Episode 33 – Simplify For Sales

This week is all about simplicity, how less can so often be more, and how this can all translate into better sales and happier customers in your business.

Years ago I was listening to a photographer on Creative Live speaking about how she only had one package, and I thought she was nuts. I was offering my clients all sorts of things. Different packages. Different products, and all sorts of options for each. I wanted them to have freedom and choice. I wanted to make sure that I had something for everyone and for every need. I wanted them to feel like a kid in a candy store with a million options and to know that I had thought of everything. So this concept of only offering clients ONE package and having a take it or leave it attitude about it seemed completely crazy to me.

And yet… here she was, speaking on Creative Live about her success. Her numbers were way better than mine, she was booking like crazy and seemed to be having a great time in all of it. I on the other hand was struggling so hard. I was a single Mom who had about a 1.68 in my bank account, no clue where my next sale was coming from and a whole heap of fear that I was going to fall flat on my face and fail not only myself, but the little boy that I had brought into this world and loved so fiercely. So I listened to her.

For a while I did her one package system. It worked. Since then I have flipped it around a few times, but I never have more than a few options at a time. I will never go back to having a novel for a price list, and offering my clients a million different choice. Since listening to her I have actually done my own research on the topic as well, and I completely understand why what she said makes so much sense, and it all basically boils down to one thing, that most of us are bombarded with every single day – overwhelm.

If a customer or client walks into your store, or is browsing the options on your website and there are too many choices they will get overwhelmed, frustrated, sometimes even angry, and they will walk away. Decision fatigue is real guys!

Their brain becomes exhausted from trying to sift through all of the choices and figure out what makes the most sense for them. They get discouraged, feeling like they might make the wrong choice, and then they either opt to not buy or they go to a competitor who has simplified the process.

There was a study done in 2000 by psychologists Sheena Iyangar and Mark Lepper, who did a series of tests to see how consumers reacted to choice. They did things like setting up a table of jams in a grocery store and tracking how many people came to look, and how many purchased. On one day they would have 24 exotic jams to choose from. There were sales people there to offer free samples so people could test and trial, peruse all of the jams and then make a purchase if they wanted to. The next day they would run the exact same process, but only have 6 different flavours of jam to choose from. The result was that while more people were attracted to and came to see the 24 jam set up, they were almost 10X more likely to actually make a purchase when visiting the 6 jam set up. 10X! That is huge!

They repeated similar trials with chocolates, and then even with university students and an extra credit essay assignment, and the result was the same. When offered a chance to write an essay for extra credit, students were far more likely to follow through and earn the extra credit if they were given a short list of 5 essay topics to pick from, than an extensive one with 30 topics listed.

What is happening here? Especially in the case of the jam, when having more options attracted way more people, which you would think was a good thing, except that the higher traffic didn’t actually result in any more sales – just empty traffic.

In the case of the higher traffic it is likely that people who weren’t actually interested in purchasing jam that day where drawn in out of pure curiosity. 24 flavours!? Whoa! What are the options? Kiwi jam? Weird, what does that taste like? They are curious, so they stop, but they never intended to buy jam and they likely won’t. The 6 flavours on the other hand weren’t interesting enough to cause a commotion and draw people in – unless of course they actually needed to buy jam that day, and then they would wander over and be able to find what they needed – in fact they probably were able to find what they need as well as a bonus option or two. Just enough to be interesting without being overwhelming.

This actually relates really well to what I said in episode 20, about long tail and short tail keywords and SEO. The curiosity factor of the 24 flavor jam stand brought in lots of traffic, just as a short tail keyword would. It’s not targeting a super specific category or people, it’s just reaching out to anyone and everyone. Good for exposure, but not necessarily going to translate directly to sales. The 6 flavour jam stand however it appealing to those people who actually want to buy jam, and are ready to buy jam, just like a super specific long tail keyword would be. So by getting specific you are able to target the exact people you need to reach in order to make sales instead of wasting your time, or advertising budget, screaming at the masses.

Now add to that the fact that choice is overwhelming and you can see why less is more, and simplifying equal sales.

When I first became a Mom I decided I wanted to use cloth diapers. They were better for the environment, had a ton of benefits to my child – less diaper rash, less exposure to chemicals, less leaks, and all importantly they were going to be WAY cheaper in the long run and as a broke single Mom that was huge.

I almost didn’t do it though. I started looking at different options for diapers and the choices were endless. There were prefolds and pocket diapers, hemp vs microfibers, sizes or a one size that grows with them, there were liners and diaper sprayers, brand after brand, all offering so many choices and non of it making any sense to me. I had ZERO clue what would work best and where to start and had I not had a lovely friend reach out and offer to educate me as well as lend me hers so I could test them and see what I liked there is no way I ever would have come to a decision. There were just to many options and all of it felt like it was written in a different language. A few years in, by the time my second child rolled around and I found myself needing to go out and purchase a new set of cloth diapers it was a completely and totally different experience. I knew what I was looking for. I understood all of the terms and what they meant, so it wasn’t hard to sift through a bunch of information and options anymore. I was a pro at that point and so I could relatively quickly find what I needed and make a purchase.

As business owners this is a key piece that we are so often missing. We look at our offerings – our package, price list, menu, whatever and it all looks pretty straightforward. We might even ask a friend in the industry and they confirm for us – yep, makes sense, looks good. What we are forgetting though is that our clients don’t spend all day immersed in our world. They don’t understand the basic structures, what is typically offered or included, even what some of the terms – that are so obvious and clear to US – mean.  They are looking with completely fresh and often totally uneducated eyes and what looks simple to us is completely out there to them.

So as business owners we need to simplify as much as we can, and be ready to walk them through anything that is even remotely complicated or confusing to someone who is new to the process. Don’t get frustrated with people when they thought something was included that wasn’t or they completely miss what you thought was clearly stated – take the opportunity to review the information you are presenting and see if there is a way to make it even simpler. Clearer.

Simplifying is especially important when people are looking to make a quick and easy choice and don’t want to spend a lot of time on the decision, when the product or service itself is already complex, when it is difficult to compare alternatives (which often happens in oversaturated and unregulated markets when people are comparing a million different businesses who are all structured completely differently – ahem, photographers, I’m look at YOU) or when the consumer doesn’t have a clear preference.

Another perk to having a less is more structure to what you are offering is that it increases the likelihood that your customers walk away happy. You would think that having a ton of options to please every single taste and personality would mean that your customers and clients would be that much more satisfied at the end of the transaction but in reality it actually just increase the likelihood of buyer’s remorse. Having to choose one out of 15 options means that they are more likely to question if they made the right decision, and have them keep coming back to it in their mind and questioning if they should have gone with something else. Basically they are sitting there enjoying their strawberry ice cream but keep wondering if maybe they should have gone with chocolate peanut butter (always… dude if you picked strawberry over chocolate pb then you are right to be questioning) or if old fashion vanilla would have been right. And when its ice cream, then whatever it was a few bucks and they can just go get another one the next day, or when they are finished the one they are eating, but when we are talking hundreds, or thousands of dollars spent then that little bit of doubt can really tank their overall feelings about the experience they just had.

The last thing we want is for the client to second guess the amazing product or experience that you provided. First of all it can cause all kinds of customer services nightmares after the fact, and second it reduces the chances that they rave to their friends! We want them raving guys, you want them loving you and telling everyone they know that they love you!

The point of all of this is that if you want to have a successful business you need to make everything about the process as resistance free as possible. Legit, I am sitting here and an email pops up from one of the people I follow. I love her. She was the reason I got into podcasts, and the person who inspired me to start this podcast in the first place. So when she emails I read it. When she asks me to do something or suggests I signed up for it I generally do. Now you ready for my embarrassingly ridiculous confession? In this email she provides a phone number to text, or a link to click on, so that we can now text each other, and I can receive her updates via text. Now I get that this doesn’t mean that we are going to be pals texting into the wee hours of the night in a one to one conversation about business, life and babies BUT I actually am cool with being on her text list so that when she sends out what I assume will be mass updates, I will receive them. And the silly part? I click the link and it brings me to a text box to send a message. But I don’t. Why? She didn’t tell me what to say. I have zero clue where this text is actually going and no one said what to type. Am I actually messaging her directly and should just say “hey how’s it going?” or is it some sort of bot and any random string of letters or numbers would do? Should I type “subscribe” and send that? See I told you it was embarrassing! I am CLEARLY over thinking, it does NOT matter what I type, and this is DEFINITELY one of those times where I will be on the extreme end because my brain is just naturally over analyzes everything and that little bit of social anxiety is stubborn as heck and won’t let go but guess what happened? I clicked out of her email and came back to what I was doing, writing this episode! I might remember to go back in. I might decide to just send any random message, but honestly with as busy as we all are these days it is equally possible that I will forget, and I won’t sign up. It’s a perfect illustration of how even the slightest complication or confusing can cause a person to walk away without making a purchase or in this case, signing up.

So make sure as you outline your business, your services, products or other offerings that there is no resistance. Be ready to assist your customers with a smile and endless patience, but try to set it up so that they feel like that is just a bonus, not that they are drowning in options and need to you to save them.

And as you are simplifying everything and changing your offerings – do you need a graphic designer to help you come up with a beautiful and SIMPLE price sheet? Check out the graphic designers on Fiverr! Fiverr is an amazing platform where you can outsource almost anything, and with their review system it is easy to make sure you are picking a quality candidate to do the work! Go to www.annyamiller.com/fiverr.

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