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Scarcity, or “why I should know better”

By on October 28, 2010
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Yesterday, I gave a talk on self-publishing at a TIGA event. It was fun.

How to Publish a Game packshot

As I sometimes do, I took along a number of copies of How to Publish a Game to sell at a conference discount. A substantial conference.

I only sold three.

Half the time I sell ten. The other half I sell three. Do you want to know the difference between the two scenarios?

When I sell ten, I have only ten copies with me. I announce that there are only ten, first come, first served.

When I sell three, I have twenty with me. Twenty clearly doesn’t look scarce. It looks plentiful, as if there is no advantage to having more.

In short, the more books I have with me, the fewer I sell.

The annoying thing is that I know this. I have read Influence by Robert Cialdini. I know that scarcity is one of the six key sales techniques. And now I have clear evidence that it is true. Evidence that hits me in the wallet.

So from now on, I am bringing scarcity back. I will never offer more than five copies at a conference discount.

Get ‘em while they’re hot.

About Nicholas Lovell

Nicholas is the founder of Gamesbrief, a blog dedicated to the business of games. It aims to be informative, authoritative and above all helpful to developers grappling with business strategy. He is the author of a growing list of books about making money in the games industry and other digital media, including How to Publish a Game and Design Rules for Free-to-Play Games, and Penguin-published title The Curve:
  • True. Seth Godin is better on having a good, important or useful product.
    However, as I’ve argued elsewhere, having a good product is not sufficient. Betamax was “better” than JVC etc. Marketing/salesmanship go hand in hand with good products to create a successful business

  • Lame

    It’s interesting that you mention this book after saying you prefer honesty. The majority of the book is about tricking people into “owing” you something through social manipulation. The part about likability never says anything about being a good or interesting person, it just tells you how to fool people into thinking you care about something besides their money. It never says “try to actually care about your customer”. The most damning thing about the book is he never once mentions anything about having a good, important or useful product. He’s telling people how to sell crap to morons.

    Maybe it’s just not my cup of tea.

  • That’s a fair point, although there is effort involved in carrying the books around. Plus it’s a special conference deal, and I would rather be truthful about how many books I am offering at the special conference rate.
    You might want to read Robert Cialdini’s Influence: The Power of Persuasion. He’s very good on the six fundamental ways that sales people use to close deals.

  • Lame

    So leaving your pile of books at home and pretending the few you brought are scarce is not lying. Man, the business world is just too confusing for me.

  • The Advertised mind, is definitely one
    Probably ‘supercrunchers’ too.
    Maybe the wisdom of crowds or The Decisive moment, or other books in a similar vein.

  • Cliff, I’d love to know your two or three top picks. I’m trying to build a lilbrary of the must-have books for independent game developers. Your views would be welcome.

  • Ideas are worth varying amounts. A random comment on the internet is worth very little. Advice from someone with experience on how you can seriously increase the profits of your business is worth a lot more.
    I’d pay $240 for an idea that earned me an extra $241. I can name a number of books I’ve bought in the past, that in retrospect, have easily earned me that much.

  • That’s the RRP. It works for me.
    Although I think that your suggestion about lying to my customers is… interesting. I prefer to be honest.

  • Lame

    Your book costs $240 USD? I think you figured out the real problem, business guy. Also, if your “scarcity” model works so well, why not bring 20 in an unmarked box and only display three at a time? Sorry, should I be charging for these ideas?

  • I agree that people want ideas. It’s persuading them to pay £150 for the ideas that’s the hard part.
    Which is why I’m bringing scarcity back.

  • Slade Villena

    Scarcity? Or your material is just utter crap?

    People want ideas, ‘scarcity’ of ideas is foolish and ignorant.

    Your premises are pathetic.

  • evanac

    now = know

    Fixed. 😉