Keep It Simple Smart-Guy

by: Doug Michaelides

I work with a lot of smart marketing people who take sophisticated products and services to market. With all this brainpower you’d think that the marketing messages would be clear, concise and highly effective. In fact, often the opposite is true.

Smart marketers trying to differentiate their products and services too often resort to increasingly nuanced messages. They struggle to squeeze the last drop of value proposition from their offer and strive to own the smallest whitespace in the competitive landscape. The result is that value propositions and communications campaigns end up with the complexity of fine wine. Unfortunately, a thirsty market mostly just wants water.

When your value propositions are complex you are narrowing your potential audience. You are probably also obscuring the most important elements of your offer in a haze of related, but initially less important, detail. Marketing communications becomes harder, the sales team can’t articulate the message and, in general, prospective customers don’t get it. Here’s a sign; if your sales and executive teams are complaining that the corporate message is unclear (if everyone’s avoiding the elevator because they don’t know the pitch), then odds are you’re trying to make it too complex.

That good first impression with prospective customers is going to be made not by subtle statements of differentiated value but by a strong core value proposition that hits their concerns head on. Don’t worry if the core value proposition isn’t all that strongly differentiated – your primary objective up front is to catch the attention of prospective buyers. Once interested they’ll spend more time with you to learn the many ways you’re unique, through subsequent marketing and sales interactions.

Buyers are looking for choice. It is a wide world out there, with lots of room for companies who, on the surface, appear to offer similar value propositions. So unless you’re up against a dominant, market-defining player (e.g. Cisco in routers, Google in search, Starbucks in coffee) it’s often better to worry a little less about differentiating yourself from the competition and more about just getting your company in front of prospective buyers.

So, try to keep it simple smart-guy! Granted, simple isn’t easy to do. Samuel Johnson once said, “I did not have time to write you a short letter, so I wrote you a long one instead.” You have to work hard to write less and focus on fewer ideas. Hammer on a simple core value proposition that strongly resonates with your target market. Your marketing and sales people (and channel partners) will thank you for making their life easier and you’ll have more success filling the top of the funnel.

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