommunication.ca/blog and summarizes her wisdom in her ebook “Write like you talk—only better, 3 steps to turn good talkers into great writers.”

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Comments

  1. I hope slow and steady works well, it’s the pace I have set for my blog so far. Unfortunately, I think big knockout punch tactics pull a lot of attention away from the endurance bloggers. So, you’re right, you have to compete a little bit on their level. Grab attention, get the word out, use some of the urgency tactics. There is something to be said about steady and reliable, long-term blogging/marketing, but you can’t ignore the successful marketing techniques. Finding a way to incorporate scarcity and urgency without going against your values… that’s a great point to make and a tough line to walk. Thanks for the article!

  2. Janet Callaway says:

    Barb, I absolutely love this line: “Products are authentically scarce if they are unique.” Robert Cialadini first introduced me to the Law of Scarcity in his Power of Persuasion series. You do a great job applying that principle in your article. Thx.

  3. David Doolin says:

    A recent article on GigaOM highlighted AirBnB’s model: (paraphrasing the Venture Capitalists) “You guys are like cockroaches, you just won’t die. So we thought we’d better invest.”

    There’s something to be said for piling up massive amounts of content, building a solid readership, and generally refusing to go away. Or these days, “quitting blogging” is all the rage. Same difference.

    My current philosophy is that success is unavoidable, because I’ve tried everything else, and none of it worked.

  4. jason says:

    My money is on the slow and steady. There are plenty of examples, but the best bloggers, that make a lot of money, are the bloggers that have been in the game for a while and blog for content before the bucks start coming in.

  5. Kerry says:

    @jason, so true, I absolutely agree. I wish I already was on the slow and steady route though. Started only a month ago

  6. mario monk says:

    slow and steady is my chosen path. I’m not even monetizing my site yet. And I guess I won’t be doing it for quite some time.

  7. James says:

    Slow and steady might be better in the long run, but you will find a lot of your potential customers have already bought from the Ninja. In that case, your product will be scarce as you’ll be out of business.
    You must be able to show customers why your product is better and you must be able to get in front of those customers in the first place. Too many well meaning brick and mortar businesses have closed after the *-Mart moved into town because that while they did provide better service, the customers didn’t see enough difference. That and they were open at hours a small business couldn’t keep.
    I was one of those business only it wasn’t a *-Mart.
    Long, steady, using the Ninja’s weapons with added customer service and professionalism is what will win.

  8. Hi Barb,
    I have to vote for slow and steady. I’ve watched a lot of bloggers jump in and go at lightening speed and then burn up and out of the blogging scene. I’m turned off big time by the principle of scarcity. I usually will not buy when I come across it. I like the idea of building up a community of truly supportive readers who resonate to what I write. Thanks for the insightful post.

  9. Dawn Le says:

    It’s clear that blogging for content at the beginning is the typical choice. I like the ” write like you talk” style but is that sometimes considered as not being serious and not very reliable?

  10. Slow and steady does win, ya. It is about learning too. When you deicide to win by slow and steady approach, you are prepared to wait, you analyze the results and you see what people think about your product rationally. Otherwise, an urgency to sell a product will just add the pressure. You will always just think about making money and don’t think about what people want and what values you do offer.

    Thanks for the article Kerry.

  11. The one most important part of blogging is to build up a reputation, through think and thin. Bloggers who adopt the Ninja style may hit success quick and fast but sustainability is not for them.

    So for me, it would make sense to follow the slow and steady method and build you blog carefully and in the right direction.

  12. Honestly, it all depends. Slow and steady can certainly win the race UNLESS you’re in the right place at the right time with the right product and the right mentors.

    I had those magnificents stars in alignment when I first began marketing online – it was glorious.

    So…it CAN happen, but definitely – be in it for the long run. It’s more stable that way.

  13. Perry says:

    Giive me slow steady growth anyday over ninja tactics. A reputation takes time to build but its easy to destroy with ninja style marketing. Besides do people really fall for scarcity tactics?

  14. Slow and steady for me! Maybe a little too slow and steady, as I am growing two blogs simultaneously. But it works, it gives me time to develop my recipes, my story, my readership, and keep it real and as useful as I can make it. Thanks for this post and the comments that followed, it was good to read this viewpoint on a problogger’s blog :)

  15. Barb Sawyers says:

    This is so great to hear. I have read so many posts from people who claim to have gotten rich quickly I was starting to feel like a loser. So pleased you think I’m on the right track.

  16. Carolyn says:

    I’m new to blogging, but to me the slow and steady approach respects my readers. I want to earn some money, but I also don’t want to trash the reputation I worked to build in print journalism. And I don’t want to be embarrassed when a friend sees my site. Over the long run, I hope it works!

  17. Great Post Barb!,

    I think that the winners will be people that look at their site over a 5 year time line.

    Year 1 – Build Site & Research Topic.
    Year 2 – Build Up Content – Videos, Pictures & Words.
    Year 3 – Email as many websites on your topic as you can.
    Year 4 – Go to as many events as you can.
    Year 5 – Look to sell site or invest more cash into it!…

    Thanks

    David Edwards

  18. T.Lee says:

    Barb,
    I love your concept, ‘authentic urgency is based on the immediate need..’

    This is how the strong towers are built.

  19. IWrite says:

    Barb, I was really impressed with the quality of your article – engaging and creatively written!

    I recently started a Twitter account to connect with people in the writing area. Online marketers were first to my “door”, many with “urgent” offers that I thought I should look into and that have now flooded my email inbox. I’m working my way through the wheat and the chaff and I’m learning that I don’t need to buy everything right now because “the offer will go away forever” if I don’t. In fact, most of the time, when I decline an offer, I get a second offer at a reduced price. I’m actually surprised now when that doesn’t happen and sometime have to smack my computer screen to see if something is wrong. :-)

    Last month I attended a 21st Century BookMarketing Conference and learned the importance of building one’s platform before launching a book. There was a huge emphasis on social media. I saw how the concept of platform building with social media unfolded for a book launch on Amazon last week, which was hugely successful. The launch was so professionally done and the approach fitted well with the theme of the book on conscious entrepreneurs. So it’s worth investigating some of those approaches to move forward more quickly but also with the integrity of who you have demonstrated yourself to be.

  20. Rob Campbell says:

    Barb. You really are easy to read. My money is on you too. Your prose is so darn digestible.

  21. web marketing ninja says:

    Hey Barb, thanks for picking up on my perhaps to over the top example when it comes to scarcity and urgency — and what may surprise you, is that I agree with everything you said — 100%

    When campaigning — it does make a difference to create urgency, when you do it with actual authenticity, it works even better – and I stand by that. But if you don’t balance the long term goals of the product, and values of the brand, you’re right — it can hurt.

    You need to be smart.

    A long time ago I was listing to some of the hype around Jeff Walkers Product Launch Formula (version 1 I think), and got to a point where he pretty much said, create a sense of urgency by saying your product is out of stock — even if it isn’t.

    To me that’s where I draw the line, I’ll never ever lie to my customers and I’ll quit on the spot if someone attempts to force me too. But if I can capitalize on a real sense of urgency — I’ll do that too.

    Digital products are different. It’s hard to have urgency with scarcity with an infinitely replicating product. Hard but not impossible, and I think you’ve captured the essence of that beautifully in this post.

    Whilst perhaps I’m being boxed as one of those super aggressive online marketing guru’s who’s prerogative is to whip people into a buying frenzy with lies and deceit — I can assure you I’m not. Not only do I have sales to make, I have a brand to protect, and whilst the inner conflicts can sometimes drive me crazy – the long term play always wins

    It’s also worth pointing out that it’s 1of 11 things, and success is not dependent on doing them all.

    Great post!

    PS: I’ve got a post coming up call the Art & Science Of The Price, which you’re going to really love or really hate :)

  22. J.R. Lora says:

    I would certainly put my money on you Barb! That approach is the only real approach.

    It builds business slowly… perhaps, perhaps not, it’ll ultimately depend on the situation. But it’s certainly the only way to build a truly robust and sustainable business.

  23. Well, I hope slow and steady works but I’m really not sure. -
    I don’t follow the real get-rich quick merchants but I see plenty of people in the middle creating scarcity and I just don’t believe them anymore when they give their reasons/excuses for why they can suddenly open up the offer again, one week after they closed it. They seem to do alright though. For now.

  24. getmoney says:

    I chose slow and steady .If you rush things you will never have good succes because you have to turn back and fix the failed parts that didn’t work.

  25. Slow and steady wins the race!

    @ getmoney is right- you don’t want to have to go back and clean up a mess you’ve created by rushing…

  26. Slow and steady takes time, effort, and patience, and although your money may be on that ninja, chances are he’s going to burn out quick or face some retribution for his methods. Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like there’s more and more “black hat” marketing types out there that like to stylize themselves as the ninja just going after the quicker sale.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Today I have a guest post on Problogger, one of the world’s most popular blogs. My take on the marketer’s dilemma of the quick knock-out versus sustained effort, manipulation versus trust, slow versus fast, the ancient tale of the tortoise and the hare. Enjoy. [...]

  2. [...] Urgency. Barb Sawyers of Sticky Communications discusses these two online marketing tactics in a guest post on ProBlogger. For online marketing success, does slow and steady always win the [...]