The last chapter of by “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion,” by Robert Cialdini talks about the role that scarcity plays in persuasion.
People want things that are in short supply.
In particular, people want things that they used to have but no longer do.
Here’s one way sales staff misuse this tool. They’ll have an item on the showroom at a sale price, so people will look at it, start to get interested, and then the salesperson will say, “we’ve just sold our last one.”
There’s the scarcity. It used to be an option for them, but they no longer have the option. Now it is even more desirable.
So here’s how the salesperson finishes the trap. He’ll say, “I can check if our other stores have any left, but before I do, I want to know that you’re interested in buying it if I find one.” Now they’ve blended scarcity with commitment. The people have gone from mildly interested to covetous and committed to buying the now-scarce item.
What does this mean for organizers?
We’re certainly not going to manipulate people like an unscrupulous dishwasher salesman, but we can still use scarcity to our advantage–and do so with integrity. Part of it is just letting people know what scarcity there is. “Just 5 tickets left.” “We’ve almost sold out of peace calendars–buy yours today.”
Truthfully, though, this principle is harder for us to use. We just don’t have enough scarcity.
Maybe we should make more.