Image: Fear of missing out

Remember, when you were a kid, and you would gather with other kids for sport or play, and a couple of nominated children in the group would get to choose their teams? Do you recall the feeling of dread you had that you would get picked last or even not at all?

That same insecurity may be hampering your business success.

The dread or anxiety of being left out of the loop is today known by the nomenclature FOMO – fear of missing out – and affects everybody, regardless of temperament.

Tax advisers, accountants, bookkeepers and many other small to medium businesses in New Zealand tend to be a generalist in positioning, if not necessarily in nature.

Essentially, most expert-based businesses will take anybody who walks through the door, regardless of business type, sector or industry. In so doing, they are potentially losing out on a compelling business advantage – the power of differentiation that comes from having a niche.

Many experts and firms may find they attract more of one industry than another – often thanks to word-of-mouth – and so develop more significant expertise in that area. Still, they don’t dare say it aloud because it may put other clients and customers off making sales inquiries – yes, that’s FOMO.

However, in trying to be somebody to everybody, you end up getting lost in the crowd.

The best way to stand out in a crowded market is to differentiate. People notice different or novel before pretty much anything else. Having a niche is a point of difference.

Positioning around a niche is also a solid strategy for establishing your credentials as a specialist expert rather than just an expert. Also, it will increase your visibility within a chosen market because of word of mouth – it is easier to be famous in a small market than in a big one.

The human fear of loss is powerful. Some time ago a power company found that it had a better response from the word ‘lose’ than ‘save’ – people were more motivated to act out of fear of losing what they already had than they were by the prospect of gain.

Writing on the science of FOMO for Psychology Today, Nick Hobson PhD, says one solution to FOMO may be a shift in attention control.

“Focus less on potential losses of missing out and focus more on immediate gains of what’s being done now,” Hobson says.

So instead of worrying out about the business you may be missing out on, concentrate on opening up opportunities in your niche. For example, earning a speaking spot at the annual event organisers’ conference.

If you have considered positioning yourself within a niche for a specific type of client, sector, product or service, but you’re worried that you might miss out, know that it’s FOMO.

Know also that you are likely to achieve far greater gains by being the bigger fish in a smaller pond.