The problem of plenty.
Have you tried doing ‘more’ with ‘less’
More isn’t always better.
This is something I say a lot.
A lot of times when I try talking to startup founders explaining their business, they would go on an hour-long monologue explaining all the things that they do. At the end of it, I ask them one simple thing:
If all this information is overwhelming me, how do you think your customer feels when you barrage him with it all.
More isn’t always better.
Yes, I said it again. I said it again because I want you to etch this line in the deepest corners of your working methodology. I want you to treat it as gospel. I want this to be your guiding mantra if you are a founder just starting up.
THE RESTAURANT MENU
Have you ever felt overwhelmed and boggled by a long — and I mean really long — restaurant menu? One that goes on for pages and pages. I have. And every time, I have secretly wished they would come up with a much smaller menu. One that would have just a few items on it. Just their specialties. Just the things that they know they can do exceptionally well. More often than not, they would not lose their customers, rather earn some extremely loyal ones.
And yet restaurants keep on coming menus that go on for pages after pages. Why? I can’t say for sure — I have never actually asked a restaurant owner that question, though I someday should. But if I had to venture a guess, I would suspect its because of FOMO (fear of missing out). Restaurants wouldn’t want to disappoint their walk-in customers, and so, in an order to cater to a larger base of an audience with varied tastebuds, they tend to keep a more expansive menu.
What that essentially does is prolong the decision-making time. Even though I may end up ordering fish and chips in both scenarios, I would probably spend a couple of minutes scanning through the menu if it has a number of items listed there.
- More time spent in deciding what to eat = more time spent per customer on the table = Lower table turnover rate → Bad for business. Real bad.
- More time spent in confusion on what to order = High likelihood of ordering the safer bet; something that I know of as my go-to meal = Reduced probability of me trying something new = Lost opportunity to dazzle the diner with a dish he/she may not have had before → Bad bad for business.
- Lots of items on the menu = Lost chances of being known for a few signature dishes → Lost opportunity to have top of the mind brand recall when the customer has a ‘craving’
There are many more ways in which having an overcrowded menu is bad for your restaurant.
It is exactly the same when it comes to an up and coming startup.
DO ONE THING, AND DO IT REALLY WELL
A consumer isn’t expecting you to cater to his whims and fancies, solve the middle-east crisis and world hunger, all at the same time. I mean, it would be phenomenally great if you could, but odds are you can’t, so why? Why are you trying to do that? Why not focus on one problem for now, and be the best at solving that one problem — be the de facto go-to option for that one problem before you venture out into doing something else.
Let’s take an example. Buffer. It all started with one simple thing — schedule your social media posts. That’s it. No bells and whistles. No jazz. Just one simple thing. Schedule your posts. And they did it well enough to receive endorsements from the who’s who of the startup and venture capital world.
IT HELPS WHEN YOU ARE DOING JUST ONE THING
I am not sure if I have talked about it before or not, but a friend of mine wanted to start a clothing e-commerce brand. And there was not a single differentiation he had from the countless other names that exist. Now, I am not saying you need to necessarily be different in order to build a brand or a business. But it does help. It helps because if done well, it would enable you into carving a niche space in the minds of your consumers; empowering you in jumping to the top of the queue when they are contemplating a purchase in your category.
So what was my suggestion? Instead of trying to sell t-shirts that cater to all genders and all age groups, just pick one. Become the brand that sells t-shirts for the superheroes of tomorrow. Have quirky, possibly superhero-themed merchandise for the youth. It would have worked, in my opinion. He quickly gave up on the whole idea, and well — that’s his prerogative. :-)
WHY AM I TALKING ABOUT IT TODAY?
Because I came across a landing page. I met a startup founder today and checked their website briefly to get a better sense of what they are doing and how they are doing it. Now, I was Google’s bitch, and I started seeing their ads everywhere. After a few times, I actually decided to at least have a look. And that is where the topic is coming from.
Now. The business is into detailing for cars (among other things). And when I clicked on their ad, it took me to a landing page where I was asked to select a bunch of options and the name of my first-born and all such pointless actions. (I am a firm believer in keeping the number of steps as low as possible, so this was irksome, but let us ignore that for the time being.)
After I had done all of that, I was asked to choose one of the many car-detailing options I had available to me. The problem? I had no clue on how one option differed from the other? The second problem? They all were priced at the exact same value. The biggest problem? There were maybe 7 different options available. SEVEN??? Really?
Now, even though I may have ended up booking their services just to see if they were doing things well, the sheer number of choices I was presented with ended up overwhelming me and closed up the browser. How many other consumers do you think may have felt that way? That’s a lot of potential business lost. All because you couldn’t keep your “restaurant menu” simple.
WHAT SHOULD YOU DO?
Keep things as simple as possible. Don’t have multiple options out there, especially if your options have extremely minute and subtle differences. Let us take the example that led to the origins of this post. It is a complete servicing business for your cars, and as such from servicing to paint jobs to car detailing, it does all of that.
- You do not need to ask the consumers for the make and model of the car for most of the services that you provide. Take car service for example. I understand that the servicing costs will be different for different cars, but I don’t think there would be a difference in costs based on the model variant. And even if there is, it won’t be much.
- I don’t think there would be much of a difference in the servicing costs of a hatchback based on which make the car is. So why have all that?
- Make educated guesses. Look at your business data and see which services customers are opting for the most. Which pricepoints are these services in. Let us start designing your landing pages for the most popular order types.
- Look at your long and extensive price chart. And see if you can’t narrow it down. Looking at the “detailing” example I earlier talked about, I am assuming for different categories, there would be more such occurences. So start clubbing things that can be clubbed together. If there is a minor price difference somewhere, maybe you could find a middle ground. A price-point that will fit both those segments. If service for one brand costs the consumer $A + $2, and for the second it is $A — $2, maybe you could have one simple price point that is in the neighborhood of $A. Makes your overall ‘menu’ simpler.
These are just some things that jump right out to me. The more you will look at your price chart, along with the previous transactions, the more you will find yourself in a position where you can simplify your offerings by a great deal.
Reduce the number of steps you are asking your consumer to take just to place an order. Remember, it doesn’t matter how good your product is, if there is a step involved, there will invariably be a drop-off percentage linked to it. There is no such thing as 100% conversion. Reducing the number of steps works in your favour.
BUT WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU HAVE ZERO PAST DATA
Yes. It is quite possible. If you are a business that is just starting up, or have ventured into a new segment altogether, you are starting from scratch. As such, zero data exists. So what do you do then?
Let us look at the car servicing business again.
- You already know the demography you are operating in. As such you would be able to find crucial data that can tell you about consumer expectations and make an educated guess on what you can expect.
- What kind of cars get sold in your geography the most? With what frequency do they go to the service center? Which localities have the highest density of your competition? There is a ton of data that you have all around you that can help you narrow down your menu options.
All you need to have is an intent to make your offerings simple. Go for it. You can thank me later.