Get while the getting’s good — for a limited time only, while supplies last

Here in South Florida, we’ve just been through a spate of limited-time only promotions.
Here in South Florida, we’ve just been through a spate of limited-time only promotions. Getty Images/iStockphoto

I love proverbs. They distill universal and timeless truths about human nature into short, simple, concrete phrases.

One of my favorite proverbs is: Get while the gettin’ is good. This one pithy saying tells us so much about customer psychology and explains why a marker’s best friend is a limited-time offer.

Face it. We’re all busy and have a lot on our minds. So we focus on the most important decisions that are right in front of us. Like which route will avoid the car accident just up ahead, or how to get our boss to understand that we’re just one person, or how to get our teenagers off their game consoles and focused on their homework. When it comes to making non-essential decisions, we procrastinate, which is not good for sales.

The limited-time offer provides the perfect solution because it forces a quick decision.

Here in South Florida, we’ve just been through a spate of limited-time only promotions.

The Miami Foundation used the technique brilliantly with their Give Miami Day campaign. To get the good people of Miami to stop what they’re doing and take out their credit cards in support of worthy causes, the Foundation offered to match contributions made on one specific, designated day.

And it worked. From 12:01 am to midnight on Thursday, Nov. 15, nearly 21,000 people made gifts totaling a record $11.5 million.

Then the nation’s retailers jumped in with the biggest limited-time only offers of all: Black Friday and Cyber-Monday.

Walmart, Amazon, Costco, Home Depot, Target, and the rest, plastered Black Friday and Cyber Monday banners on all their advertising. They all emphasized that the sales would end soon, many even put the exact time: 11:59 pm.

Miami’s Carnival Cruise Line took the exact time concept even further. They had a clock on their homepage showing the hours, minutes and seconds remaining until their sale ended. “Hurry!” their headline read, as the seconds ticked away.

Other local companies also ran limited-time only sales. The Wynwood Shop offered Black Friday discounts on products made in Miami. The Betsy Hotel of South Beach offered 40 percent off new bookings made between 7 am Sunday, Nov. 25 through midnight on Monday, Nov. 26. And Fogo Charcoal of Hialeah came to the party with a great sense of humor: For a limited time, their bags of artesanal coal came in a special burlap gift bag for Christmas.

Across the nation, the Black Friday and Cyber Monday promotions generated more than $50 billion in sales. That’s proof-of-concept enough.

So, when you launch your own limited-time only promotion, keep these tried-and-true techniques in mind:

▪ Build anticipation. Let your customers know that a sale is coming. Make it exciting.

▪ Highlight the end date. Make sure people see it. Call attention to it with bold text and bright colors. A limited-time only offer only works if people know about it.

▪ Use a strong call-to-action such as, “buy now,” or “call today.” Many marketers use the words “hurry” or “today only” or “last call!”

▪ Stick to it. If you say your offer ends on Nov. 23, mean it. On Nov. 24, it’s over. If customers learn that your offers don’t really end on the specified date, they’ll stop responding. Many marketers violate this rule. For them, Black Friday becomes Black Friday weekend or Black Friday week. This is a mistake. It undermines the strength of a limited-time only offer.

▪ And one more thing, add the phrase “while supplies last.” Coupling a time limit with scarcity creates an even stronger sense of urgency.

As the saying goes, if you tell your customers the gettin’ is good, they’ll get.

▪ Adam Snitzer is a revenue strategy expert and president of Peak Revenue Performance, a consulting firm that specializes in helping companies attract more, high-paying customers. He is a regular contributor to Business Monday, the business magazine of the Miami Herald. He can be reached at, or via the company’s website at

Recent columns by Adam Snitzer include:

▪ We’re addicted to free shipping, but it comes with a cost

▪ Be more like Apple every day and satisfy your customers

▪ In quest to maximize revenue, 9 is my favorite number

▪ Small businesses in South Florida should keep up the good work

▪ Marketers: Beware the perils of in-store promotions