Planning for success means planning for simplicity

Introduction

There are compelling business reasons to make your communications simpler. Fundamentally, the more readily your communications make people do what you need them to do, the more your business will thrive. In other words, having consistently clear communications is a recipe for business success.

However, simplicity is often misunderstood. Maybe because once a communication has been made simple, those who come into contact with it assume it’s been a doddle to achieve.

So if you want your business to benefit from clear communications, learn to plan for simplicity.

Why is simplicity important?

Whether you’re creating a marketing campaign, a brand platform or writing the instruction manual for a nuclear power station’s cooling system, the communication has got to make complete sense, unambiguously and rapidly.

Because if a customer, investor or operator struggles to understand what you do and what they’re supposed to do – it doesn’t bode well for your enterprise.

But once that thing becomes effortless, it becomes easy for people to absorb into their consciousness and give it a permanent home there.

And that’s what the majority of communicators want – for their message to become part of their customers’ mental furniture.

So consultancies like Wordtree spend a lot of time unpicking and untangling complex meshes of information and turning them it into messages that make sense and make readers feel motivated to take action.

Simplicity takes effort, so allocate time and resource

It takes work to pull off simplicity. To untangle, you’ve got to ask a lot of questions. You’ve got to be prepared to do a lot of research and homework. You’ve got to test your simple ideas to make sure they stand up in every scenario.

There’s sometimes a belief that clear communications – the kind that make you think, of course, that’s it, now why didn’t I say it like that? – are simply pulled out of thin air.

They’re not. They come from intensive listening, questioning, filling in of gaps and crafting. So make adequate time – and make sure you’ve got your best communications people on the job.

Simplicity allows you to truly understand propositions

Here’s another reason that simplicity is so valuable to businesses: When you boil something down to its bare bones, you can often see if your proposition actually stands up.

Complexity occurs in communications for a number of reasons – usually because the product or service is just chock-full of moving parts. But sometimes, the complexity has come about through a lot of fudging – because no-one can quite pinpoint what this new proposition really does and what its value is.

This has happened a couple of times with our clients. They give us wedges of background information, which we sift through and distil. Then we present our clients’ offer back to them, in super-simple terms. And sometimes, our clients say: Do you know what? This isn’t what we want to be doing at all. It’s not a market we want to be in, these aren’t customers we want and this whole project adds nothing to our brand. Or: We need to go away and rethink/reposition this.

While it can be a bit of a mood killer for an hour or two, simplicity has at least prevented a not-so-great idea going any further.

Simple can make you feel naked – but it’s what your audiences need

Even when the fundamental proposition is brilliant, you still have to be brave to communicate it the way you think it needs to be communicated. Because if you fall back on what the rest of the industry is doing because that feels “safe”, you’re losing an opportunity to differentiate and stand out.

Abandoning the jargon and project speak you’ve been used to can feel uncomfortable and make you feel a bit naked – but you’ll be more successful for doing it.

You’ve also got to be brave enough to try out – and discard, if necessary – a number of different communications ideas. It’s only when you’ve done some deep, free thinking and methodical sifting and testing that the so-simple-it-seems-obvious-and-why-didn’t-we-think-of-this-before idea crystallises.

Simplicity is game changing, complexity isn’t

The people who’ve changed the world, who’ve galvanised and innovated, they’ve all done it with simplicity. From Socrates through to Einstein, their ideas have involved scraping away at complexity until a simple truth could shine through.

So whether you’re setting out a brand platform that gives a blindingly straightforward rationale for why a set of products cohere or you’re creating Ts&Cs that feel super-easy and obvious – the force you need to unleash is simplicity.

And as our lives and world become ever more complex, the need for simplicity is as great, if not greater, than ever.

So remember that to achieve simplicity, you’ve got to plan for it.

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