Most of us know the marketing mantra KISS – Keep It Simple, Stupid.

But how many of us actually practice it?

There are so many tools available on the web today that many of us have a hard time not reacting to the shiny, new penny syndrome (squirrel!).

Take a look at the image over there on the left. These are all of the social media tools available on the web today.

When I started out on the social web nearly five years ago, there were a fraction of that. In fact, there were so few, Brian Solis created a pretty flower chart that showed (called the conversation prism) that made it really easy for a marketer to decide which tools to use in an overall strategy.

It had only 31 tools.

Sure, it’s been updated several times in the past few years, but back then it had only 31.

But today? I mean, look at that. It’s overwhelming for us. Can you imagine what it’s like for our customers?

Consumers are Overwhelmed

There is new research out that looks at 7,000 consumers in the U.S., the UK, and Australia, covering a wide range of ages, income levels, and ethnicities.

Respondents were asked dozens of questions about their attitudes and purchase experiences across a variety of price points and channels in categories including apparel, cars, luxury goods, onetime items (such as airline tickets), and ongoing services (such as cell phone service).

Questions explored shopping duration, effort required, purchase-related research, the consumer’s state of mind, his relationship with the brand, the frequency of his interactions with the brand, and the likelihood of repurchasing and recommending.

The researchers aslo interviewed 200 chief marketing officers, brand managers, and other marketing executives representing 125 consumer brands in 12 industries globally, asking about their strategies and beliefs concerning drivers of stickiness.

It turns out consumers are overwhelmed. What they really want is simplicity.

An Example

Let’s take a look at two companies in the same industry. For sake of argument, we’ll make them car companies.

It didn’t use to be we would look for, narrow down, or even buy a car online. But it’s becoming more and more the the trend so we’ll use that as an example.

Let’s say Car Company A does a nice search engine  marketing program where they have some fancy Google ads that drive people to their website, when searching specific keywords.

Once you get to the site, you are directed to the car’s online brochure that is technical and has lots of specs, but doesn’t allow you to compare with the company’s other cars (let alone its competitors), nor does it give you prices. To get those, you have to take a test drive at your local dealership.

Car Company B has the same search engine marketing program, but they use the Google ads to figure out where you are in the buying process.

If you’re just collecting information right now, it directs you to a page on their site that allows you to compare cars in the same class – both their own and their competitor’s.

From there, they walk you through a process, using aided navigation to get you the information you need to help inform your decision.

If, however, the search engine marketing program determines you are ready to buy (based on how and what you’re searching), it sends you directly to the pricing page so you can build the car you want and not only determine its price, but also help you figure out your monthly payments and insurance.

Where would you rather buy your car?

What Consumers Want

The Corporate Executive Board research found there are four things consumers want when using the web to either inform a purchase decision or buy:

  • Make Decisions Simple. They discovered the respondents want decisions to be made simple. They looked at “how easy it is for consumers to gather and understand (or navigate) information about a brand, how much they can trust the information they find, and how readily they can weigh their options.” The easier you make the decision-making process, the higher your decision simplicity score.
  • Aid in Navigating a Site. This really is about creating a clear path to purchase. As we are working on Spin Sucks Pro (in my spare time now that I have a book tour going on), we discovered some of the navigation to get to something really simple – like a case study – was ridiculously hard. We tore down (figuratively speaking) the walls that were surrounding the case studies so it’s easy to get to them from the home page, from a Google search, or from within the paid content. Before that, you had to click six (!!!) times before you got to them. And they’re free.
  • Trust the Information They’re Gathering. We’re so focused on creating engagement – through our social networks and content – that we forget the information our customers are gathering is only as good as what the last person said about it. If you want to tell your company story, ask customers to do that for you. JC Penney does a great job with this because they invite teenage girls to create “haul” videos that then are featured on their website. The videos don’t necessarily have to show the teenagers shopping at Penney’s. It’s simply a way to help customers see how everyday people put together clothes, shoes, and accessories after shopping.
  • Easier to Weigh Options. Marcus Sheridan talks about this when he speaks. He suggests using the word “versus” when you write content. Not only does it answer a customer’s question, it gives you long-tail search engine optimization results. For instance, PR vs. advertising. Or boutique PR firm vs. global PR firm. This answers the question your customer would ask, in a way that makes it easier for them to weigh the option.

So there you have it. You can either be like Car Company A and make the purchase decision really difficult for your customer or you can be like Car Company B and make it ridiculously easy.

Which would you rather?

Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder, CEO, and author of Spin Sucks, host of the Spin Sucks podcast, and author of Spin Sucks (the book). She is the creator of the PESO Model and has crafted a certification for it in partnership with Syracuse University. She has run and grown an agency for the past 15 years. She is co-author of Marketing in the Round, co-host of Inside PR, and co-host of The Agency Leadership podcast.

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