Less is more
The simple truth? You should be focusing on the vital few, not the trivial many. It’s time to simplify.
Businesses want to be ‘more’ for their customers. They are hardwired to add more product features and serve more customers. They often do not realize, however, that by being ‘more’ they risk value-destroying overload and complexity.
‘More begets more’ is a myth. Sometimes, less can be more, especially when businesses adhere to the following four principles.
1. Less general, more specific
This principle says: do not be ‘everything for everyone’ but be ‘something for someone’. To be everything for everyone is to be ‘nothing for no one’. A mass is impossible to please. A good proportion of the mass can turn into disgruntled detractors who would tarnish a business’s reputation, drive up costs and bring down customer lifetime value, no matter what you do. To win the world is an illusion because only a tiny proportion will listen to you.
Find this tiny proportion. They see what you see and hear what you hear because they share with you that one belief, one experience, or one struggle. They are the ones who hear you loud and clear, even when the whole world is turning a deaf ear to you.
Attend to their narratives and live their pain. Feel what matters the most to them.
Know that their real needs are too rich to be contained within an Excel file. What truly matters to them can only be felt by those who care. Ignore the doctrines and common wisdom. Let them help you to get the details right. Serve them well with undivided commitment. They are the ones who will be with you through thick and thin.
2. Less ordinary, more extraordinary
This principle says: dare to be extraordinary. Being ordinary means to be safe, be average and be invisible. It is a race to the bottom because unless it is paired with competitive price, no customer aspires to own the ordinary. While businesses want to play safe, being ordinary can be the riskiest strategy to pursue. An ordinary business can hardly attract customers, convert them, retain them, not to mention grow them.
Subtract ‘their’ stories, ‘their’ fads, and ‘their’ best practices. Dare to be original and tell your own story. Invest in that one value that is uniquely yours and push it to the extreme. Make it the story you will be most known for – one of a kind and outstandingly brilliant. In fact, you can make your story so uniquely interesting that you do not even need to buy audiences’ attention. They will be so intrigued that they are eager to hear what you have to say: they will tune in, they will buy your story and they will spread their joy.
3. Less excess, more simplicity
This principle says: resolve a complex problem in a simple way. Businesses try to manage complexity with complexity. They add more configurations to resolve complex problems. But complex solutions cannot guarantee a clean fix and usually generate more problems. Paying for endless complexity is a deal-breaker for many customers who demand a simpler solution that works.
How then to get a simpler solution? Subtract any excesses, frills, or hurdles that may block customer experiences. Cut to the chase and get to the core. A complexity is a manifestation of some core issues. Absorb complexity at the root level and offer customers a clean fix. The goal is not to appeal to minimalists, but to fundamentally simplify customers’ lives.
When customers have fewer decisions to make, fewer hurdles to jump, and fewer bills to pay, they experience ‘flow’. Flow is the optimal way to engage customers – and engaged customers are happy to stay.
4. Less compromise, more trustworthiness
The fourth principle says: do no harm, only good. Businesses compromise for short-term profit. They use compromises as cheap shortcuts for quick cash. But compromises are never cheap. They cost businesses their trustworthiness, the only business asset that ultimately matters.
A business’s trustworthiness is shielded by its ‘No’s – No to malpractices, No to false information, and No to sophisticated pricing schemes. When businesses adhere firmly to their Nos, they earn trust. Of course, there is a balance between being self-serving and being altruistic: no business can go to either extreme. But if you realize that one extreme depletes trust and the other replenishes it, you know which direction to go. It is a business’s Nos that tell all about that company. No compromise – that’s the promise for winning back customers!
The vital few
There are only two types of investment in business: the ‘vital few’ and the ‘trivial many’. When businesses invest in the vital few, they release the power of the 80/20 rule – but when they invest in the trivial many, they overturn that rule.
Businesses should minimize the trivial – the general, the ordinary, the excessive, and the compromised – and make room for the vital: the specific, the extraordinary, the simple and the trustworthy. That’s the key to unlocking the ‘Matthew Effect’: “For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.”
Focus on the vitals of your business. In our age of complexity, less is definitely more.
Ming Piao is the founder of ValuePropositions.org.