5 Ways to Instill a Sense of Urgency in Emails


by Cassi Knight Why do we send emails? Because we want people to take action. We want them to do something. That “something” is u...


Why do we send emails?

Because we want people to take action. We want them to do something.

That “something” is usually distilled in the call to action, but a good email carries that core message into every element of the message. The subject line, the preheader, the body copy, the images – they all support the call to action.

So if we send emails to get people to take an action, the real art of email marketing comes down to this: How do we get them to take that action? Marketers have been pondering this since people were trading animal hides. Some things have changed since then, but the things that drive people to act haven’t changed all that much. People respond to:

  • Fear – fear of losing out, or fear of something bad happening
  • Pain – the pain of loss, the pain of embarrassment, shame, or physical pain
  • Exclusivity – everybody wants to be special
  • Relevance – offer the right thing to the right person at the right time, and you’ve got yourself a sale
  • Scarcity – another version of fear, but that there won’t be enough

Urgency is a type of scarcity – the scarcity of time. It’s an intriguing blend of several psychological levers. First, there’s the fear of missing out. That fuels the fear we won’t act fast enough.

Let’s make no bones about it: Urgency works. That’s why you’re interested in it. When there’s no sense of urgency, a subscriber might open an email from you and think “Interesting… I’ll get back to this later.”

Then later never comes. But when a subscriber opens up an email that uses urgency well, they’ll think, “Interesting… uh-huh… this will be over soon. I should do something about this now.“

Urgency is definitely not just some psychological theory. It’s a fact. Adding urgency to your emails will get you more opens, clicks, and sales. Here’s five different ways to accomplish that:

1. Deadlines

Deadlines work for writers, but they’re also great for marketers. That’s why flash sales, limited-time offers and all their kin are used so often. They work.

Adding a time limit to almost anything will force people to act faster. The real art, of course, is figuring out when the deadline should be. Usually, any more than 72 hours is too much.

This email from Pet360 offers a discount on a related service, but only if their subscribers act fast.


Want to know a great place to let people know about a deadline? The subject line of your email. Or, if you can’t fit it there, add it to the preheader text. Your subscribers will still be able to see the preheader text in their inbox. That could mean a higher open rate for your message, too.

2. Countdown timers

These dramatize the deadline. And boy, do they work. Countdown timers increase click-through rates and sales almost every time they’re used. They also move – like animated gifs – which tends to attract distracted email readers even more.

Here’s an email without a countdown timer. It got a nice, respectable 15% click-through rate.


Here’s that same email, now with a countdown timer. It got a 38% click-through rate. That’s 253% more clicks than the plain email.


Nice, huh? What would more than doubling your sales from your emails do for you?

3. Limited quantities

Urgency is a scarcity of time. Limited quantities are a scarcity of stuff. Pair them up, and some people will find the offer hard to resist.

Using limited quantities in emails also helps because you can sometimes send an update email further re-enforcing the limited supplies. Something like: “We’re down to only 10 televisions left at this price!” If the last time a subscriber looked, you had 50 televisions, that sends a real bolt of urgency.


4. “First X number of people to apply”

This is a more positive spin on the scarcity and urgency tactics. I’ve seen this get used more and more in webinars, or when people are promoting a new course. On the live webinar, the host will offer a strong bonus for anyone who signs up for the course before the webinar is over.

You could do this in emails, too, just by saying “the first 20 people to reply to this email will get a special bonus of X”.

5. Use the “now”

“Free” is still the most powerful word in marketing, but I’d wager that “now” comes in as a close second. So any time you want to convey urgency, make sure “now” shows up in your copy. It belongs in your emails’ subject line, for starters. Then again in the call to action. Consider adding a postscript that also uses the word “now”, too. It’s a little word with a very big punch.

Here’s “now” being used to get people on to a webinar:


Instill Urgency in Emails Today

The inbox is crazy-competitive now, and getting more so every day. Why not use every tactic available to you – especially if it’s been proven to be one of the all-time most effective sales tools?
Whether you’re promoting a new product or a new blog post, the point of your email is to get people to act. Urgency gets them to act now, before they forget or get distracted.

What about you?

How do you add urgency to your emails?

Got any tricks I haven’t mentioned here? Leave a comment and show off your smarts.




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#DIGITAL: 5 Ways to Instill a Sense of Urgency in Emails
5 Ways to Instill a Sense of Urgency in Emails
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