How to make complex simple
It is difficult to really comprehend how complex our world has become unless we stop for a moment and think about the average day. We all are consuming media, news, information at an incredible rate - with the click of a button, we are transported to a virtual world where there are no limitations to what could be. We are influenced on a daily basis by, and the clue is in the word, ‘influencers’, you know, those good-looking celebrities of social media who live in perfect chiseled bodies on perfect manicured beaches, by real news, and fake news… technology is taking over, profiling, analyzing and modeling our every click, our every call, and pretty soon, our every emotion… it is me, or is all this a little overwhelming?
Enter the power of simplicity…
In the design world, we used to say, 'don’t be afraid of the white space, don’t be afraid to make the world around you as simple as possible'. Just because you do what you do every day, it doesn’t mean that your customer does, and he or she will not get what you are saying if you make your communication too complex.
These simple rules still apply today, yet I am amazed by the number of businesses who still, even though we are years away from the old design mantra, still do not understand this.
In banking, for instance, I would challenge any marketing head to list all of his banking products - one bank I visited recently proudly proclaimed that they have over 60 products that they are offering their customers. So I asked them to name them - needless to say, they couldn’t. So, if the organization cannot name their own products and services, how on earth can they expect their customers to know what is on offer?
Enter, ‘Thinking like a customer’
The only way that organizations are going to succeed in communicating their offer to customers in a way they understand is to think like customers… and this is where technology and people have an import role to play. By thinking like a customer, and forcing yourself to ditch the jargon, simplify and relate your products and services to everyday life, in a language that every man understands, you will stand a very good chance of winning.
Let’s look at some examples
When a customer goes into a bank, they go with a particular need or requirement. They do the same when they go online, or when they surf the web looking for the best deal. Let’s face it, going into any bank to buy a product or open an account can be a tedious and painful experience - we simply don’t go to banks to have fun, we go there to do what we need to do and get out. But what if that bank knew about me and my needs (after all, they all know my spending habits), what if that bank was able to offer me a product or service that was based on my lifestyle needs, or the needs of people like me? What if that bank was able to personalize my experience so it was relevant to me? What if they were able to communicate in a language that I understand - not talk about 'bots' and 'blockchain', but use real language, normal language.
I know what you are thinking, you have heard all this before? Well, I am yet to see anyone doing this well. In the race to be first, I am seeing plenty of banks launching new products, gimmicks, and services for micro-segments - rather like throwing mud at the wall to see what sticks… This is wrong, confuses customers and loses market share extremely quickly.
What should organizations do to make complex simple?
Strategy - Build a solid simplification strategy and stick to it
Data Modeling - use analytics to gather data on customer behavior and propensity
Understand the Data - make sure that the data is clean and you are interpreting data accurately. Build a dashboard that helps you understand the data in a customer focussed way
Continue to Harvest - continue to harvest data, do not stop after the first harvest
Personalise - use the technologies available to personalize experiences for every customer - not just online, but in your physical environments too
Be Patient - do not try to crack this challenge in one hit, it will take time to get it right
Confront the Brutal Facts - take a long hard look at the products you are offering, map them against real customer need, understand what is selling and what is not. Rationalise where necessary, innovate everywhere.
Focus - Focus on your brand and what makes it special
Be Disruptive - once you understand the power of data, you will have the power to innovate, be creative and take the uncertainty out of winning
Simplify - think about what is needed to make your product lovable. Use the minimum number of words and the minimum number of variables to explain it, use simple images language
Make it Fit Real Lives - make your products fit the real lives of your customers. Ensure there is a need and that need is met with a desire to buy. Try building these around personas and customer journeys.
I will leave you with one fact that I learned from the innovation labs at Stanford University in America.. ‘No matter how creative you are, it takes at least 10 creative ideas to come up with the 'perfect' solution’.
Remember this and force yourself to challenge every idea at least 10 times. Even if you end up where you started, you will be sure that the solution is sound.