Why is it that so many businesses avoid the single biggest strategy that will allow them to find their sweet spot?

Three years ago, I wrote an e-book with my colleagues at Pragmatic Marketing called The Secrets of Tuned In Leaders.  It outlined the seven positive character traits of leaders of winning businesses.  Secret number 3 was ‘Simple is Smart’.  Here’s a quick excerpt.

Most products and communications are hard to understand, hard to use and worst of all, completely out of context with the total customer experience. The best companies create solutions that are narrow and deep. They organize around a single market problem and solve it completely with a solution that to the buyer seems simple, obvious and most importantly handles all the related tasks in one easy step. Often, this means specializing in a single vertical market or industry. Customer communications programs are not one size fits all either. Instead, tailor to the context of each market or industry you serve.

Times were good back then and while this premise was embraced, I’m not sure most folks got the point.  Today though, there is no way to avoid it.  This is no longer an interesting premise or a nice to have philosophy, it is essential to business success.

Only the simple will survive!

When I look around at the types of things we offer to customers in the market today, I shake my head at how many of them completely miss the mark and wonder … ‘how did they come up with that?’  Consider some recent examples:

Are you kidding me?

  • US Airways just increased their per bag fee and add a requirement for registering online for their service.  I guess the overwhelmingly positive response to their initial program gave them the courage to make it even more onerous.
  • The Obama administration is pushing for the quick adoption of a trillion dollar health care reform package that has five different versions each thousands of pages long and creates a complete overhaul of the system.  And they are surprised by the public backlash and think it’s all a big Republican conspiracy?
  • With the newest release of the Blackberry Tour, I now count 22 versions of the product for largely the same buyer target.  Many people have said the handwriting is on the wall for RIMM with the iPhone but are they helping their cause by thrashing with too many new versions?

Alternatively, some companies and programs know how to get it right:

Hey, I think I’ll take some of that!

  • Southwest Airlines is the antithesis of all the other major airlines. Low prices, flexible services and NO nickel and dime costs like paying for bags.  Is it any wonder they’ve gone from a small regional Texas airline to the most profitable, successful of all airlines?
  • Cash for Clunkers was a government program people understood.  I buy a new car, get rid of my old one and you incent me to do it with a government rebate.  Don’t know why the government was surprised that it worked … maybe because they aren’t used to simple?
  • Microsoft’s Bing is advertising a simple value to doing business with them. Use their serach and you get ‘cash back’.  When you are trying to break a juggernaut like Google, the simpler the attack, the better.

Why is it so easy for some to get it while others over-think?  All of this has got me to thinking … are we complicating our lives and trying to do too much at exactly the wrong time?

Why Simple Works

Simple has always been smart.

Too many of us fail to embrace a fundamental principle … nobody cares about your business like you do.  The amount of time buyers spend on considering you once they become aware of your value maybe being of interest to them is measured in seconds, not minutes, hours, days or months. As a result, the idea of KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) wins market share every time.

It also wins higher marks in customer satisfaction.

The real hidden benefit in being simple is that you actually increase the quality and value of your solution in the process.  Because the focus is so narrow, the provider ends up putting all of their energy and service dollars into making this not only easy to understand but easy to buy.  You deal with well informed employees who are there to help vs. a stressed out crew not knowing what’s going to hit them next.

Summary

Are you making this harder than it has to be?  If you want to find your sweet spot in any market, simple is smart.  Time and time again, the company that has taken the time to be laser focused in what they do and how they build value for their customers has won the market.  With the amount of noise and risk associated with today’s market, it’s even smarter to be simple.