Jeremy Smith Aug 27, 2015 2:57:13 PM 26 min read

How to Get Any Customer to Take Action Immediately

When it comes to conversion optimization, you must possess the right conversion framework before you can successfully get into sexy tactics.

This article is about those sexy tactics: Getting potential customers to act immediately.

However, introducing sexy tactics without first emphasizing some not-so-sexy principles is a mistake. Why? Because conversion framework matters.

How does “immediate action” fit within a conversion framework?

My conversion optimization heuristic, or framework if you will, involves three main ideas —

1) increase motivation
2) reduce anxiety and
3) reduce friction.

That first phase — increasing motivation — is where conversion optimization has the biggest number of techniques and practices. This is the broad realm of encouraging immediate action.

Within that idea, increasing motivation, there are at least four methodologies — 1) urgency, 2) likeability, 3) consistency and 4) incentive. In the article that follows, we are focusing on urgency.

Positioning these tactical ideas in a conversion optimization framework is important. Why? Because tactics without grounding are a crapshoot. Many conversion optimizers take the “if you throw enough mud at the wall, some of it will stick” approach.


If you throw enough mud at the wall...some of it will stick

The problem with this approach is, of course, unpredictable outcomes, a complete lack of awareness of effective methods, and a total waste of money and effort.

True conversion optimization is founded within psychographic and demographic research, guided by processes (heuristics), driven by data and accomplished iteratively through split testing.

Pulling out tactics and hurling those mud balls at the wall might actually give you some conversion uptick. But the true way to accomplish sustainable success is to use the engine of process and the power of data to push your conversion optimization to the next level.

Why is immediate action important?

There’s no question that you want your customers to take action. Without action, there is no sale, right?

Obviously. But why immediately? Doesn’t this sound like the pushy used car salesman technique?

like new

(Image source)

Not quite. The importance of immediate action is rooted in the customer purchase cycle.

the customer purchase cycle

You can’t control every phase in the buying cycle, but you can control part of it.

Depending on the particular phase in the buy cycle, there are different things you might seek to control.

I’d like to focus on the decision. This decision is complex, multifaceted and variegated by a legion of factors.

Take a look at some of these factors that shape the decision-making process:

the decision-making process

(Image source)

How do you figure all this stuff out? For example, how can you figure out the impact of the customer’s social factors, family situation, her culture, the temporal state, the perceptions, learning and lifestyle?

That’s where we harken back to our sweet conversion framework discussion, specifically the need for a foundation of psychographic and demographic data on your target audience.

Both psychographics and demographics are essential to a thorough understanding of the customer. Why? Because you get an augmented view of your target audience. Check out this simplistic example:

psychographic profiile

(Image source)

Demographic data won’t advise you on the urgency level of your target audience. But psychographic data? That’s a different story.

Using psychographic data, you not only know who your users are, but you know what they want.

two view of the same user

(Image source)

Psychographic data can help you understand what type of buyer you’re dealing with, and how that buyer will or will not respond to various techniques.

Buyers can be categorized along a modality framework attributed to Bryan Eisenberg.

buyers modality

(Image source)

We’ve circled back to the point at hand: Immediate action is important, because:

  • Your buyers might be in the decision phase of the buying cycle. Therefore, you must encourage immediate action so the decision process can be executed without increasing risk of falloff.
  • Your buyers might be methodical, in which case they should be encouraged to make a swift decision.
  • Your buyers might be competitive, in which case their proclivity for a rapid decision should be facilitated
  • Your buyers might be spontaneous, in which case a quick method of acquiring the goods/services must be made available to them.
  • Your buyers might be humanistic, which means you must carefully present a case for immediacy of action.

Within an online buying experience, the importance of rapid decision making is heightened. It starts with their experience of page load times. If it takes more than five seconds for your page to load, you’re toast.

users experience of page load times

It’s a user experience thing. You have to deliver speedy sites, and encourage an equally swift decision-making process.

It’s important.

So, how about those tactics, hmm?

What should you do to encourage immediate action?

There are plenty of things that you can do to amp up the urgency and encourage immediate action. Here are some of the most powerful and proven methods:

Limited-time offer

You’ll see this one everywhere — from Walmart’s aisles to buying a house: the limited-time offer.

I just saw it on this video advertisement for exercise products:

video advertisement for exercise products

The psychological reality backing up the technique is known as the scarcity principle. Humans innately have a stronger desire for a product or service that is scarce.



The power of limited-time offers has been backed by positive split testing outcomes. Obviously, this is no guarantee that it’s going to work for you, but it is a great option.

HubSpot’s test indicated an 8 percent uptick in a split test variation, simply by adding a few comments about the two-day limitation on their special report.

This is such a popular and proven technique that entire commerce sites are built upon the idea.

Woot! puts it all over the place.

Woots urgency

Even the most gigantic companies use it explicitly in their ads:

example of time offer

One-time offer

The one-time offer, or OTO, is a common sales gimmick.

It’s been used by the sleaziest of the sleazy to artificially jack up urgency. Ah, but here’s the thing: It works.

Take Groupon, for example. The site is predicated upon the whole idea of the one-time offer.

Based on a single urgency tactic, look at what happened to Groupon in terms of growth.

groupon revenue growth

(Image source)

Tell me the one-time offer doesn’t work, and I’ll just point you to the chart above.

Limited stock/availability

The limited stock idea is similar to the limited time idea, except it places the urgency focus on the limitations of product rather than the time you have to buy it.

Limited stock ideas can be used for more than just products, however. If you have a service-based business, for example, you can limit the number of clients you can take on or the number of attendees for a webinar.

Placing a limitation on just about anything can potentially increase the desirability of that thing.

You can use limited time and limited stock together for double the impact.

Some retailers use the idea of a “special edition” to come at the limited stock technique from another angle. The fact that something is special is a testament to its limited time and/or limited availability.


Every industry has its seasons. By stressing seasonality in your conversion strategy, you can increase the number of people who will buy in a given time.

Some industries rise or fall based on a single buying season. Even a single day of a single season can have enormous impact.

ecommerce spending on shopping holidays

This seasonal takeaway is especially important for online sales and urgency, because the amount of spending that happens online is astronomical.

You can use seasonal tactics in virtually every season. If it’s the beginning of summer, have an early-summer emphasis. If it’s late summer, go for the late-summer angle. All you have to do is talk about the season, and it subtly raises the urgency level.

Fear of unavailability

Many humans suffer from a fear of missing out, popularly known as FOMO. FOMO is a shopper’s anxiety over potentially missing out on something good — a good deal, a great product, or a nice experience.

Some marketers estimate that 73% of shoppers have this anxiety-driven sensation when interacting and shopping online (source).

73 percent of shoppers have this anxiety-driven sensation when interacting and shopping online

This fear can take a variety of forms. uses it to emphasize the need to find out what’s being said about your business.


Emphasize adverse imminent events

The phenomenon of FOMO closely parallels another urgency tactic — focusing on the user’s fears.

While pain-driven or fear-driven marketing has its negative side, there are a lot of benefits. Every user comes to a buying decision with pain points that he or she wants to eliminate. The buyer will choose to buy or not to buy based on how acutely they feel the pain, and how assured they are that your product or service will alleviate that pain.

The urgency angle comes in when you emphasize the painful outcome of not buying. Rather than missing out on an experience or great deal, the user is fearful of the negative quality of life experienced without the product or service.

Emphasize positive immediate results.

This is one of the most popular and effective methods of encouraging immediate action.

It can be really simple, like this advertisement on the Launch Coach.

positive immediate results

The ad simply states “start getting more customers.” Who wouldn’t want more customers, right? And if you just get the four free workbooks, presto! It’s gonna happen.

The visual on this ad is abysmal, but the idea is pretty good. Notice also, the “first things first” header at the top. This is sheer action-oriented language, which is a further prod in the immediacy direction.


You can encourage immediate action by featuring a countdown timer. The mere presence of such a timer will raise adrenaline levels and signal the user that he or she needs to do something right away.

You can even use this technique in reverse to raise anticipation. The salivating aficionados of McDonald’s McRib have created a website ( to countdown the seconds until their favorite sandwich hits the menu:

mcrib countdown

Use strong calls to action

The CTA is one of the most significant moments in conversion optimization, and in all of e-commerce for that matter.

To increase urgency in your CTA, keep the language strong, action-oriented, and urgent. Don’t use weak language like " click here.”

“Click here” is so 1999, but today is the age of powerful CTAs with curiosity-driven action, results-oriented benefits, and similar strong features.

The language of a CTA button itself can encourage immediate action.

CTA button itself can encourage immediate action

As the next section expands on, there’s power in language. There’s no better place to use the power of this language than in your CTAs.

Your CTA button can even be a whole sentence, provided the sentence is succinct enough.

cta button saying create your first alert for free

Use action-based language.

Action-based language is perhaps the simplest of the urgency techniques. All you have to do is use the right words. There’s no devious methodology here — just a straightforward and strategic use of language that will improve the speed of response.

Here’s a simple example to show how simple this is:

example of action-based language

The point of this ad is not the exclusivity (though that’s nice), but rather the word “freshest” and “week.” “Fresh” is a time-sensitive word. And “week” is a chronological term. Taken together, they suggest an idea of urgency. Bam.

Without a strong cognitive sensation of urgency, the user can sense the chronological emphases of the ad on his or her reptilian brain.

“Fresh” and “week” are subtle. Some words aren’t so subtle. The most urgent word of all? NOW!

Check out Coupsmart’s little form field. The word now appears three times.

Coupsmarts little form field, highlights the word now

The word “now” is probably the most popular and easiest to use.

example of using the word now


It’s possible to completely blow it, though.

Take this guy for example. He tried to combine five urgency techniques in a single Facebook post. Unfortunately, he sort of forgot about stuff like punctuation and grammar.

five urgency techniques in a single Facebook

I share this example to make a final point. It’s all about user experience.

As slick, sweet, sexy and time-sensitive  as your deals are, you’re going to lose if you don’t provide the user with an optimal experience.

Conversion optimization is more about user experience than about powerful tactics. Please use these tactics, but keep them firmly rooted in a conversion framework.


Jeremy Smith

Digital marketer with a penchant for dance; helping clients see the light through the jungle of tweets since before Twitter was cool.