Seven Steps to Limited Time Offers
Let me ask you a question. Are you using limited time offers in your email marketing? If you’re not using limited time offers, I have bad news for you. You’re leaving a ton of money on table. It’s time to lose the shyness and start utilizing limited time offers in your email marketing.
Why limited time offers are one of the most powerful weapons in marketing
If done right, LTOs are almost too powerful. This is because they trigger a deep biological drive. Technically, this drive is called loss aversion . It’s where people are far more driven by the fear of losing something, than the motivation to gain something.
Another way to say this is that people feel a far stronger urge to prevent someone from taking $100 from them (if it can be prevented), than they feel an urge to go and earn a new $200. Even if the latter is less work and easier to do than the former. Not that logical, but it’s just a leftover biological drive from very different times.
There is no reason to be afraid of using this powerful tool
A lot of people avoid LTOs due to a fear that they have of appearing “too salesy”. And I won’t downplay your fear if you have it. You’re not entirely wrong for having this fear. In fact, it is actually possible to have limited-time offers backfire on you.
Fortunately, there is just one way to mess-up limited time-offers, and that’s by doing too many of them, back-to-back. If people learn that your limited-time-offers are fake and you always run a new “limited offer” just as the previous one expires, they will lose all trust in you as a business. It’s a great way to destroy your brand and any reputation you may have.
This is true even if everything else about your business is top-notch. Even if you’re actually providing a ton of value at a killer price — the damage will be much greater than the benefit. So you just have to make sure that your limited-offers are genuine. You can’t say that a limited-time offer is this super-amazing thing that people have to hurry on (or miss out), and then run it again 2 weeks later.
The 2 types of limited time offers, universal or personalized
- The simplest example of a universal limited-time offer is when you have a “Black Friday deal”. The offer runs out on Black Friday at midnight, and this is the deadline for everyone on your email list.
- A personalized limited time offer however is unique to a given customer’s journey. They get their own personal and unique deadline which is based on a specific point in their journey.
One-time offers are some of the most powerful types of offers you can ever use
One of the most powerful examples you’ll see is something called a “one-time-offer”. This is where you sign up for a free service or newsletter, and right as you finish registration, you’re e-mailed a special deal.
This is something you will only be offered once, and never again. And you’re only offered this based on that particular event (signing up for the service or newsletter). This method typically involves a short deadline, and that is most often a 48 hour deadline. You may use e-mail automation to remind them as the opportunity is slowly coming to an end.
Universal deadlines don’t have to be based on a date however
Technically, any offer that involves the fear of “time running out” is a time-limited offer. This includes things like “while stocks last”, “first x spots”, etc.
That is to say, “your time is running out” doesn’t have to be a specific end date. It can be “there are only 27 spots left at the earlybird pricing, and if someone fetches them, this offer and deal is gone forever”.
How to do limited time offers properly (7 points to keep in mind)
1) Define the “losing conditions” in a very clear way
This is no time to be shy or reserved about your conditions. An offer which says something like “for a limited time only” is better than nothing. However, it is nowhere near as effective as one that spells out the exact condition by which people lose access to your killer deal.
If you’re limiting things by time, you want to spell out the exact date and time. And if you’re limiting things based on stock, you can write “until stock is depleted” and “as of the time I’m writing this, we have xyz left in stock”, “be warned, we sold xyz in the past hour alone”.
2) Make the urgency obvious and make it bold
This one should go without saying, but many people, due to a fear of appearing too pushy or salesy fail to emphasize the losing conditions. You want to do whatever it takes to make these visually striking to where you’re certain everyone gets exactly how they lose access to this offer.
If it’s a matter of limited spots, you can even use an interactive graphic that counts down the amount of spots left at that special LTO price. Just have a link in your email that links to the page where they can see the status of the LTO and how many spots are left.
If it’s a specific date and time, be sure to bold or emphasize the date by which this price will be gone. And don’t be shy about mentioning the date a couple of times in the emails, and do so in a few different ways. Try different formatting and visual representations of the same, to make sure everyone gets it.
3) Keep the copy clear and concise, don’t ramble on
If you have to write long copy and spend sentences upon sentences and write long emails to convince people to buy your offer, then I have bad news for you. Your offer is not good enough to be used as a limited time offer.
A limited time offer works best when the person already wants what you’re offering, you’re just helping them hurry up and get it now. As opposed to some undefined time in the future.
- If the offer applies to a single product, then you want to make sure that this is a killer deal. This is the kind of deal that makes you go “oh wow, that’s a steal”. It should scream “value overload”.
- If the offer is something that applies to multiple products, such as in an e-commerce context, segmentation is your friend. You should try to link the offer to the actual products they are interested in. But more on that in a separate point later on in this article.
In either case, if the person already wants what you’re offering to them, you won’t have to invest a ton of energy trying to convince them to get it. Limited time offers are about placing a deadline and triggering a sense of loss aversion towards something they already want and need.
4) Don’t cut corners, make the offer as generous as possible
It’s easy to get stingy and forget something important. Limited-time-offers are used to produce a huge volume of sales. So even if your per-sale profit is much lower than usual it’s quite worth it.
Let’s say that this is a 48-hour sale. Even if your per-sale profit is quite tiny, due to the volume of sales made, the overall profit made in those 48 hours can easily beat what you typically make in a month.
But therein lies the catch. That’s only possible if the offer is so overloaded with value that you can get that potent combination. The magic formula is “unbelievable offer” + “about to slip away unless you act now” and optionally “you lose your chance forever if you don’t grab this now”.
5) Reminding people, even multiple times, is more than ok
A reminder email (or even emails) are a built in part of a solid LTO strategy. In fact, you’re not really doing it correctly if you only offer it once and fail to remind them of the special offer and how close it is to running out.
You will want to go into your email automation builder and build an automation to do this for you. Depending on the offer and how much is left until the deadline, you might want to send 1, or even multiple emails.
6) Differentiate yourself from your competitors
Here’s a trick that you should be aware of as an email marketer in general as well. You really should go ahead and sign up for as many of your competitor’s newsletters as possible. Plenty of benefits to doing this.
One of the benefits is that you can see how they go about promoting limited-time offers. You’d be surprised how often everyone in a given niche will use the exact same copy in their subject lines. For example “TODAY ONLY — xyz at 60% off”.
If you go ahead and subscribe to a bunch of your competitor’s newsletters, don’t be surprised if you see an inbox of almost identical subject lines.
Now here’s the secret. Whatever is most common, avoid that at all costs, and make sure your subject line is completely different from theirs. That will make it so that your limited-time offer stands out in the inbox. Especially important during holiday promotions.
7) Use offer personalization (a must if the offer applies to multiple products)
- If you have one main product (such as an SaaS product, then limited time offers are a lot simpler. You can just focus the offer around that one product.
- If however you offer a variety of products and different parts of your email list care about different products, then you need to do a bit more work.
First, you must segment your list
If you’ve been studying our content, you should have segmented your subscribers based on what kinds of products they’re interested in. If you have different products for those into “weight loss” vs those into “building muscle”, you want the offer to reflect that.
You wouldn’t send a special “grab this 90% off weight loss guide before it’s gone” offer to those looking to bulk up. They joined your list for a different reason. You would need to make a different offer for each of the main segments on your email list.
What if you sell a ton of products and it’s not realistic to make a different offer for each product?
An obvious example is if you’re doing e-commerce. In that case a limited time offer will be around something a bit more general. For example “free shipping for the next 24 hours only”.
However, remember that the formula is “urgency” + “something they’re interested in”. It’s not enough to tell them the store has a deadline, if you don’t link it to something that they’re interested in.
This is where product recommendations come in. If you’ve done a good job segmenting your list, you should know which category of products they’re into. So your offer should list both the deadline as well as suggest some products they might be interested in.
8) [Bonus] Use the right email marketing platform
Remember, none of this will work if your special LTO campaigns get lost in a spam folder somewhere. Deliverability becomes even more important when you’re sending limited-time-offer sales emails.
And unless you’re using an ESP that’s obsessed with your emails reaching those inboxes, I can guarantee your emails aren’t going to get delivered. This means a ton of lost profit.
If you want to try an ESP that cares about delivering those emails to each and every subscriber, consider trying Emercury out. You can schedule a demo over here .
Michael Batalha helps email marketers with strategies getting the most return out of an email address. He does this using his Maximize Delivery Framework (tm). He has successfully created his own lead generation platforms and leveraged email to scale his own leads and now shares that same method he has used with other email marketers.
He has successfully created numerous startups and sat on the board of the Entrepreneur Organization. He has graced the pages of Forbes and Fortune and has a real passion for working with entrepreneurs and building businesses.
Follow him on twitter @mikebatalha for tweets on awesome marketing tips.