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Wisdom from the plains of Texas

True story -

I was the brand new marketing director for an association of 350+ retail stores and very excited about the comprehensive Christmas advertising campaign I had developed. Each store as going to be able to select elements that were "perfect" for their market and we had gathered a significant amount of co-op money from vendors.

After mailing out information packets to all the stores, my customer service team sat poised by the phones anticipating the flood of calls we were going to receive as store operators placed their orders for Christmas advertising.

As you can probably surmise, there were very few calls. I was flabbergasted and decided to call a few stores to make sure the mailings had arrived.

It only took one call - to a store in Brazos Valley, Texas - to teach me a lesson I've never forgotten and try to pass along as often as I can.

The store manager affirmed that he had received the package and had actually tried to figure it out. Unfortunately, the matrix of choices and options I had developed were far too confusing for anyone to understand, despite the fact that I had even designed the material with color charts and graphs.

In his best Texas drawl, the guy in Brazos Valley said, "Jim, this might be a great program but confusion is the mother of indecision and I cain't make a decision if I cain't understand what Ah'm supposed to be deciding."

It really was a good program, but he was passing up a couple thousand dollars worth of free advertising because I had made the decision too complex.

Suggestion: Bring someone from outside your company, someone who knows nothing about what you're trying to accomplish, and ask them to make decisions based on your material. Watch them try to negotiate your website, decipher your deal flyers or understand your discount schedule.

YOU may know how to read your stuff, but that doesn't matter because YOU do not shop at your store. What you think doesn't matter - it's the customer's indecision that's killing you.

Question: Can you think of examples where a good product or service suffered because the explanation or sales pitch was too confusing?


Boyink said...

Lots of interesting stories out there, and a book, all found via this Google Search.

I'm getting to the point where I hate choice. I hate staring at 34 different options of peanut butter, with the "grew up Dutch Angel" on one shoulder telling me I need to find the best deal for my dollar, with the "Just grab one and go Devil" on the other shoulder reminding me what the value of these 3 minutes of indecision are worth.

Or do I have the Angel and Devil confused? ;)

Dave J. said...

I just read the Paradox of Choice (my review here) which used this example:

A taste test with six flavors of jam that significantly outsold a taste test with sixteen jams, even though the larger selection attracted more testers.

Boyink's right, too that fear of not getting the best deal causes indecision. That's why I got the book...to understand why I felt this way.

Jim Seybert (on FoolsBox) said...

And the paradox is very real.

Numerous consumer studies tell us consumers (shoppers, clients, prospects) want SELECTION. But when we give them too much, their response is to choose nothing.

Another great book on paradox is Visionary's Handbook from Watts Wacker and Jim Taylor.