Should You Take Advice?

“One word: plastics. There’s a great future in plastics.”

So said a helpful grown-up to Dustin Hoffman’s character in The Graduate.

I took the advice. I got into plastics. Still looking for Anne Bancroft.

My wife said The Graduate was a “boy-flick.” I prefer to think of it as a documentary.

I like to think…

…I’d take good advice from anyone. I like to think I have no ego when it comes to taking short-cuts to where I want to get to. I have even started to adopt some distinctly non-male behaviour: I now ask for directions if I get lost. Eventually. But only of women.  

I study “internet marketing.” Yes I Do. In this “internet marketing” they say that when you offer a product you should inject some form of scarcity. You know what I mean – “offer ends at midnight”; “only 20 places available.”

I’ve never really liked that tactic. It strikes me as often artificial, manipulative and, moreover, it doesn’t work on me. I do not succumb to this flim-flammery. No. I look at a product. I decide if I wish to buy it and if so I act. That’s it.

So I don’t like scarcity therefore I don’t use it and all is well.

People are weird…

…They’re weirder than you and me. They are wired strangely. They think that doing nothing is not a decision. Because nothing’s changed. They hide from the decision. I had a cat once that would hide by lowering his face until it was almost touching the carpet. With eyeballs half an inch from the shag pile, he couldn’t see me, so I wasn’t there. Children do the same thing. But they grow out of it at about 3.

But as adults, we never seem to grow out of the notion that not making a decision is somehow “safe.” We think that maintaining the status quo avoids risk. It doesn’t. Deciding to do nothing is not risk free. There is risk in doing nothing: there’s more of the same risk we have right now in the status quo and then there’s the biggy…lost opportunity. People don’t calculate the lost opportunity cost of doing nothing. That’s why they lost the opportunity. Duh.

And so it was…

…at the end of last week I found myself closing off a piece of online marketing (offering a membership programme) with a “scarcity” element. The scarcity was that I was taking the product off the market. There was a real reason for doing this. No flim-flammery.   

I made the offer at 9pm on last Monday (26 Nov) and I pulled it on Friday at 5pm (the scarcity).

What happened Mark?

This happened:

  • Customers acquired on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, combined: 34% of total.
  • Customers acquired on Friday: 66% of total.
  • Roughly 35% of ALL customers acquired between 3pm and 5pm on the Friday.

Now I helped things along. On the Friday I gave out my email address AND phone number. People called me and emailed me. Do you know how DELIGHTED people are to phone someone and the target of their call PICKS-UP-THE-PHONE-AND-SAYS-HELLO. One lady said “I cannot believe I’m speaking to you.” The whole afternoon was an absolute delight.

In the last two hours we got a third of all the customers.

The “scarcity” thing works.

Scarcity makes the potential customers more likely to realise that doing nothing is a decision and it has a cost. It makes the lost opportunity more real.

Now, I would never have engineered a scarcity offer. I fell into this one. And the success of the offer made me realise that my no-decision option (don’t consider scarcity) also had a lost-opportunity cost which was probably about a third of the total business.

A third of the total business.

So returning…

…to the question at the top – should you take advice? Maybe. Maybe not. Just remember that doing nothing is a decision in itself, has risks and is seldom the best thing to do.  

One Response to Should You Take Advice?

  1. Paul Buckmaster December 3, 2012 at 9:49 am #

    Hi Mark

    1. Those of us who read your comments had better be into taking advice – isn’t that what we’re doing, using our time, hoping we’re going to learn something (and usually do.)

    2. I used to have one of those “flip over” calendars, a leaf to a day, with a pithy saying at the bottom. One said, “Genius is an infinite capacity for picking brains.” Still remember that one – hope I still use it. You don’t have to know everything yourself – just where to find the right answer.

    3. Sorry, but you’re unlikely to meet Anne Bancroft . . .

    Best Wishes,


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