How To Write Scarcity Principle Emails With Urgent Subject Lines [Examples]

What is it about things being hard to get that makes us want them more?

  • Those jeans you haven’t really paid much attention to that are now buy-one-get-one-free this weekend only… and you simply have to have them.
  • Craving wild-caught oysters the moment you remember that it’s April 29 and you can’t safely eat them for another three months.
  • Picking up that online course about making more money in half the time because it’s available at 50% off for the next 24 hours.

It’s not coincidence. It’s proven, scientific fact. To understand it fully, we need to first look at scarcity examples from various areas of our lives.

  • In the 1970s, due to an oil embargo, there was a shortage of gasoline in the United States. What used to be a very ordinary event that happened a couple of times a week — stopping for gas — suddenly became a major ordeal.

Cars would be lined up for blocks on certain days to be able to get a rationed amount of gasoline. This staple of the American lifestyle became a highly sought-after product due to scarcity.

  • When automobile manufacturers announce a new car release and limit production to a certain number, those vehicles are much more likely to sell in record time than other models with unlimited availability.
  • Black Friday has become notorious over the last two decades for driving customers into an aggravated frenzy as they scramble to get a very limited number of deals at greatly reduced prices.

Do you see how all these things impact our way of thinking? According to Psychology Today:

“When we believe that our ability to get hold of something is shrinking, we want it more…
We tend to view such purchases [acquisitions] not as wasteful, but as
savvy, keen moves on our part.”

Knowing that something (or some price or some bonus) is about to go away brings about tension. That tension causes us to fear we might be left out, that we could miss an opportunity to get what we want.

How proud did you feel during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic when you landed a box of face masks, Clorox wipes, or toilet tissue?

Especially for those of us who appreciate finding bargains, the loss of a great deal or rare supply can be extremely frustrating. If landing such deals makes us feel savvy and keen, losing out on these offers sticks us with a feeling of loss, or that we really messed up and now must suffer for it.

Should Every Email Use Scarcity Marketing Tactics?

If scarcity has this super power of driving a flurry of sales, that begs the question of whether it should be used in every email you write.

Have you ever heard of the Hershey Bar Principle? This concept states that one Hershey Bar is awesome! Two or even three Hershey Bars are really good. But once Hershey Bars become a staple of your everyday diet, that delectable chocolate becomes more like a can of green beans.

It’s the same with email. If you use scarcity principles in every single email you write, all the magic disappears pretty quickly. Scarce equals rare. If all your emails use the same technique, they become common instead of noteworthy.

Scarcity Examples Of Urgency Email Subject Lines

If you’ve written more than about two emails for your business, you already understand how incredibly vital well-crafted subject lines are. When it comes to urgency email subject lines, things become critical.

If you fail to accurately convey scarcity in the subject line of the urgent emails, your results will be disappointing. That’s because, without seeing a subject line that clearly explains the limited nature or timeliness of your communication, readers will have no reason to prioritize your email over the hundreds of others in their inboxes. Remember our conversation about common things?

How do you evoke scarcity/urgency in an email subject line?

Point out what specifically makes your communication urgent. There is most certainly a timeframe involved. What else? A discount? An invitation? A special bonus? Whatever it is, highlight it clearly.

Here are a few favorites that come directly from my inbox.

  • Final hours to save 40% — Cindy Bidar
  • Last day… Fonts and graphics for only $.50 — Creative Fabrica
  • You’ve gotta hurry if you want 61% off — Digital Marketer
  • SEO that works closes at 11:59 PM — Brian Dean
  • Last chance to enter the Unsplash awards — Unsplash
  • I hate to say no, but today really is your last chance — Full-time FBA
  • Price increase coming this Friday — Digital Summit

Take a minute to study the list above. Can you pick out the different ways the timeframe and offer are woven together in the subject line?

Scarcity Examples Of Powerful Last-Chance Emails

Let’s take a look at the content of a few enticing last-chance emails and dissect exactly what it is that makes them work.

Scarcity Email

In contests, especially ones where people get more chances to win if they continue to enter repeatedly, it’s important to keep pushing the urgency button.

/* .tcb-flex-col { padding-left: 0px; }[data-css=”tve-u-36600f2c2fae65f”] { width: 217px; float: none; margin: 0px auto !important; padding-right: 0px !important; padding-top: 25px !important; padding-left: 10px !important; }[data-css=”tve-u-1600f2c2fae63b”] { padding: 20px 20px 0px !important; margin-bottom: 20px !important; }[data-css=”tve-u-13600f2c2fae647″] { –tcb-applied-color:rgb(20, 115, 210) !important; }:not(#tve) [data-css=”tve-u-9600f2c2fae643″] { color: rgb(20, 115, 210) !important; –tcb-applied-color:rgb(20, 115, 210) !important; –tve-applied-color:rgb(20, 115, 210) !important; font-family: Raleway !important; –g-regular-weight:400; –g-bold-weight:700; font-weight: var(–g-regular-weight, normal) !important; font-size: 28px !important; }[data-css=”tve-u-11600f2c2fae645″] { –tcb-applied-color:rgb(20, 115, 210) !important; }[data-css=”tve-u-12600f2c2fae646″] { –tcb-applied-color:rgb(20, 115, 210) !important; }:not(#tve) [data-css=”tve-u-9600f2c2fae643″] strong { font-weight: 700 !important; }[data-css=”tve-u-33600f2c2fae65c”] { –tcb-local-color-cf6ff:rgb(20, 115, 210); –tcb-local-color-73c8d:rgb(21, 89, 162); min-width: 100%; }:not(#tve) [data-css=”tve-u-33600f2c2fae65c”]:hover .tcb-button-link { background-color: var(–tcb-local-color-73c8d) !important; }[data-css=”tve-u-33600f2c2fae65c”] .tcb-button-link { background-color: var(–tcb-local-color-cf6ff) !important; letter-spacing: 2px; border-radius: 5px; padding: 12px 15px; }[data-css=”tve-u-33600f2c2fae65c”] .tcb-button-link span { color: rgb(255, 255, 255); –tcb-applied-color:#fff; }:not(#tve) [data-css=”tve-u-33600f2c2fae65c”] .tcb-button-link { line-height: 1.2em; font-size: 18px; }:not(#tve) [data-css=”tve-u-14600f2c2fae648″] { –g-regular-weight:400; –g-bold-weight:700; color: rgb(127, 163, 194) !important; –tcb-applied-color:rgb(127, 163, 194) !important; –tve-applied-color:rgb(127, 163, 194) !important; font-family: Raleway !important; font-weight: var(–g-regular-weight, normal) !important; font-size: 8px !important; }:not(#tve) [data-css=”tve-u-14600f2c2fae648″] strong { font-weight: 700 !important; }:not(#tve) [data-css=”tve-u-18600f2c2fae64d”] { font-size: 16px !important; font-family: Raleway !important; –g-regular-weight:400; –g-bold-weight:700; font-weight: var(–g-regular-weight, normal) !important; }:not(#tve) [data-css=”tve-u-21600f2c2fae650″] { font-size: 16px !important; font-family: Raleway !important; –g-regular-weight:400; –g-bold-weight:700; font-weight: var(–g-regular-weight, normal) !important; }[data-css=”tve-u-18600f2c2fae64d”] strong { font-weight: 700 !important; }[data-css=”tve-u-21600f2c2fae650″] strong { font-weight: 700 !important; }[data-css=”tve-u-17600f2c2fae64c”] { margin-top: 0px !important; padding-bottom: 0px !important; margin-bottom: 0px !important; padding-top: 0px !important; }[data-css=”tve-u-28600f2c2fae657″] { padding: 5px 0px 10px !important; background-image: none !important; }:not(#tve) [data-css=”tve-u-29600f2c2fae658″] { font-family: Raleway !important; –g-regular-weight:400; –g-bold-weight:700; font-weight: var(–g-regular-weight, normal) !important; }:not(#tve) [data-css=”tve-u-29600f2c2fae658″] strong { font-weight: 700 !important; }:not(#tve) [data-css=”tve-u-15600f2c2fae64a”] strong { font-weight: 700 !important; }:not(#tve) [data-css=”tve-u-38600f2c2fae661″] strong { font-weight: 700 !important; }}@media (max-width: 767px){[data-css=”tve-u-35600f2c2fae65e”] { text-align: center; background-image: none !important; }[data-css=”tve-u-0600f2c2fae638″] { background-image: none !important; }[data-css=”tve-u-2600f2c2fae63c”] { background-image: none !important; }[data-css=”tve-u-5600f2c2fae63f”] { padding-top: 0px !important; }[data-css=”tve-u-4600f2c2fae63e”] { background-image: none !important; margin-bottom: 0px !important; }[data-css=”tve-u-7600f2c2fae641″] { background-image: none !important; }[data-css=”tve-u-1600f2c2fae63b”] { padding-bottom: 20px !important; margin-bottom: 0px !important; padding-left: 10px !important; padding-right: 10px !important; }[data-css=”tve-u-8600f2c2fae642″] { padding: 10px 0px !important; background-image: none !important; }[data-css=”tve-u-32600f2c2fae65b”] { max-width: 336px; margin-top: 0px !important; padding-top: 0px !important; margin-right: auto !important; margin-left: auto !important; background-image: none !important; }[data-css=”tve-u-36600f2c2fae65f”] { width: 120px; margin-left: auto !important; margin-right: auto !important; margin-bottom: 10px !important; }[data-css=”tve-u-28600f2c2fae657″] { padding: 10px 0px !important; background-image: none !important; }}


I understand that I will also receive weekly articles & videos plus periodic discounts, product notices & more. I can unsubscribe at any time.

This email does a great job of focusing on the benefit (increase your chance of winning). It does so clearly. The reader doesn’t have to try to decipher what they need to do. It incorporates urgency through a countdown timer (my preferred method for last-chance emails) and a noticeable call-to-action.

Scarcity Email

Low-key and personable, this email is upfront and easy to understand. The no-frills approach lays out the benefit (saving), the course of action (use the coupon), a sense of urgency (ending in a few days), and a clear call-to-action.

Scarcity Email

This design offers seasonal graphics and bold colors to catch the reader’s eye. A countdown timer ticks off the minutes (well, it did before it ran out ), while a call-to-action (CTA) button in a contrasting color guides readers to the next step. It also acts as a reminder, which means other emails have been sent before this one.

Scarcity Email

Are you starting to see a pattern? This, too, is a reminder about previous emails that this company has sent. We have a timer, a call-to-action at the top of this email as well as in the middle and bottom. They also include benefits in the bullet lists.

Scarcity Email

Again… a no-frills design with to-the-point copy. Benefits, clear CTA, and a specific deadline. There’s no timer on this one (tsk, tsk), but they do list the expiration as Friday at midnight.

Elements To Include When Writing A Last-Chance Email

While there are almost always a dozen ways to do any particular task, I recommend that your scarcity marketing emails (aka, last-chance emails) include the following elements:

  • Short-ish Copy – These are typically the last email in the campaign. You will have sent at least one other email before a last-chance email goes out. This should be more of a nudge than a full-blown sales pitch.
  • Reminders – Think of who, what, when, why, and how. Make it super simple for readers to find what the offer is, when it expires, why they should act now, and how to act.
  • Specifics – Don’t opt for copy that only uses language such as “this special offer is ending soon.” Sure, you can add that, but you’ll mainly want to stick with specifics. “This limited-time, 50% off discount is ending in 4 hours.”
  • Numbers – Notice what I did in the previous bullet? I used a lot of numbers. That’s because numbers capture attention. Their physical shape is different from that of letters, which makes them stand out. And, because they offer definite information instead of weak generalizations, people get a great sense of urgency. Skip “in a few hours” in favor of “in 3 hours.” Leave “this deep discount” and go for “this 40% discount.”
  • Reasons – Why? Sometimes a why makes all the difference. Is this a weekend special? Are you retiring a product? Are you making room for next season’s hottest colors, etc.?
  • Offer – Make the exact offer crystal clear.
  • Ticking Clock / Quantity Left – When people see something slipping away from them in real time, the panic/desire sets in. I strongly recommend using a countdown timer or other counter in your final last-chance emails.

timer countdown

Optional Scarcity Marketing Strategies:

Wait List – Is your offer something you could create a waiting list for? If you have physical products, have a limited number of seats available (virtually or physically), have a bonus that is only open for X time, etc., you could. Mentioning that time is running out and that readers will have to get on a waiting list before they can get it in the future can be a huge motivator. Especially if you mention how many people are on that list ahead of them.

“This special release with the added __________ bonus (a $95 value) ends in just 4 hours. If now’s not the right time, you can join our wait list of 127 people and you’ll be notified the next time this incredible offer is made.”

History – Using language (only if it’s true) that scratches that urgency itch goes a long way, too. Spiking your copy and/or subject lines with “sells out every time,” or “sold out last month/year in 36 minutes,” etc., will make readers think twice about saying no.

The next time you set up affiliate marketing campaigns or email campaigns for your own products / services, pay close attention to weaving scarcity principles into your last-chance emails.

Many times I get more sales from the last-call emails than from the entire campaign. This technique of incorporating scarcity at the end of an email campaign paves a direct path to more profits.

Have questions about last-chance emails? Talk to me below! 

Other Related Posts You’ll Love

15 Best Email Subject Lines and Why They Work

The #1 Secret Online Affiliate Marketers Rely on for Success

Similar Posts