Don’t Drown Customers in Complexity

Elephant on the savannah

In go-to-market messaging, complexity is bad. During a sales meeting, the statement “our product is complex” should raise red flags. You shouldn’t buy from a complex business nor should you sell a complex product. Complexity requires time and effort to understand and incorporate, drastically diminishing a product’s value. 

Companies arrive at complexity when they fail to make choices about their target market and differentiators. Successful products are sold with simple messaging. Here’s how:

Be as Simple as Slack

Most unicorns are surprisingly simple. Slack and Salesforce can be explained in mere sentences. Even intricate offerings like Tableau can be communicated simply. “Simplicity masking complexity – putting the power of data in the hands of mere mortals.” – Barry Sowerwine, former SVP Enterprise Sales – Americas, Tableau

These companies made conscious decisions about:

  1. Who their target buyer is and what that buyer cares about
  2. What makes their business unique
  3. What internal forces within the buyer’s context will drive success

Success in B2B sales comes from a customer repeating your message internally. Describing Slack, for instance, a customer could say, “It’s a platform for real-time, asynchronous communication among and between teams.”

To make your messaging as simple as Slack:

  1. Define your audience. Who loves your product?
  2. Model their understanding. What do they know? How do they think?
  3. Speak to them specifically. Incorporate the industry factors that influence them and articulate solutions to their urgent problems.
  4. Start with what matters. Begin with your value proposition to ensure customers pay attention to the impactful elements of your product.

Find the Middle Ground

Differentiation is the point between complexity and over-simplification.

Your messaging is too complex if it takes more than 30 seconds for a customer to understand your product. The customer is key. You don’t need understanding from an average person, nor a luddite. Instead, you need memorability only with your target market.

Coinbase, for instance, can be explained very simply to anyone with knowledge about cryptocurrency but might take longer to explain to those with no crypto knowledge.

Your messaging is too simple if it sounds generic. Coca-Cola and McDonalds can share slogans about happiness and smiles because their product appeals to everyone on earth. If your product has a more precise audience – and it does – your messaging should precisely appeal to them.

Avoid the Complexity Pitfalls

Complexity is both a psychological and structural challenge. In your organization, watch out for these causes:

Prior habit

Many companies run their prior playbook, even if that playbook is outdated. Continuous alignment will help your team communicate your product’s most important elements.

On a more personal level, the more technical a person is, the more accustomed they are to specificity and depth. There’s a time and place for complexity, such as in technical papers. Sales materials, however, should be at the level that’s memorable for your customers. Remember – your buyer has to explain what you are to lots of people. You need to enable your buyer.

Focusing on internal stakeholders instead of customers

A company’s communication quickly becomes complex when it fails to prioritize teammate preferences. Each simplification is a loss of specificity, some of which will be unappealing to teammates. These choices may cost precision but benefit through increased sales. By asking “Which aspects of my product are most compelling to customers?”, you’ll eliminate extraneous elements to close more deals.

Influential actors

Key people can pull you in different directions, including customers with unique use cases, partners or investors with money and founders with diverging opinions. In all these cases, seek alignment at the right level of abstraction: How will this choice make it easier to buy our product?

Overcoming Complexity

Alignment is a verb. Simplicity arises from clear decisions – alignment.

In customer communication, it’s okay to fail fast and adapt. Precision is often less important than constant movement and re-adjustment. By finding what resonates, you’ll sell more simply.

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