Getting Customers Excited About Your Product

Here are five ways to use scarcity and exclusivity to create buzz, fuel sales and boost your bottom line.

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By Kim T. Gordon

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Remember the last time you stood in line to get into a hot newclub or eagerly searched the Web for a rare, prized collectible?Scarcity and exclusivity drive demand. They make us long for whatseems hardest to possess, and we'll move mountains-and spendfortunes-to acquire the objects of our desire.

About 14 years ago, a Japanese collector purchased VanGogh's "Portrait of Dr. Gachet"-a rare and uniquework by an artist who sold only one painting in his entirelifetime-for $82.5 million. Today, that remains the highest priceever paid for a piece of art at auction. And in 1999, a one andonly item, Lou Gehrig's last glove from his final game on April30, 1939, set world records by selling for the astonishing price of$389,500.

What Customers Crave

Just as scarcity ignites passion in collectors, exclusivity fansthe flame for a wide range of consumers. Building that special auraaround your own products or services requires deft handling of acarefully crafted marketing program. The challenge is tosuccessfully walk the line between enticing customers and raisingbarriers that turn them off.

Here are five proven ways to use scarcity and exclusivity tofuel sales:

1. Woo affluent customers. Exclusivity is a key elementwhen persuading wealthy consumers to buy certain products.Individuals in households with annual incomes of $100,000-plus aremore inclined to purchase products that set them apart and makethem feel special, so limiting your production volume or access toyour products can equal sales success. Jaguar, for example, hasintroduced lower-cost luxury models, yet maintains its appeal byselling only about 200,000 of them annually worldwide. The typicalJag buyer doesn't want to see a similar car in everygarage.

2. Tout your roots. Often, a product's heritage ororigins can provide an aura of exclusivity. Consider the cachet theword "cashmere" carries, or how consumers willingly pay apremium for an alcoholic beverage that's "aged 30 years inoak casks." Entire marketing campaigns can be successfullycreated around these single points of differentiation. In acampaign designed to make its wines more uniquely prized, Chablis,an appellation within the Burgundy region of France, uses full-pageads to explain why Chablis can only come from Chablis.

3. Create excitement based on scarcity. Advance reviewsin key publications and on relevant Web sites when a new product isin limited supply can build substantial demand prior to a fullrollout. You can also use the element of scarcity to generateexcitement among your existing customer base. For instance, a finefurniture showroom with an overstock of antiques could have aninvitation-only private sale for select customers to offer alimited inventory of one-of-a-kind items.

4. Entice teen trendsetters. Eager to embrace newproducts and ideas, teens are willing trendsetters who respond wellto the words "soon to be released" and "in limitedsupply." Tremor, a marketing unit for Procter & Gamble andoutside clients, builds buzz among trend-spreading teens it terms"connectors." They're sent advance invitations to VIPstore openings, asked to vote on music selections for snackcommercials, and given advance scripts of new TV shows aimed atteens-all with the expectation that they'll initiate buzz and,consequently, sales.

5. Design an exclusive environment. Upscale fashionretailers are transforming their stores into high-concept"experiences" that sell the lifestyle of the artisticelite. Prada hired experimental architect Rem Koolhaas, Helmut Langbrought in conceptual artist Jenny Holzer, and designer IsseyMiyake teamed with renowned architect Frank Gehry. While you maynot have the budget to bring in a world-famous architect, you canwork with a locally known artist or designer to create an exclusiveshopping experience.

Kim T. Gordon
Kim Gordon is the owner of National Marketing Federation and is a multifaceted marketing expert, speaker, author and media spokesperson. Her latest book is Maximum Marketing, Minimum Dollars.

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