Forget engagement, relationships, social media, permission marketing and all the other fads, myths and marketing hype.
The key to successful marketing is making yes decisions easier for the customer. I’ve been saying this for decades! Now, it has finally been validated by a formal study. See the Forbes article: Marketers Have It Wrong: Forget Engagement, Consumers Want Simplicity.
Of course, I don’t need a study. I’ve applied this principle to help some companies create hundred million dollar sales increases, and one billion-dollar sales increase (Prilosec®).
As you read the article, beware of the common mistake the authors make. They blur the crucial distinction between “easy” and “simple.”
The Difference Between “Easy” And “Simple” And Why It’s Important
Promise: In this article, I will help you learn how to help your customers make YES decisions more easily, whether your business is large or small, and whether you sell a product or a service. That’s my promise.
First, here’s the difference between simple and easy.
The opposite of simple is complex.
The opposite of easy is difficult.
Simple, not easy: you are on safari, deep in Africa. Your guide says, “We are out of your Western food. What would you like for dinner tonight, worms or beetles?” This is a simple [non-complex] choice, but not easy. Product sellers do this all the time when they ask customers which added features they want, or whether they want Model A or Model B. Most of the time, customers have no idea what the difference really is, and if that difference is worth the price difference.
Easy, not simple: For example: the route from my house in NY to my friend’s house in Boston is extremely complex. It can’t be simplified. But my turn-by-turn navigation system makes the still-complex route easy, but not simple. When I use my GPS system, it just tells me to “turn left ahead.” It’s very easy and I end up where I want to go, with just as much complexity, but a minimum of difficulty. The same method works well in marketing. The trick is to keep each step small, simple, easy and fun, with plenty of guidance, feedback and rewards. Are you acting as your customer’s turn-by-turn decision navigator, his GPS? In every category, the company that does it best wins.
If you blur this distinction, you will concentrate on making things simple, which is only one method of making things easy. And, it’s easy that you want.
Your job when marketing your product, service or idea is to help the customer’s decision-making process easier. Implementing even just the first three simple, easy steps I’m about to recommend here will increase your sales substantially. There are plenty more, so stay tuned. If you are getting this as a forwarded email, go to www.mnav.com and sign up for my newsletter with the upper right form. You’ll also get the 10 Yesses report that you might have heard marketers discussing. [Another example of making things easier!]
The Three Best Steps That Will Explode Your Sales Immediately
Step 1. Look at the materials or other place where your customer first encounters your product, service or idea. Insert into all materials – or put a sign on the wall – that offers your equivalent of this incredibly effective, simple, clear, easy to understand promise: “If you [use/buy/prescribe/recommend] my product, I promise you that you will get …” Make sure it’s a benefit. That means, your product will make their life better in some specific, measurable way, whether it’s 15 minutes to change their oil or fresher bread or, as in my case, more sales faster by making customer decisions easier. The “Promise + Benefit Combo” has been a marketing staple for over 100 years, but it’s astounding how often a simple, clear, easy to understand promise or claim is missing. Make sure you’ve got yours up front and center. Chances are, it’s not. Mine is after the 4th paragraph above in boldface type.
Step 2: Go through the materials (such as web pages) or events (such as sales calls, demos, slide presentations, etc.) with a machete. What is your customer supposed to read or ingest into their brain as they try to navigate the path from interest to evaluating options, to learning about your product, trying it, buying it, learning to use it, etc. Pay attention to where they are dropping out or slowing down and take out at least 5 paragraphs that are not essential. More if you can get yourself to do it. Ruthlessly cut, which is one way of simplifying, which is one way of making things easier. You’ve seen many web sites that are distracting and cause you to lose interest. Make sure yours isn’t one of them! Don’t believe me? Test the simpler version against the earlier, more complicated version and see how your sales convert. If something essential really is missing, you’ll find out quickly because people will ask questions. But, before you do, there is one thing I want you to add:
Step 3. Repeat your simple, solemn, beneficial promise in every place where it can reasonably be inserted without looking ridiculously repetitive. Make sure your materials support why the promise will be fulfilled.
To follow my own advice, I can make this entire article even easier for you to implement:
Make a promise. Cut everything else to the minimum communication required to support the promise. Rinse and repeat. Less is more.
Do it, with one thing, anything, NOW.
Let me know what happens.
- Google — Simple and fast
- Amazon — "One-Click" simple
- Staples — “That was easy.”
- Apple — “It just works.” “Macintosh. It Does More. It Costs Less. It's that Simple.”
- Dell Computers — “Easy as Dell”
- Toyota — “Best built cars in the world”
- Campbell’s Soup — “Reach for the Campbell’s, it’s right on your shelf.”
- Duncan Hines Cake Mix and other easy-to-prepare mixes
- Timex Watches — “Ridiculously easy to use” (Timex with I-Control)
- McDonalds — 9? Billion Sold
- GEICO — “So easy a caveman can do it”
- FedEx — “When it absolutely, positively, has to be there overnight”
- Bounty — “The Quicker Picker-upper”
- Visa — “It’s everywhere you want to be”
- Nike — “Just do it”
- Club Med — “The Antidote for Civilization” (all-inclusive, easy, simple)
- NY Times — “All the news that’s fit to print”
- WINS Radio, NY — “You give us 20 minutes, we’ll give you the world”
- Shell Oil — “You can be sure of Shell”
- Yellow Pages — “Let your fingers do the walking”
- AT&T — “Reach out and touch someone”
- Blogger — “Push Button Publishing”
- Philips — “Sense and Simplicity”
Whole categories are based upon companies that make it easier for the customer to try, buy, use, learn:
- Fast Food
- Social Networking
- Internet Commerce
Feel free to add others below. Remember, we're not talking only about ease-of-use or ease-of-purchase. We're talking about ease-of-deciding, i.e. decision friendliness.
Remember: The Decision Friendliest Product Wins
The No-Brainer Solution
I guess after the annual Super Bowl Advertising Debacle — in which advertisers try to show how cool they are by making “in” cultural references and edgy humorous skits that have nothing to do with product benefits — I’m on a clarification and simplification of message kick.
After cleaning up my own messages here and here, I got to thinking about the importance of simple messages. I wrote about it in the 2nd edition of Secrets of Word-of-Mouth Marketing. (My presumably left-wing NY editors insisted on taking out the stuff about the Tea Party, but they didn’t have any trouble with the stuff about Obama.). Thought you might be interested in the unexpurgated version if you are in the idea marketing business. And, oh, by the way, believe me, you are in the business of marketing ideas.
Eisenhower once said, “Motivation is the art of getting people to do what you want them to do because they want to do it.”
Secret: To sell an idea, you must find out what people want most, down deeply, under the concrete.
You can’t find it by asking and taking the first answers. You have to probe deeply.. As Henry Ford once said, “If I’d have asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” Yes, but it would have given him the opportunity to ask a “dumb question,” “Yes, but what would faster horses mean for you?” You have to identify the real desire.
Then, you have to show them how getting it is more important than clinging to and defending some of their most cherished beliefs, such as the idea that the horseless carriage is an infernal machine sent by the devil.
That’s how Obama sold Hope and Change. Those people who were willing to take a chance on him gave him a chance because they so desperately wanted something different, almost anything different. [It was a simple, elegant message, at a time of despair and dissatisfaction.] That message triumphed over a mushy Republican message that I can’t even summarize, and nobody else could either — hence the lack of word of mouth.
That’s why the Tea Party arose soon after, appealing to Independents and Democratic and Republican segments with a simple, brilliant message of “Smaller Government, Lower Taxes, Less spending.” Everyone got it. You either believed that we were on a disasterous spending binge or you didn't. The Tea Party refused to get involved in any other issues, leaving that up to the individual candidates to sell locally (simplicity). They will probably win big (They did. This was written in the summer of 2010) because it reflects what people want, in an elegantly simple message. Conventional wisdom is that its popularity was due to “anti-incumbency,” but it’s much more profound than that.
People are willing to change their beliefs when a basic need — in this case their children's and their own financial security — is threatened and they are presented with a clearly stated solution, and they get the social, word-of-mouth support that is enabled and magnified by the Internet.
Interestingly, one involved a strong central leader, the other the lack of a central leader. For Obama, it was a central person who was unique and spectacularly articulate enough to spark a WOM firestorm over a couple of simple words, "hope and change," that summed up people’s frustrations and aspirations.
For the Tea Party Movement, it was also a simple idea, "smaller government, lower taxes, less spending, and the lack of an identified leader that made it possible.
Both tapped into a basic need, and got the word of mouth going in a unique way.
Both illustrate what a simple message at just the right time can do, especially in the Internet Age.
The entire Middle East seems like it’s about to join Yemen and Egypt as the simple American idea — that we seem to keep forgetting — spreads: We don’t want to be told what to do by “rulers.” In other words, liberty and freedom, as rights inherent in individuals, not granted by governments, monarchs or other gangs.
I’m sure you have heard of “flash mobs.” People might decide to show up at a store or an intersection, all at the same time, and swamp all available space. Now, a whole country or even the world can become a flash mob — and they don’t even have to wait for an election.
The lesson for you is the power of the simple, consistent, repeatable, timely message.
My message in the Age of Overload: Ease the decisions. Make your product, service, and ideas a "no-brainer."
How? Stay tuned. What, you don't have a subscription? Sign up, free. See, I made it easy.
"Easify" the customer decision process:It's The Secret Key to Marketing Success
- Customers are overwhelmed by information overload.
- So they usually choose the easy-to-decide-on product, not the best.
- So, the key to marketing is to make it easier to decide on your product than the competition’s.
Status quo → finding you → learning about you → culling → weighing → sorting → evaluating → comparing alternatives → justifying trial →trying → buying → using → fixing → teaching → recommending → evangelizing.On each of these hills, there are many obstacles:
Questions, qualms, issues, confusions, uncertainty, misunderstandings, distractions, competitor counter-information, fog, effort, time wasters, information overload, distrust and many other stumbling blocks.If they stumble enough, they pause, flounder, go home or find another product that's easier to fathom. It’s at these hidden obstacles that you’re losing most of your potential customers. They’re mostly hidden because you are an expert who doesn’t see how difficult it is to understand and get past these obstacles. You see it as a smooth path, they see it as a bumpy, hilly obstacle course. Your job is to identify these friction points and get people past them. In this day and age, you have to do it — not only by being more persuasive — but by making every step and stage of the decision process easier. Give them shortcuts past the hills. Conventional marketing tries to be more persuasive: to make the case better that this is the more desirable product. My approach is to remove all possible obstacles. Only sometimes does this involve tuning up the persuasion. Usually, this involves getting finding and eliminating the many ways that you have inadvertently made it difficult to understand, try, buy or talk about the product. Every click. Every unnecessary word. Every distracting graphic. Everything that doesn't clarify. Everything that isn't from the right source, in the right medium, in the right form, at the right level of detail, in the right sequence, for the right kind of customer. This is a different approach to marketing that has caused record-breaking sales increases.
The Secret Key to Marketing Success
- Customers are overwhelmed by information overload.
- So they usually choose the easy-to-decide-on product, not the best.
- So, the key to marketing is to make it easier to decide on your product than the competition’s.
I'm the leading expert on easifying the customer decision process. If you want clever word play, pretty pictures, or other razzle-dazzle, I'm not your guy. But if you've tried all that, try my approach. It's easier, cheaper and so much more effective.
I keep telling my consulting clients that they need to have a terse statement like this that sums up the essence of their differences, but they are blocked by expert blindness. I'm no exception. It's taken 10 years to come up with these three sentences for myself. If there were another decision easification consultant in the world, he or she could have done it for me in a few hours, except for one thing: S/he also would have also had expert blindness in this area! But in your area, I'm an expert in easification, and just ignorant enough to say it simply.
Learn a little more about the secret to marketing success.
Examples of Easifying Customer Buying Behavior
There are always blocks and barriers to the customer decision process.
Problem: Sometimes, the "customer" is a prescriber and approver, not the end user. For instance, a pharmaceutical company came to me with a drug that physicians strongly claimed they wanted to prescribe, but wouldn't. I interviewed physicians who confirmed that they wanted to prescribe it, but didn't. They were very defensive. It turned out that they couldn't get insurance companies to approve the use of the drug without a long series of other drugs first, and complex approval phone calls or form (Certificate of Medical Necessity). These phone calls were time-consuming and intimidating, requiring physicians to engage in a scientific justification they were not equipped to engage in. The hidden decision barrier was the high burden of time and intimidation that the physician had to bear every time he/she wrote a prescription for the drug.
The pharmaceutical company had no idea that this was a burden, since — to them — the justification was simple and obvious. A classic case of Expert Blindness.
Solution: Their solution was so technical that physicians didn't understand it. So, I interviewed high prescribers of the drug who had obviously gotten past this barrier. Obvious, but not so obvious if you don't know about the hidden barrier. It turned out that some of the experts in the field who had busy clinical practices had developed a simple, one-sentence script that mentioned two peer-reviewed studies in reputable journals that said that this drug was the new standard. The sentence was one that any nurse could read or put on the form to get the approval. It was worded in such a way that it put the insurance company in a legally untenable position of they denied treatment, thus compelling approval. The salespeople were sent out with materials that addressed the issue, and prominently displayed the "magic sentence." Sales tripled. We Easified the approval decision ("Is it really worth fighting this battle?" "No.") to a no-brainer ("Is it worth it?" "Of course, my nurse can handle it in a few seconds.")
Secret: There is almost always a simple solution: a barrier waiting to be discovered and a simple way of removing it.
Problem: In a more complex approval situation, the technical buyers didn't know how to answer the financial concerns of the company's top management.
Solution: I got permission to give out a "fill in the blanks" version of the presentation and spreadsheet that a customer used successfully to convince his company's management — one that (unlike our client's) talked their language and actually worked! I Easified the presentation construction and persuasion decisions and collapsed the learning curve.
Problem: A product's acceptance depended upon a crucial fact that could only be established by an accepted industry expert.
Solution: I asked potential customers to tell us exactly what reassurance they needed, from whom. I then went to the most-named industry expert and drew out of him the perfect testimonial that used the words the customers said they needed to hear — increasing sales more than tenfold, establishing an industry record that has never been broken. I Easified the fact-checking and "justification of use" barriers.
Problem: Technical web sites that weren't connecting to real people. Several of our clients' products and services had gorgeous Web sites that were abstract, information dense and cerebral — missing the vivid, involving language that comes from the customer’s hearts and real-life experiences.
Solution: I formed an Advisory Group that provided emotionally compelling language that we put into simplified, less Flashy, focused web sites and presentations. The usual reaction is, "Wow, you really get what it's like to be in my shoes." I Easified the trust-building barriers.
Problem: Customer buying cycle that took years to gather enough experience to commit.
Solution: I've compressed the years-long decision processes of many products into a few weeks with teleconferences that put enthusiasts together with prospects, allowing them to gather more experiences in weeks than they could have in years. I Easified the long, tedious and risky learning, verification and trial processes that usually take so long, particularly in the pharmaceutical industry.
Problem: I often find that complex products and services aren't understood by their customers and their bosses.
Solution: I distilled their essence into a simple phrase that replaced the page-long incomprehensible nonsense that the high-tech client and their ad agency thought was crystal clear and irresistible. I Easified the cognitive burden.
Do you have a Decision Barrier that's holding back your product? Believe me, you do. Could you use a consultation? Probably. Find out more: Click Here.
|Blogs||The whole world of Twitter, WordPress, Technorati, Blogger, TypePad, etc.|
|Rating & Review sites||Zagat, Yelp, Opentable, Tripadvisor, , C-net, hotels.com,, etc.|
|Social Networking||Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Myspace|
|Social Bookmarking||(Digg, Diigo, Stumbleupon, Reddit)|
|Mass Collaboration||Open Source Movement, Google Wave, Google Docs, Various Microsoft Collaboration Tools|
|Wikis||WikiPedia, WikiHow, WikiNews…|
|Remote meetings||GoToMeeting, Adobe Connect, etc.|
|Webinars, Remote Courses, etc.||University of Phoenix (current enrollment: 240,000+), 1000’s of private courses, etc.|
|Texting, Video chat||ICQ, iChat, Jabber, Buzz, etc.|
|RSS feeds, Newsreaders, News aggregators, Mega News Sites||“Reverse Browsing”: Google Reader, Netnewswire, Feedblitz, Feedburner, etc.|
|Customer-generated Media (CGM):||YouTube, Flickr, …|
|Recommendation Engines||Netflix, Jinni, IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes, Last.fm|
|MP3 players||iPods, Podcasting|
|500+ Cable, Fiber Optic and Dish Channels||CableVision, Fios, Dish Network|
|Downloaded TV Episodes||iTunes downloads, etc.|
|Web TV viewing||Hulu, Network web sites|
|Flat Screen TV, HDTV, 3-D TV and Movies||IMAX, home screens|
|Universal Remote Controls||Important means of skipping commercials, switching to other content. Lets people pause and engage in WOM.|
|Video Games Game Boxes Video Boxes||Bigger than Movies and Music combined!|
|Microsoft X Box, Wii, Playstation|
|TiVo, Apple TV, Roku, Slingbox|
|Smart Phones||iPhones, Android Phones, etc.|
|Web 2.0||All customer-provided content sites|
|Shareware, donationware, etc.||Variably priced, payment optional, etc.|
|Filesharing Protocols and sites||Napster, LimeWire, Pirate Bay, BitTorrent, Magnet Links, etc.|
|Portable, High-Capacity Drives||USB Flash Drives, High Capacity portable drives|
|Music/Movie/Video Downloading services||iTunes Store, Apple TV, NetFlix,|
|E-Books & Readers||Kindle, iBook, Sony Reader, Zook, etc.|
|Digital Cameras, Video||Complete conversion to digital from film, pocket cameras with video.|
|Digital Photos and Video||Picassa, Flickr, Lightroom, iPhoto|
|Web Apps||Google, Google Apps, Microsoft Office Web Apps etc.|
|Mass Collaboration, Hive Mind|
|WOM agencies||Unknown in 2000, too numerous to mention now.|
|Advocacy Networks||BzzAgent, Tremor|
|Auction Sites||EBay (in its comparative infancy in 2000)|
|eCommerce, Electronic Payment Systems||PayPal, Google Checkout, millions of web sites|
|Very Fast Broadband and Broadband Wireless|
|App phones||IPhone, Android, etc. With hundreds of thousands of apps, many designed to locate products, ratings, comparative prices, etc.|
|VOIP||Skype, Vonnage, etc.|
|Ubiquitous Network Access||3G, 4G, WiFi, WiMax, VPNs|
|Cloud Computing: unlimited storage & processing on demand.||Amazon EC2, Google, etc.|
|Content Management Information Management Information Architecture Knowledge Management||Drupal, Joomla|
|Word of mouth agencies
…to name only broad categories. Some of these categories have hundreds to thousands of instances: Thousands of eBay merchants, thousands of rating sites, travel sites, mash-ups, etc. Remember when we all had AOL accounts, brick-like cell phones, dial-up modems and used Yahoo as our search engine? That was right around 1997. Gone — or almost gone — are faxes and faxback, hotlines, pagers, classified advertising, newspaper stock listings; physical dictionaries, encyclopedias, thesauruses; physical recording media such as floppy disks, records/cassettes/CDs/DVDs (almost), PDAs, photographic film, simple bulletin boards/forums, dial-up modems, Physical Maps, Traveler’s checks, telegrams, travel agents, pay phones. Soon to be obsolete, or nearly so: Newspapers and magazines (in the paper forms we know them), paper books & bookstores, conventional libraries, handwritten prescriptions, land lines, paper money, major broadcast TV networks and cords connecting anything. Notice that the new arrivals are almost all things that increase our interactivity and connectedness, and, thereby, our overload. They also increase our ability — actually necessity — to engage in word of mouth. So, the Secrets you can learn from this are: Involvement and collaboration is what it’s all about now. The new media have brought a whole new level of overload.
Either you’re supporting the customer’s decision making, or you’re creating clutter and obstructing it.
Prospects make dozens of little decisions as they move through the decision process:
- Decisions about entering the marketplace. “Browsing.”
- Decisions about learning about your products and your competitors'. Technical term: it's called “Shopping.”
- Decisions about initial experiences with the product. Technical term: it's called “Trying.”
- Decisions about purchase. Buying.
- Decisions about expanding usage: Using. committing.
- Decisions about the whole decision and usage experience. Raving, Evangelizing
Different customers have many different ways of doing each of these. Each has its own set of rules.
Your marketing materials and activities are rarely in exact sync with your customers. That's why there are so many browsers and shoppers, but so few raving fans.
People are more in sync with their friends than they ever will be with your advertising and salespeople. That's why word of mouth is so much more powerful than marketing.
The lessons learned from all this is that you need to:
- Lay out all the dozens of little steps that people need to take in order to go from browsing to evangelism.
- Spend a whole lot more time eliminating these steps or making the steps simpler, easier, faster, and more fun.
- Find every large and small block, barrier, impediment and bottleneck and eliminate them. “Disimpedimentation.”
- Focus on the whole decision experience rather than just the user experience with the product interface.
- Put a lot more time, energy and resources into streamlining and funifying the customer decision process from beginning to end. [By the way, there is no end, at least not with on-going customers.]
Conventional marketing complexifies by shoveling information at already overloaded people.
You can use this decision smoothing approach by employing word of mouth and other techniques to smooth out the bumps in your customers' very rough decision process.
More to come. Stay tuned. I feel another book coming on.
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