If you spend any time at all online you will have seen this tactic used to motivate people into action. The email signup or free training course signup box that says “Sign up now while registration is open.” The human trigger that you could miss out. It’s called FOMO – Fear of Missing Out. Too often, it’s artificial.
It’s the concept that something is a limited edition or has scarcity and that you had better not miss out. Now, as a marketing tactic FOMO can work very well. However, the Fear of Missing Out has to have one important element for it to work properly.
There has to be a genuine prospect that your reader will actually be missing out. Otherwise, it just doesn’t work. You may attract a few extra signups with it, however for me personally, if I can detect even the slightest chance that this isn’t real, that this digital product will probably be available again next month, then it’s a massive turn off for me. Often it’s a subconscious decision as I click away. It’s only afterwards that I have figured out why.
And Digital Scarcity is a particularly difficult thing to sell to anyone.
It’s a digital course. An Ebook. A membership site. The whole point of this is that it’s scaleable. So, how can it have scarcity?
There are occasions, of course, when digital scarcity can be real and the FOMO tactic can be authentic. An online training course where your trainer has to actively participate and coach you online is one such example. There’s a physical limit to how many people that person can coach, even via Zoom or Skype, if they are being authentic.
However, on the whole the concept of artifical scarcity is working less and less on me these days. If if that’s the case, then I figure that others are feeling the same way too.
Humans do have a natural fear of missing out. And if that prospect is authentic, then it’s a powerful motivator.
The Stirling Moss limited edition print series gathered more and more Fear Of Missing Out momentum as the series unfolded. That was genuine. Between The Signature Store and I, we only had 50 prints to sell of each and they were physical prints. Now they’re gone, they are increasing in value. You can still buy the print as an open edition and they are still popular, however they aren’t signed by The Boy.
And that’s the thing about digital marketing and selling. It takes me back to my firm belief that in selling anything, nothing has changed across many years. The same principles of selling physical products transfer into digital today. The same selling principles apply. It’s simply the platform of communication that has changed.
Here’s an example of fear of missing out in action. It’s a true story.
In my previous selling life I worked in a specialist car showroom. The sales manager was a superb salesman and I learned a lot from working with him. He could be an absolute lunatic sometimes, but that’s another story. On the whole he was a good guy, a passionate salesman who believed deeply in making a profit yet also giving stellar customer service. The two things aren’t exclusive. Again, that’s another story.
The dealership had the franchise for Rolls Royce and Bentley, back when the two brands were together. He drove a 500 mile round trip to collect a Bentley Continental R from the factory. The car was an ex-factory management car finished in a beautiful dove grey with a dark red leather interior.
He had two buyers in mind for it. He called both up and told them the car would be in the showroom the following morning.
Buyer 1 says he will be there. He’s not the preferred choice, as Buyer 2 is a better deal. He’s a regular customer who is always buying. It pays to take care of them, however Buyer 1 is also important too and could easily become a regular client.
He tips off Buyer 2 that there is someone else interested and to be there. “I do have someone else interested in the car, so be sharp.” He says the same to Buyer 1.
Next morning. Buyer 1 is right there, nice and early. Sees the car, falls in love, signs up. Sold.
Later that morning, Buyer 2 arrives. “Sorry, it’s been sold. I did tell you….”
“I thought you were kidding me.” He’s gutted that he missed the car. “I thought that you were just saying that to make me more keen.”
“I would never do that.”
So you see, scarcity as a selling tool is only effective when it is real. Had he indeed been inventing the other buyer and Buyer 2 arrived, he is instantly in the stronger negotiating position because that scarcity wasn’t as authentic.
FOMO only works when the prospect of missing out is real.
Now, I’m sure there are people out there selling digital training courses who will disagree. Feel free to comment below. And indeed in the recent past it may well have worked.
However these days, with every single person online seemingly a guru at something and selling a training course / sales funnel / ebook / laptop on a beach lifestyle or something and proclaiming to be able to solve your life’s problems instantly, the concept is wearing thin.
I sometimes sign up for these email sequences just to see what happens. The bigger the personal brand, the more hysterical the email sequence becomes throughout the week as I don’t buy. Culminating in a hysteria sequence on the day of closing.
Now, if this is a genuine limited offer, then fair enough. Maybe I am missing out. My choice. Yet very often, I have seen the same sales sequence kicking off once again just a few months later.
Artificial Scarcity. It sucks.
Digital selling has changed many things, yet in other ways selling things is still the same. Nothing has changed in human behaviour. People still buy things from people. The voice behind the email sequence or the selling offer still needs to be truthful and authentic, in just the same way as if you were standing beside that person.
The platform of communication may have changed. The people on either side of the deal are still the same.