Hold me back

Restraint is something I’ve been learning a lot about in my personal life. From dancing the delicate “I can do it myself” phase with my three-year-old to holding back from the political mudslinging on Facebook, it’s a daily exercise.

But restraint is necessary – for a lot of reasons.

When mastered in a creative or business situation, restraint separates good from great. This is true in design, writing, marketing, branding. Even in relationships, fitness and parenting.

Things that are simple, focused and uncluttered are inherently more attractive.

Three fantastic examples of the art of restraint in action are Tackk, Haiku Deck and Postagram, all new apps that facilitate content creation – one for flyers, one for presentations and the other for physical postcards. Each app essentially does something others before it have already done – Microsoft Word and PowerPoint, Adobe, and Keynote, to name a few.

But show these apps to any person who’s created dozens of flyers and presentations and they pretty instantly fall in love. The interface invites without intimidating. My immediate reaction after sparking up both Tackk and Haiku Deck is to start dreaming up content I’d like to create in them. The UI frees me up to be creative.

In fact, we designed our own Nudge marketing app for real estate agents in the same vein.

That’s the power of restraint in action.

Compare that with how you feel upon opening Word or PowerPoint. Overwhelmed. Taxed.

You’re forced to sling through a bloated program whether you’re creating a complicated presentation or just a basic 10-slide deck with images and headlines.

Without restraint, the endless options, menus and tools stifle creativity from the first second.

White space

The notion of restraint should be very familiar to designers and artists who know that white space is just as much a part of any design as the colors and lines drawn on top of it.

Musicians know this too. The silence between notes.

So, how do you practice restraint in a real estate business?

It’s all in your marketing.

Copy: Restrain the urge to write more than is needed. Just tell consumers what you do, and what you do better than anyone else. Give them some facts to help paint the picture and verify your claims. Every word pulls weight.

Emails: Limit them to one message per email. That’s all anyone can digest in the context of email. You need white space to drive your message home. To light the path to your call to action.

Content: Longer isn’t better in most cases when it comes to content. The key is engagement – and that usually suffers the longer you go. As with email, stay focused. One overall point per blog post, social media post or article.

Website: You wouldn’t want guests coming over to a house in total disarray. Same with your website. Clean and thoughtful will help you much more with conversions than chaotic and unfocused. Exercising restraint on a website will pay off. Unfortunately, it’s one of the hardest things to do.

Define your customer: No one can be all things to all people. Defining your customer can help focus your marketing on their specific needs.

These may all seem like no-brainers, but they’re among the most committed sins in marketing.

Abundance is great, but there’s a time and place for restraint. Hold back. Subtract. Leave a little white space. Your messages will actually get louder and bolder, which means more people will hear them and see them.

Often turning up the volume is as easy as dimming the lights.