Volume 28/Number 3; July 21/28, 2014
By Amanda Haskin
If you’ve read anything about business market strategies recently, you have probably heard of the term “decision simplicity.” It’s been dubbed the new cool kid on the marketing block ever since Patrick Spenner wrote about it in a Forbes article two years back.
He claimed that the common tool used by marketers for years, engagement, actually doesn’t work. He wrote, “Marketers are generally pushing out too much information, causing people to over-think purchase decisions and making them more likely to change their minds about a product, be less confident in their choice and less likely to remain loyal to the brand.”
Spenner’s solution was to simplify the decision-making process by not bombarding clients with a lot of information about a brand, but instead just providing clients the bare minimum—trustworthy information, the ability to easily gather research, and being able to quickly and effortlessly weigh their options.
Well, that all sounds great, right? But can this strategy be used successfully on a small business scale? Many believe the answer is yes and no. Aspects of decision simplicity can certainly be used for small business marketing, but it’s no slam dunk that small businesses can completely throw out engagement in exchange for it. A balanced mixture of both approaches may be the ideal recipe for successful marketing.
A complete abandonment of engagement threatens the very thing that small businesses rely on: personal, close-knit relationships with customers. Engagement marketing encourages customers to become involved in the evolution and values of a brand. Spenner’s article used the following statistic as his main illustration of why engagement doesn’t work: “The IBM Institute for Business Value found that 60% to 65% of business leaders believe consumers follow their brands on social media sites because they want to be a part of a community. Only 25% to 30% of consumers agree. The top reason consumers follow a brand? To get discounts—not exactly ideal for a company’s bottom line.”
While this may be true for larger companies, one may argue that the consumers of a small community who follow local businesses on social media are doing so from a community-oriented point of view.
When asked about decision simplicity, Adam Joss, vice president of The Vertical Connection Carpet One in Columbia, Md., said, “I don’t think that would be a successful approach for a local, independent business to take. Instead of serving 100 million people, we’re serving 100 people, and I want to have dinner with each one of those people.
“I think for a company like Empire, taking that approach would be very successful. For a company like ours that serves a 10-mile radius, it’s not the approach for us. It is important to simplify the process, but it still has to be done on a very personal level.”
Perhaps that’s the key right there—simplify the process for the consumer, but keep the engagement of your company on a personal level. The place where decision simplicity comes into play for a small business, especially in the flooring industry, is in product decisions. Once you get customers into your store, that’s when simplicity is the most important tool.
The truth is buying flooring should not be that complicated. “With all the information that’s out there, clients get too deep into it,” said Harris Cohen, president of Country Carpets in Syosset, N.Y. “It should be a relatively simple process. Do you like it? Is it beautiful? Will you enjoy it? Our whole marketing [plan] has always been a simple message—service, selection and value. We don’t get involved in advertising lifetime warranties or telling people that this carpet won’t stain for 20 years. Clients just want a floor that’s going to look beautiful. Beautiful products sell, period.”
So how do you incorporate these strategies into a small business marketing plan? Continue to engage your target consumers to let them know that you’re still there, involved in the community, and still offering top-quality products and services. Use social media, e-blasts, image ads or whatever best works for you to connect with these potential buyers. Make them see your company as not just a brand, but also a fellow member of the community.
On the other hand, use simplicity in messaging—simplicity in your designs, website and the information you put forth. Make shopping with you the obvious choice. And finally, make the buying process simple. The ease with which you do business with them increases your chances of having repeat customers and referrals. Walk them through the process step by step, establish trust and get them to walk away with a product they will love.