The Business Case for Simplicity in B2B Marketing
We wrote previously about the scientific case for simplicity; the brain science that compels marketers to scale back, focus and simplify their messages so they’re more easily noticed and accurately interpreted. That’s the theory. And a theory begs the question, “Does it actually work?”
This blog explores the business case for keeping things radically simple. You can read our complete point of view on why simplicity is so important in our paper, Radical Simplicity: Why Saying Less Breaks Through in B2B Marketing.
Are Consumers That Different From Customers?
What’s the most words you’ve seen on a PowerPoint slide for a customer presentation? I’ve seen more than 100 on a slide. Imagine: 100 words on a single slide being viewed from 15 to 20 feet away. How about ad copy? I just picked up two trade publications for material handling; 22 out of 50 full-page ads contained more than 100 words of copy — with several crowd pleasers approaching 200.
It’s true the products and services we market in business-to-business can be extremely complex. And we believe (falsely, in many cases) they’re much more complex than consumer products. Is your special motion control product or condensing unit really more complex than an intricate insurance policy or a home computer? We see simple messages by successful consumer marketing giants all the time (e.g., Apple). Given our customers are the same human beings who engage with consumer products, why do we think we have to market messages to them so differently when they’re at the office?
B2B Marketers Who Get It
Great B2B marketers already know simplicity rules. Here are a couple of fun examples to consider.
Consider IBM with its 366,000 employees in 170 countries, and its portfolio of hundreds of products and services in dozens of categories. If there is a complex B2B player, it’s IBM. Yet one key idea represents everything about IBM and why working work with them is the best option: Watson. First a machine, now just a logo (visual cue), Watson is the essence of IBM’s messaging, and it covers everything from artificial intelligence to cloud computing to business consulting. Everything starts with Watson: a single word and image that guides audience impressions of the company and drives deeper discussions.
Does IBM feel a little big to relate to? Let’s look at something a little more Main Street: Hamilton Casters of Hamilton, Ohio. (Please note they are not a client of TriComB2B). They make caster wheels on rolling boxes and equipment, and they’ve created the image of the toughest casters in the world. How? By making their messaging super simple. Look at a Hamilton ad. It has a single message. Their simple website that asks “What’s your business? Here’s your answer.” Their disciplined, creative, fun communication is about little wheels for businesses.
Make It Easy on Your Customers
The Harvard Business Review states: “Customers feel overwhelmed … Most B2B sellers think their customers are in the driver’s seat — empowered, armed to the teeth with information, and so clear about their needs that they don’t bother to engage with suppliers until late in the process, when their purchase decision is all but complete. Customers don’t see it that way.” Scientific studies show customers get increasingly uncertain and stressed the more information and complexity they encounter.
Potential buyers just want to be pointed to good business-to-business answers to their problems. Allow your marketing communications to be that guide. Keep the trove of data and specifications for sales discussions. Don’t lead with complex or technical communications that will ultimately be ignored and even subconsciously stress your customers.
You’ll be glad you did — and so will your customers.