Use an expiration date.

Okay, actually, this tip should probably be in the top 10 for direct-response copywriting, not #421, but who’s really counting anyway? An expiration date is incredibly important, absolutely necessary, and crucial for maximum response rates.

Unlike the expiration date on a carton of milk, a fast-approaching expiration date on a promotion actually makes people want to buy your product or respond. (Right now.) It creates a sense of urgency, bordering on anxiety. It says, “act now, before it’s too late.” It makes your customers think, “If I don’t get this great deal now, I may never get it again.”

That’s the idea, anyway.

Of course, this isn’t a new trick, or some top-secret copywriting service strategy. Marketers and copywriting service providers have known the importance of using expiration dates for decades. It’s unfortunate then that so many businesses forget this key element when executing their marketing campaigns.

Websites. Direct mail. Radio ads. TV commercials. If they’re designed to get an immediate response, these marketing efforts must have an expiration date.

Think about it. If you got a postcard in the mail offering “50% OFF Telephone Service,” you might save the card, maybe push it aside, plan to call later and eventually forget about it completely. But what if that postcard said, “Ends Friday!” Or, “3 Days Only!” Chances are, if you were interested in the promotion, you’d respond that day.

A sense of loss can be very powerful in marketing. And that’s exactly what an expiration date hangs over your customers’ heads.