How To Do Ethical Deadlines

How to Do Deadlines Well and Ethically

So you want to use deadlines in your marketing. You want to close your offers on a particular date and time and, more than anything, make sure they work. In other words, you want to use deadlines effectively. But you also want to do it genuinely and honestly. This is no doubt one of those marketing ethical dilemmas we've all had at some point – and it's a valid one! So how can you do deadlines well but also ethically in your business? 

Let's find out, shall we? 


(0:09) Want to get more sales from your email marketing? Grab our Click Tricks.
(5:02) Fancy a 14-day FREE trial with Keap? (We give you TWO of our campaigns for FREE with it!)
(6:48) How do deadlines even work?
(9:46) The power of urgency and scarcity.
(11:37) Why you should never extend an offer.
(14:32) Why you should be able to have a logical reason for your deadlines.
(16:22) Make sure the technology is watertight.
(18:26) Can you use deadlines ethically for evergreen products?
(21:22) How to implement ethical deadlines for your evergreen products (video link included!)
(22:47) Subject line of the week.

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How do deadlines even work? 

First of all, let's take a look at why deadlines work in the broader sense. We find people often miss the point when it comes to running any kind of countdown special offer with a deadline at the end of it. And as a result, they don't get the results and sales they were expecting before their launch. Why?

Because the psychological, fundamental reason why deadlines work is that they appeal to the fact that we give people a reason to act right now – to bring forward this decision they might have made in the future and make it now. This decision becomes the top of their list of priorities. Because if they don't act now, they risk missing out. And people hate that.

Let's think about the buying process for a second. Buying something (anything at all) requires you to decide that you want to buy it and then convince yourself that you want to buy it. Only then you go through the process of buying it. But unless you have a reason to buy right now, you might not grab that offer immediately.

The power of urgency and scarcity

There are only two reasons why you might grab it right now – urgency and scarcity. If you want to go to a concert and know it’s going to sell out, you’ll act straight away because you'll want to grab tickets before you miss out, right? 

But in order to sell a product based on urgency or scarcity, people have to believe you. Because if they don’t, the whole thing isn't going to work.

If you have a marketer who keeps telling you every day they're extending their offer for another 24 hours, you're not going to buy. You have no reason. Because you know they'll keep extending that offer. And so the deadline has the opposite effect of what it's there to do – it's causing you to put that decision further away!

Why you should never extend an offer

Let's not forget we're talking about ethical marketing here. If you keep saying that the offer is closing but you constantly extend it, it’s unfair to the people who may have spent money to prioritise this purchase right now. In their head, maybe they’d assigned this money to something else, but they bought your offer now in order to get the deal that was on the table. And this is important. Because people have an emotional attachment to cash and how they spend it.

If you check out the episode How to Say ‘No’ to Extending An Expired Offer, we talked about why you should never extend an offer. Even if someone gets in touch to ask you to extend the deadline or honour the offer once it's expired, you should politely but firmly say no. Why?

First of all, because if you keep extending the deadline, people won’t believe you. And that defeats the purpose of it, which is to help you make sales. So if you're using a deadline, don't move it.

And the second reason why you shouldn't extend an offer is that you always need to be crystal clear on when the deadline is. Your audience needs to be aware at all times when the offer expires. If they’re not, then you haven’t created the deadline at all! Because you haven’t engaged that rush and urgency for people to go and grab it before it goes away.

So make sure you have a deadline on your sales page and maybe even use a countdown timer. Plus, send emails that lead up to that deadline – tell your audience that the offer is closing today, then again that it's closing this afternoon, and then again in an hour. Always be super clear about communicating your deadline.

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Why you should have a logical reason for your deadlines

Also, make sure you have a good, logical reason for all your deadlines. There’s no point in picking an arbitrary date and time for when the offer closes. It can’t be a date and time that just popped into your head! The reason could be that it's Black Friday or Cyber Monday. Or maybe there's a live class element attached to it. You have to be able to say “this offer is closing here because…”

There’s a lot of science around the fact that whatever follows your because can be almost anything. But for the purpose of good, ethical digital marketing, you want your reason to make sense – to be logical. Because that helps your audience instantly drop their guard and understand why that deadline is there and how it benefits them.

In his book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Professor Robert Cialdini talks exactly about this – about the importance of the work because and how powerful it is. Your reason could be anything, but it needs to make sense and support your deadline. 

Make sure your technology is watertight

Another point to consider when using deadlines in your marketing is that people are smart, and if they can find a way around your deadline, they probably will!

If someone doesn't trust the ethics of the person selling, they might wait before they buy because they think a better discount will come down the line. Or maybe they believe they can get a better deal if they get in touch with you directly. But also, does the big countdown timer on your website change when you refresh the page? Always make sure that if you use countdown software to support your offer, it's watertight and can’t be somehow circumnavigated. 

Can you use deadlines ethically for evergreen products?

So now we know how to do deadlines ethically for offers that expire. But what if your product is evergreen and the doors never close? The great news is that you can do evergreen deadlines because every subscriber will go through them in their own time. How?

It's simple, really! You could have someone joining your list today and then in X amount of days they go through a flash sale or a special offer. How long that sale or promotion lasts determines those subscribers' unique deadline. They can't work around that date because it's triggered by the day they join your list. 

So the way we create urgency with evergreen products like our membership, The League, is by having individual people on our list go through our automated campaigns (like our Golden Cloak campaign, for example, and many others). The key is that you include countdowns where people see the clock ticking. It creates a type of tension we all resonate with and shows people visually that the offer is closing. So make sure you have these timers on your web pages but also in the emails you send out.  

How to implement ethical deadlines for your evergreen products (video link included!)

You can use countdown timers for all sorts of things. But you'll always get a better result when using an ethical countdown or deadline, like a limited-time discount, bonus, sale, or automated webinar.

If you’re wondering how you do this, we’ve put together a FREE video where we walk you through how to use deadlines ethically, particularly when setting up automated evergreen countdown timers where every subscriber gets their own path. Go and check it out – you can find it here.


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Subject line of the week

This week’s subject line is “I cheated. (Confession)”. Once again, this is all about negativity, which seems to ring true in terms of getting higher engagement. This particular email was about reminding people that we don’t write subject lines to get people to open our emails. Instead, we want to encourage them to click through. 

This one works particularly well because people want to know what the confession is. There’s a lot of curiosity associated with it, and it has an inherently negative connotation. People like the idea of a bit of dirty gossip or a confession of some description. This is why this subject line got us a high click-through rate (and it also contained a link to content people can use to ‘cheat’ with something in their marketing and get results a little faster).

Useful Episode Resources

Related episodes

How to Say ‘No’ to Extending An Expired Offer

Why You Need to Avoid These Email Marketing Mistakes

How to Create Urgency For an Evergreen Membership or Course Without Product Launches

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Join our FREE Facebook group

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