We can’t have it all – so we shouldn’t even try.

Do you suffer from FOMO? In our always-on, 24/7 world, it seems most of us do these days. Fear of missing out is the plague of the digital age. What are people tweeting about? Who’s doing what on Facebook? Are they having more fun than us? And if we don’t get online right now, how are we ever going to catch up? In a personal context, it’s not so serious. FOMO, and its near relation nomophobia  (fear of being without your mobile) are the natural consequence of a connected world. It can lead to mild anxiety and a niggling fear of social exclusion, but apart from that, there’s no price to pay. In  a professional context, that’s far from the case. If you suffer from FOMO Pro, the business strain of the virus, then you could have a serious problem. None of us wants to miss out. We want more customers, more sales, more meetings, more tweets, more blog posts, more followers, more readers. But unless it means more sales, more means less.

Different strokes

As an amateur (very amateur) artist, I like visiting exhibitions. And my favourite paintings, drawings and sketches are the ones that don’t quite look finished. It’s one of the reasons I like the Impressionists. They suggest rather than describe, and leave something to my imagination. At the opposite end of the spectrum are photo-realistic painters, who capture every last detail of their subject. Their technique is startlingly life-like, showing total mastery of the medium and astonishing powers of observation. And yet, it leaves me cold. If you want to paint in a photo-realistic style, why not simply take a photograph? For the same reason, the best plays and films leave you to fill in the gaps. A quick snatch of dialogue or a glimpsed panorama is enough to suggest what’s just happened or is about to happen. They supply the dots. We join them. And it’s better that way, as we’re involved, and feel like we’re bringing something to the experience.

Market forces

The common thread here is focus. They can’t say everything, and they can’t represent everything. So they don’t, and the work ends up being more effective. Or put another way, there’s no fear of missing out. If you concentrate on what’s important, the rest will follow. And everybody enjoys the process more. The same is true of marketing – and even more so of copywriting. You can’t appeal to everybody, because nobody can. You can’t write for everybody, because then you write for nobody. So prioritise your prospects. Shorten your story. Curb your choices. Prune your products. Thin out your text. Whether it’s a scene in a play or a flower in a painting, a marketing campaign or a mailshot, it’s more a case of what you leave out than what you put in. The more you leave out, the more what’s left will get noticed. Fewer choices mean more people choose. Shorter pages mean more people read. Simpler stories mean more people understand. Fear of missing out, just like regret, is only human (what if…?).  But in a sales and marketing context, it’s almost always counter-productive. Try to have it all and you might just end up with nothing. So FOMO or focus? No contest. Focus wins by a mile, every time. And you wouldn’t want to miss out on that. Find out more: