People have known for years that FOMO makes sales, even long before someone called the concept “FOMO.”
So, what exactly is FOMO? It stands for “Fear of Missing Out.” When sellers say, “This price is good for only six more hours,” that’s what they’re doing—sparking that FOMO.
Another common add-on to those messages is the use of countdown timers. That combination is only one tactic used to spark that fear, and it may seem that it’s the oldest trick in the book.
Old, sure, but it still works better than you might believe.
FOMO can be easy to overlook, but it can also be simple and should be an integral part of your box of tricks.
One of the significant benefits of FOMO is drawing potential customers into your world. In a way, the “free gift” many websites now offer when you come to their site is a FOMO tactic. This dangled carrot is also known as a “lead magnet.”
It goes like this: readers come to your site because they’re interested in your business or what you offer. For argument’s sake, let’s call your site “widgets-are-not-us.com.”
Websites used to let their visitors look around for a few minutes and then offer something like a “free guide to the best widgets in the world.” Visitors would receive that guide in their email inbox if they’d “just” joined the mailing list.
It’s become common for visitors to look around your website for only a few seconds. Still, depending on who you talk to, the best time to flash a pop-up before a visitor is subjective.
A visitor who doesn’t have enough time to read a single word before being asked to sign up for a website won’t be able to assess the buy-in. So if you want a visitor to sign up, show them you’re worth their time.
They won’t want to miss out on your free guide, so that’s their first taste of FOMO.
FOMO also brings more people to your site and can get you more leads more quickly. This lets you start moving leads through your sales funnel faster, which means you sell more.
It’s generally agreed upon that selling more is always positive. Doing it in less time is also typically a good thing.
You may have heard of the “FIRE movement.” It stands for “Financial Independence, Retire Early.” The paths to financial independence vary, but some businesses provide it by leveraging FOMO in their companies. This lets them reach financial independence and gain the ability to invest earlier rather than later.
The FIRE movement got a foothold by—you guessed it—causing people to fear missing out on independence and early retirement. After all, who wants to miss out on that sort of thing?
Here are powerful psychological triggers to inject into your copywriting to boost sales.
The “For a limited time only” tactic is the most common and simplistic way to incur FOMO. No one has to look very far to find countdown timers online, e.g., “This discount will no longer be available when the timer runs out.”
Others offer their products only for a short time each year. For example, one of the most famous (and most expensive) courses about becoming a profitable blogger opens once a year for about two weeks.
This is an internet-based course that doesn’t even happen in real time. The business created that FOMO by artificially limiting their availability. There’s no reason why they can’t offer it year-round.
They just don’t want to stay open all year because that fear of missing out gets more people to buy and pay their “champagne” prices.
It’s essential to be cautious with artificial urgency, though. People will catch on if you’re having a “last chance sale” every few weeks. They’ll act as people did with the “Boy Who Cried Wolf.” Treating customers like idiots won’t pay off for long, if at all.
There are now apps and services that website owners use to agitate that fear of missing out. For example, one company called “Proof” offers spotlights, such as “Hot Streaks,” that show when others have purchased a similar product.
It shows a buyer’s first name and the town where they reside. This adds to the conviction that readers are getting the truth about other purchasers.
Etsy will often show availability figures, arguably to help spark FOMO. You may have seen language on their site like “Only 12 available, and 10 people have this in their shopping carts.”
You might be slightly cynical about seeing a pop-up like that, and you could wonder if it’s an accurate accounting. However, your target audience might not harbor those doubts.
Everyone over the age of twelve has probably heard that phrase in television ads, radio commercials, and elsewhere. The reason is that everyone wants to feel like they’re getting a lot of value in return for their hard-earned money. As a result, marketers have found that offering bonuses in some way often spurs sales.
Modern marketers will likely be selling online, so these “Buy our widget, and we’ll include a book about widgets, and a handy carrying bag at no charge” messages will abound.
It should go without saying that the bonuses must be meaningful and not half-hearted. You can’t just throw something on your website and see what happens.
The truth is that you’ll regularly see things like the handy carrying bag example, or even worse: a one-page PDF that someone spent 20 minutes creating that they’re trying to tell you is a valuable bonus.
These things are annoying and don’t typically pull people into the fold permanently. So be careful with this stuff, as you can decrease your authority in your space rather than increase it.
Getting your company’s offerings in the media is another excellent way to create FOMO. You want to be the people your audience always sees in the local press talking about the widgets you sell. People should think of your company whenever they hear or think of widgets.
For a long time, humans have said, “There’s no such thing as bad press.”
That’s not entirely true, but there’s truth to it. It’s better to be talked about than to labor in complete obscurity, but there’s no easy way to clean up a bad reputation.
So present your competence and make yourself available to the press when possible. Even if you’re not an expert on press releases, you can learn the rough basics of working with the media in just a few hours online. It’s worth the effort. Even a television interview with low viewership is likely to result in many requests for information.
Note that you don’t have to know everything about what you’re doing to speak publicly or give interviews about it. For example, bill Gates gave interviews to the press in 1985 before most people understood the possibilities of personal computers.
Even so, he was able to spark the fear of missing out. If you search the internet for “Bill Gates 1985 quotes,” you’ll see a series of images of the young Gates that aim to create FOMO.
Many business owners prefer to write articles or Op-Eds about issues around their work. This allows them to control the language. So remember that no matter how accurate an article is when submitted to the press, it can and will be subject to edits.
As I noted here, it’s important to remember that FOMO—the psychological trigger around scarcity—can also create anxiety. So evoking FOMO requires thought and precision.
Try to do a brilliant job of positioning yourself and your company as authoritative and in high demand. Do that right, and you can make people feel they’ll miss out on working with you and your team if they aren’t careful. It pays to be visible, knowledgeable and published.
Authority is also always helpful to your business, although it’s not something you can fake. For example, if you attempted to be an authority on spacegoing rockets and talked to NASA engineers, your ruse would fall apart in minutes.
Just be thoughtful about what you present to the press. Building and maintaining a good reputation can take decades, but it only takes minutes to destroy it.
Sure, multimillion-dollar international corporations sometimes overcome public relations nightmares without much apparent damage. Unfortunately, FOMO won’t get the average business out of a deep, dark public perception hole.
These days, many brands and social marketers use a variation on social proof—language that can cause people to take action. Take a look around the internet, and you’ll find countless examples:
“Fifty people have this in their carts, and only 28 are available…”
People ask things like, “Does this social proof type thing really work? I never buy stuff because of what others are doing.”
Some sources report that around 56% of people have experienced FOMO from social media. Almost 60% of people have bought something in just 24 hours because of FOMO.
So, yes, it does work. The thing is, you’re not always your target audience. You might not behave like your average visitor. “It wouldn’t work on me” isn’t the best way to measure marketing choices.
Often The FOMO is sparked by the type of offer such as: “Buy before midnight and save an extra $100.” “Only two spots available at this price,” and messages of that nature.
Why do you think people work with “Influencers?” In short, the right influencers for your demographic will get your business and offers in front of thousands of people who could become customers.
There are hundreds of firms that help companies select and engage influencer postings. So even if you believe that following the buying recommendations of some random business is ridiculous, thousands of people do it every day.
Many businesses work with influencers to create that “FOMO” feeling. Unfortunately, not every business has an obvious influencer or group of influencers.
For example, if you only sell composting toilets, you might have to think a bit laterally. However, you don’t necessarily need a toilet expert. A homesteading expert or a “prepper” may do the trick.
There are influencers in many, many niches. Do your homework, and you may find the perfect representative for your brand.
Learn some of the sales promotion copywriting strategies to help you win customers here.
Another way FOMO can take shape is by explaining things your audience has already missed. That can strengthen their resolve to pick up on the next big thing that you offer.
Businesses do that in a variety of ways. For example, the “only open two weeks a year” tactic discussed above can create considerable FOMO. As a result, you’ll see lots of people saying things like “Since we missed it this year, I’m going to be sure that I’m in there for next year…”.
Social proof also points toward “you’ve already missed out.” The logos of the well-known companies at the bottom of websites aren’t there just for show. Let’s assume the company you’re looking at is obeying the law. In that case, they’ve requested and received the right to display these logos. They also have the right to say that these businesses have been using their services.
Be aware that even some of the most prominent players in the world of retail sometimes don’t get it right at all. For example, some big box sellers try to cross-sell by printing things like, “People who buy a $1,000 camera from one manufacturer often buy a $2,500 camera from another manufacturer and a $6,000 telescope along with it.”
Yeah, right. Of course, it’s possible that someone bought those things. What’s unlikely is that several people did the same. So be thoughtful about what you’re pushing out there. Upselling and cross-selling need to be deliberate and sensible.
Okay, there’s more than one. In two words: speed and commitment. FOMO makes people move faster. Faster sales, of course, means more money in your hands and more options for your business—day after day.
Handling this will have the bonus of making your business and its offerings “sticky.” That refers to what the newspaper business once described as “having legs,” e.g., a story that would make the rounds on its own, under its power, without the newspaper having to push it.
Another benefit is that using the FOMO trigger can separate the wheat from the chaff. Companies don’t want people who sit there and pay lip service to their offerings.
Instead, most businesses want customers who are loyal to their brand and will “evangelize” their offerings to their friends, family, and colleagues. So if the FOMO works, it’s likely to trigger someone into developing that loyalty and spreading the word.
This can also look like the early days of Groupon. Then, businesses were putting up meager loss-leader prices, and FOMO drove vast numbers of people to take advantage of those low prices.
The issue was that, because the net was cast so widely and not targeted at all as a general rule, the customers didn’t become permanent.
Critical thinking is essential as you develop ideas about what to swell, promote, and emphasize in your business. Create FOMO in “your” people, not all people.
FOMO also keeps people coming back. “That deal we got last month was so good. Let’s see what they’re doing right now.” A business that’s known for fair pricing is always going to be in demand.
Many believe Facebook Groups are the holy grail of acquiring prospects, retaining them, and moving fence sitters through your funnel.
That can be true: interacting with you and your team helps customers and prospects. Facebook also offers an “Interested” button, which can get prospects to indicate their interest in what you offer.
Other marketing avenues include giving readers an easy way to add a calendar entry for a particular event. This is available through iCal, Outlook, and many other vendors.
Businesses also use social proof in a variety of ways. For example, adding happy clients' names or testimonials can be as simple as copying and pasting to your website. On the other hand, it can be as complicated as an application triggered by someone hovering over a buy button.
When done correctly, creating a fear of missing out yields positive results. The point is to get people who’d benefit from your offerings to take action toward getting what they need or want from you.
Done incorrectly, FOMO is a different story. It’s unethical to create offers that you know to be misleading, and you should be careful about fabricating scarcity when your offering isn’t scarce.
Many advertisers have assumed they could treat all their customers as though they were too stupid to see the manipulation. That’s never worked out well, and it won’t change soon.
There’s a reason why you get assessed on an actual figure of “goodwill” for your business in the USA tax filing. Goodwill among the clientele and the general public is money in the bank. Don’t squander it.
Here are the rules of persuasion that you can use in your copywriting.
FOMO often makes the public perceive the seller as an authority in their field.
You might realize this article doesn’t exist because writing articles is my passion. Instead, it’s here to help you by sharing some of the information that comes from years of experience. That’s part of becoming an authority in an industry.
Now that you’ve learned the basics about creating FOMO, take a few moments and look around to see large merchandisers using the same tactics. You may be surprised at how ubiquitous it is.
FOMO is popular because it works so well. Use it to find out how well it works for your business.
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