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Limiting choice can improve response

First, I apologize for my absence over the past three weeks.  I’ve been building a new website, Consultant Launch Pad, which is designed to help new consultants and people whose job searches may be at a point where they have to think about alternatives to pay the mortgage.  We have a lot of resources on the site to help you make your decision, set up your business, and get customers.  I invite you to come take a look.  Let us know what you think, suggest resources we don’t currently have, and join the Forum and ask — or answer some questions.  I think you’ll particularly like the 30 Second Launch Pad feature.

Anyway…

Too much choice can be paralyzing

I’m one of those people who believes that if you hear a good idea from three different sources, it’s probably worth paying attention to.   Today’s idea is Limit Choice.

It started with coming across Groupon, which is one of those businesses where customers are a great deal on a single item.  The deal depends on either a certain number of people taking it or it’s there until the supply runs out.   I signed up and while I haven’t bought anything yet, it’s true that the deals are great and I anticipate I will participate before too long.

A few days later I was listening to an interview where Gary Vaynerchuk, the author of “Crush It,” was offering some advice to start-ups.  He’s a bit over-the-top, but one of his pieces of advice had to do with simplicity and limiting choice.  Gary was talking about how he had tested the “Groupon” model in one of retail wine story by replacing a rack near the front that held 10 bargain wines with just one.  The result?  “We’re crushing it,’ he said.  “We’re selling these bottles at a staggering rate, one that trumps residual loss of not selling many products in that space.”

All this reminded me of one of the key “rules” we followed when offering credit-cards through the mail in a previous life.  We tested everything and inevitably found that Choice Suppresses.  The more variations on a card offer — different designs, different pricing, different value propositions — the fewer responses we received.

The reality is that people are overwhelmed these days.  We bring a lot of that on ourselves — travel teams, dance classes, and the like — but at some point businesses decided we needed more and more choices.  So that’s why today I can walk into a store and find razor blades with four, five, and even more blades when one can really do the trick (at a fraction of the price).

Think about places where you might be offering excessive choice to customers and what impact that might be having on their buying decision.  Are there opportunities to reduce the choice — perhaps by careful targeting of benefits — and actually increase response?

Follow eight simple strategies for marketing success

What tools are in your Marketing Swiss Army Knife?

A few days ago,  someone asked me to explain what made me a “good marketer.”  I had never heard the question phrased quite that way before and stumbled through an answer.

Later on, I realized I built a class around that very question 11 years ago.  So I headed down to the basement and pulled out the class handout.  We had spent more than three months asking that very question of some of the best marketing minds in the bank and organizing their answers into what turned out to be eight categories.

Times change; economies ebb and flow.  Millions of trees have died in the search for answers to that question.  But the answer never really changes.  I won’t list all the tactics that made up the bulk of the class, but here are the principles, tweaked a bit to apply to everyone:

  1. Always remember that we’re in business to (Fill in the Blank). In our case, it was Make Good Loans.  For others, it might be Sell Computers, Attract New Donors or Drive Traffic to Your Website.
  2. Be absolutely committed to knowing everything about your Target Audience. We were affinity marketers who worked with alumni associations, sports teams, professional groups, and a host of other partners.  The most successful marketers went beyond being credit-card experts to being experts on their groups and the group’s constituents.  That’s more difficult for marketers with a broader target audience, which makes No. 3 even more important.
  3. Everything begins with the “list” (or audience). Having a great product doesn’t mean a thing if you don’t know where to find the buyer.  It’s OK to have multiple lists with different messages.
  4. Design compelling offers with a simple creative message. Two of the most important messages here were Offer is More Than Price and Your Great List Won’t Mean Much if the Offer Isn’t Clear and Valued by the Customer.
  5. Try lots of things.  Test in a disciplined manner… Basically, remember that if there’s no control there’s no test and behavior is more important than opinion.
  6. …And keep what works.  Measure your results. You need to share successes and failures.  I was reading a book the other night where the author was criticizing another author who had focused only on his big successes.  We often learn more from our big failures…and those lessons learned are even more important if we share them with others.
  7. Challenge everything. Never stop trying to make things better.  Pay attention to the details. Part of this is about a commitment to “publishing.”   I doubt there’s any such thing as the “perfect test.”   Get to market quickly.  Mail less more often.  Make sure the affinity is “in” the package.
  8. Spend wisely.  It’s real money. This may have been a bigger deal back in 1999 when marketing money flowed more freely, but this is really about putting some analysis behind your decision to test.  What do you hope to achieve and what’s the cost in your best-case and worst-case scenarios?

I have followed these principles over the years, and made sure that the people who worked for me did the same.  And that should have been my answer when I was asked what makes me a good marketer.  I’m disciplined and I make sure I know my audience.

Did we miss something that doesn’t fit into one of these categories?  Please let me know if you’d like me to elaborate on these strategies in future posts.