While planning for the New Year, I like to consider what worked and what didn’t during the past year – for us and for our clients.
Looking over all the wins last year, one clear pattern emerged: Our biggest breakthroughs happened every time we let go of complexity.
In fact, everything that is now working for us and for our clients is working because we’ve intentionally and methodically distilled, simplified, focused, and stripped it of all complexity.
I see examples popping up throughout our business:
- Letting go of too many audiences and focusing on one laser-focused niche catches on quicker and grows faster.
- Blog posts with one focused topic attract the most interest.
- Clean, uncluttered websites draw more subscribers.
- Simple, direct offers sell more products.
- A short, memorable USP attracts more attention.
- And prioritized, focused days are simply more productive.
It seems like doing business online isn’t getting any easier. How do we “let go” of complexity?
The Leverage in Simplicity
Every choice we make to focus requires letting go of all other possible options.
It’s a daily decision, sometimes several times a day; when writing and editing a post, or creating a product funnel, or branding a solo professional’s business.
And now that I’ve seen what embracing simplicity has done to explode our business, it’s getting a lot easier to choose simplicity.
Turns out science agrees: if we want to succeed in the new attention economy, we’d all better figure out a way to simplify every aspect of our businesses, and fast.
As Bill Schley points out in his e-book, Survival of the Simplest:
Behavioral scientists tell us that, in moments of crisis, we shift to an unconscious intelligence that is remarkably fast and accurate . . . (these built-in rules) make us discard information, not collect more of it, to get smarter. When things get scary and complicated, our mental rules of thumb direct us to a much smaller set of more vital data. They tell us that simpler makes us smarter.
Simple is hard. Complex is easy.
Getting to simple requires editing, discipline, relentless prioritization, and focus. And heck, who has time for that?
Your customers have plenty of time for simple. On the reader and customer side of your business equation, complex is dead. They are choosing simple, listening to simple, and buying simple.
Your future customers are simplifying by choosing fewer emails to read, choosing fewer sites to visit during a Google search, and simplifying the shopping and buying process in general.
We all are.
Our business took off when we intentionally embraced this leverage of focus and simplicity, and applied it with determination in every area we could find.
Is there anything in your business that’s just too complex — something that could use some clear-cutting, a dose of simplicity?
Four Focusing Questions
Every time I find myself creating complexity — and the weight that comes with it — I ask myself a few simple focusing questions:
1. What do I most want in this situation (or from this web page, article, email, etc)?
2. What is the best possible outcome for others involved?
3. What is the clearest, most direct path to that outcome?
4. What do I need to move, cut, or rework to create that clear pathway?
(We’re fortunate to have a lot of very efficient, hyper-disciplined people who visit our site. I’d love to know what your focusing questions are, or if you use something even better. Please jot them down and share them with the TN Community in the comment field below.)
Ways You Can Simplify and Breakthrough in 2011
Based on observing the breakthrough successes we’ve seen for us and for our clients this past year, here are the top three leveraged actions you can take to simplify and focus your business and emerge from the crowd.
1. Want more raving fans and customers? Narrow your niche, and simplify your message.
With attention spans shrinking daily, and competition growing at an alarming rate online, a clear and differentiated core message is more critical than ever.
Sometimes, when something doesn’t take off, it can be tempting to offer a wider variety of stuff to a wider variety of people. But we know that diluting your message is not only the fast track to complexity, it also dilutes productivity, credibility – and sales.
Instead, focus on finding the one thing that your most motivated audience wants, that you also do well — and then create a memorable way to talk about and label that. When these are aligned, then all your efforts in 2011 will have the cutting power of a laser, rather than the charming glow of a table lamp.
2. Want more traffic, subscribers, and buyers? Simplify your site and offers.
Every time I’ve built a website that just sat there with crickets chirping; or analyzed a client’s website to figure out why it wasn’t working for them, it turned out it was a complexity problem.
The site’s message was muddled and unfocused, or the site presented too many options, and too little clear direction for the visitor. And the solution is always to sit down and figure out the primary goal, and the one core thing you want for our readers and customers.
Here’s yet another reason to simplify: The new Google Instant Preview feature now turns your website into a thumbnail in their search results. That small window must encourage people to click on you.
Want clicks, visitors, readers, and buyers? Simplify your site design, now.
This past year, we’ve been helping our clients build home pages and landing pages that guide their visitors to the single most important action based on their goals of building mailing lists, getting new clients, starting conversations, and selling products.
3. Growth stalled or nothing seems to work? Simplify your business model.
The web is filled with Gooroos who would have us believe that their easy “one-size-fits-all” biz blueprint is The Answer.
It was, for them.
The challenge is every service professional and entrepreneur has unique needs based on their audience, their message, and their goals.
What works for Mr. or Ms. Gooroo may not work for you – not because you’re flawed, but because the needs of your business and audience just doesn’t jive with theirs.
When you identify the one or two strategies that do align with your unique needs, message, audience, and goals; then you can simplify your business model around them.
Now, Have a Breakthrough Year in 2011
What has worked and not worked for you in 2010?
What will be the one thing that you can do to simplify and focus your efforts in 2011?
Feel free to share it with us all in the comments below, thanks!