simplicity is not simple

In building a business, learning, marketing by Jay Clouse

As I study more about marketing, persuasion, and communication, it’s becoming clearer and clearer to me that simplicity wins out. The more simple you can make something, the easier it is to understand, talk about, remember, refer, and generally attract others.

Great — so make everything simple! That should be simple, right? Not quite.

Simplicity requires focus and clarity.  Simplicity means that you’ve boiled a lot of information into some core truths. Usually narrow, specific truths.

Let me give you some examples:

A simple message sounds like, “I help [aspiring authors] [write their first book]” or “I help [stay at home moms] [find remote work].”

Simple. You know who I help, what I help them do, and it’s memorable. It’s so memorable that it’s referable — if you meet an aspiring author or a stay at home mom, you will likely mention me. And that referability can be a huge driver of business growth.

Now let me tell you why I suck.

As you probably noticed, there are two components to that simple positioning statement above. There is the [who I serve] and the [what I do]. I’ll be candid and walk you through the exercise I am going through with Unreal Collective.

Unreal Collective, now 35 members strong, has a breakdown that looks like this:

  • Startup founder
  • Small business owner
  • Hobbyist
  • Part time freelance
  • Full time freelance
  • Creative professional

…I’ll leave it at that. So right away, you see that the audience isn’t a simple [who].

I’ve helped members:

  • Launch a website
  • Create a book outline
  • Build an MVP
  • Ramp up an Etsy shop
  • Grow their podcast audience
  • Start their business
  • Find their first customer

…I’ll leave it at that. Again, you see this isn’t a simple [what you do].

Now, I could of course pick one of the [who] and [what] above and double down there. “I help startup founders build an MVP” for example. But then I’m foregoing the opportunity to work with, say, freelancers.

Or I could say something as sort of a blanket statement like, “I help people achieve their next milestone.” While this is true, and encompassing, it’s so broad that it’s hard for someone to hear that and think, “Oh this was made for me.”

Therefore, it’s not really an effective marketing message.

So I’m getting in my own way.

And it’s because I’m curious, I love to create diverse working groups, and because, to be honest, the readers of my email list are wildly diverse (another byproduct of an unfocused message).

But figuring this out is one of my biggest priorities and opportunities for growth — finding simplicity and doubling down there. It likely looks like differentiated products with different, simple value propositions for different audiences — but I’m not there yet. They need to be built.

So, I’ll cut this long rant off here, because I could go on forever. But, I thought it was important to share with you a few things…

  1. Simplicity is key
  2. Understanding [who you serve] and [what problem you solve] is the way to growth
  3. I still don’t have everything figured out
  4. Despite the struggles, it’s still possible to build a sustainable, small business

Unreal is working and providing very real results for the people who, despite the vague message, trust me and have taken the leap.

And if I can do it, even in the face of challenges, so can you.


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