Too often the problem with the marketing of a complex solution is that it tends to be, well… too complex. To this point, a recent CEB study found that 68% of corporate communication is just that – “too complex”.[i] B2B buyers shouldn’t have to have to work hard to understand the message. In fact, the harder they have to work at deciphering the relevance of your message, the less likely they’ll be to stick around to actually do so. Consequently, one of the fundamental challenges for marketers of complex solutions is to simplify the message, but without being simplistic.
Here are four steps to develop the most powerful way of communicating the essence of a message:
- Focus on one idea/value at a time. Communicate in digestible bits by breaking down your message or value prop into separate stages. While your inclination might be to provide a comprehensive message, overwhelming your audience with too much information prevents them from absorbing anything worthwhile. Instead, begin simply with the central idea and only include information which directly supports that one idea. Be ruthless and save other important ideas to develop separately. Tell your complex story progressively, one simple, logical step at a time.In the words of Annie Lamott write one idea at a time, or bird-by-bird. “Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write, which was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, “Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.[ii]”
- Be clear. Be concise. Use simple, accessible language and avoid overly technical jargon. Eliminate all non-essential information, even if it’s relevant, including redundant data points that risks losing reader engagement.
- Design for reader engagement. To create amore enjoyable reader experience, provide high-contrast text and reader-friendly fonts and font sizes. Studies indicate that fonts such as Georgia, Baskerville, and Helvetica are not only pleasing to read, but positively impact the reader’s emotions, including engendering a sense of trust.[iii][iv] To maintain reader focus, eliminate non-essential, distracting graphic clutter and design features. In a digital medium, avoid splitting and potentially losing your reader’s attention by grouping hyperlinks together rather than peppering them throughout text. Use hyperlinks sparingly.[v]
- Be memorable. Complex ideas are much more readily understood and retained when associated with a story, metaphor, or analogy. Associating your message with a motivating emotion, such as an aspiration or fear, enhances its ‘stickiness.’ Visual formats and multimedia presentations further enhance the emotional resonance, while considerably elevating both the conveying and retention of the information therein.
At heart, the goal in simplifying complex messages is to both reduce the noise and convey the information in a format that leverages how we learn best. Stories, emotional connections, and visual representations and elements all help your audience experience your message more meaningfully. Simplifying the complex is no simple task – it requires a judicious and artful approach. As the great Mark Twain is often credited as having written, “I apologize for the length of this letter. I did not have time to write you a short one.”
Gain more insight on solving your content challenge by reading this brief.
[ii] Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, by Anne Lamott, Anchor Books, 1994