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How To Compel People To Take Action

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On Monday, the NFL owners and players finally reached an agreement to end their lockout. After more than four months of posturing, bickering and dire predictions of a lost season, the two sides just happened to come together “at the last minute” to ensure that the games will go on as scheduled.

Less than a week from today, you can bet that the Republicans and Democrats will arrive at some kind of agreement about the current “debt ceiling” debate, miraculously saving the day just before predictions of the total collapse of our nation’s entire economic system have a chance to become reality.

And here I am, writing this blog post just hours before it’s due on the editor’s desk.

What do all of these situations have in common?

You guessed it: A Deadline.

All of these situations involve human beings. And human beings are procrastinators. It’s simply our nature to put off taking action until it’s absolutely necessary.

Just think…

Have you ever gotten a piece of mail or an email with an interesting offer, but then put it aside planning to come back later to check it out further and make a decision? Did you ever really come back to it?

Now think about an offer you got which also gave you a specific deadline for taking action. Didn’t that one get more of your immediate attention and thought? Or was that one that you actually did go back to? That’s the power of a deadline.

Heck, if everyone could just pay their bills whenever they felt like it, would any ever get paid? Did you ever notice how players step up their intensity and concentration during the “two-minute warning” or “bottom of the ninth” of close games? Or how we always seem to get more done in the two days right before we’re about to leave for a vacation than we do the entire month before that?

That’s why we all need deadlines in our lives, and why as a small business owner, you must include deadlines in all of your marketing.

In fact, successful direct response marketers have a saying:

“No deadline, no offer.”

This means that no matter how good a deal you offer your prospects, if you don’t give them a deadline by which to take action, only a relative few will pull the trigger, which can be extremely frustrating and costly for small business owners.

And during these challenging economic times, it’s more important than ever to get the very best return on investment for all of our advertising and marketing, isn’t it?

Take it from legendary copywriter John Carlton, who said, “Deadlines are the world’s greatest invention – without them, nothing would ever get done.”

Or Walt Disney, who put it this way: “If we didn’t have deadlines, we’d stagnate.”

I teach and use many different types of deadlines. Here are just a few you can experiment with in your own marketing:

  • Specific date
  • Limited quantity available
  • Disappearing bonuses only for fast action-takers
  • Limited time for special price, then price goes back up
  • Open-ended (“This special offer may be withdrawn at any time and with no notice”)

There are more ways to create deadlines, and there are other factors to consider, too. For example, you need to give a deadline that’s not too far away, or else it won’t actually work to spur your prospect into taking action. As with every aspect of successful small business marketing, there is definitely a skill and an art to crafting effective deadlines.

Just remember: No matter which one you decide to use, make sure always to create urgency by including a deadline with all your offers.

As long as your prospects are humans, that is – because we are all procrastinators.

I’m curious: What deadlines have worked for you in your marketing – or have worked effectively to get you to take action on someone else’s offer?

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