Freelance life, Maslen on Marketing

How to profit from simplicity

“In the last few years, the number of electricity tariffs has gone up, from 180 to over 400. In the same period, consumer applications to switch electricity suppliers has gone down by 25%.”

I heard that on the radio last month and made a note of it immediately. It chimes with a lot of thinking on complexity and decision-making.

It also has a direct bearing on responsiveness of sales and marketing promotions, in print and online.

To encourage competition in the electricity (and gas) supply industry the Government imagined that increased choice would drive down costs as consumers shopped around for the best deal.

The tyranny of choice

The big six electricity suppliers now control more of the market than ever before. In other words, consumers’ responsiveness to change messages actually decreased as the choice of alternative suppliers increased.

It seems inertia keeps people where they are and when you pile on complicated choices, that rock just digs itself deeper into the mud.

Why is this relevant to us?

There’s a tendency, when you’re writing and designing a mailshot, ad, email or landing page, to cram in every available purchase option. In publishing, where Sunfish does a lot of work, a typical tree of decisions looks like this:

Do you want to subscribe to Copywriter Magazine?

Do you want just print, print plus online or just online?

Do you want to sign up now or take a three-week free trial?

Do you want to subscribe for one year, two years or three years?

Do you want to pay by cheque/credit card, direct debit or do you want us to invoice you?

We also run copywriting workshops; would you like us to send you more information about those?

Do you want to respond by mail, email, telephone or the web?

That’s seven decisions. And roughly six too many.

The ideal call to action runs like this:

[  ] YES! I want a 1-yr subscription to Copywriter Magazine @ £125. [  ] Please bill me.

No complexity. No difficult choices. Maximum response rate.

And I’m telling you this because

People are bad at making complex decisions. Offering complexity is also expensive. Sell one thing at a time and you’ll save your prospect a lot of brain work and make yourself more profit as a result. You can always upsell them once you have the order.

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