Scarcity bias. It’s what makes us go crazy at Christmas trying to find the last L.O.L. Surprise doll left in the country for our child. It’s what makes those ‘Only three left in stock!’ banners work.
For a small business, having production limitations due to cash or staff numbers can be a big problem. You know you want to grow but the capital or time isn’t there to service a larger customer base.
Here’s something that could help: use that ‘scarcity’ to build up frenzied demand and push value. Small-batch production that builds a loyal following and increases your price point, funding growth. How? Instagram, my friends.
How to use Instagram to subvert small business production problems
1. Small drops
Small, hotly anticipated product drops are the perfect combination of small business and big business branding. You have the feeling of hand-crafted, locally sourced small production – but also the rarity factor that can make fans lose their minds over your products.
Recently, I was one of those rabid fans. I was trying to get one of 30 hand-blown glass pendants (in the shape of a pickle – yes, a pickle) from an artist called Mandella Glass on Instagram. The seller had been teasing the release for a week, with gorgeous pictures. Every pendant sold in five minutes. People were seeing products sell out of their baskets as they scrambled to enter their payment details. Absolutely insane and a good message to the seller that he can increase his prices with every drop, no problem.
And no, I didn’t get one. Which makes me even more frantic to get one next time.
P.S. The tone this seller uses to answer his fans’ pleas is hilarious. So strict. You’re not refreshing his Insta feed constantly, waiting for a product drop? Tough luck.
Pre-order is something I’m seeing a lot with small sellers at the moment, increasing while manufacturing and finances have potentially been disrupted. But this isn’t just about survival.
Pre-order sells scarcity while being practical. It says you’re small-batch and handmade but lets you manage your production better as you KNOW how much you’re guaranteed to need and even have the cash to fund production if necessary. It’s an immediate chunk of cash, rather than the drip-feed of income you’d get by listing your products with no hype.
You can offer early access for this too, which just builds another layer of scarcity. A VIP club clamouring to access the waitlist and give you money upfront!
This one has also worked on me. A seller I love called Manners London teased an upcoming drop on her Instagram stories and I commented. She was instantly in my DMs asking if I’d like to pre-order and I ended up pre-ordering from a release that was planned for even further down the line – at a higher price point. I was happy to wait, she was happy to make an early sale, and here I am championing her business.
3. Private followers
Establish an early-access group for product drops or pre-orders. You get this with fan clubs for bands – advanced access to ticket sales. It makes people feel special, it establishes a following and it gives you a better idea of guaranteed demand.
If you didn’t know, Instagram has a setting for private access to certain posts called Close Friends. You can allow access for free to breed loyalty, or you could even establish a small revenue stream through this following, using PayPal or Patreon.
PayPal is purely transactional and better for a one-off access fee, but if you wanted to really invest in growing this VIP gang, Patreon offers a lot of engagement opportunities and establishes an automated subscription for ongoing revenue.
Even without this official private access group, small product releases incentivise following and turning on notifications for your posts, because your buyers don’t want to miss a drop. That’s going to also grow engagement on your posts as more people are guaranteed to see your content. Less battling against the algorithm.
Play the Instagram game and your small business production problems could become a thing of the past.
Find out more about how to sell on social media.