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Distill Your Message to as Few Words as Possible

Your customers are constantly being bombarded with new information. Simplicity has never been more powerful.

It's amazing how complex our lives have become.  Nothing's simple anymore.  Think about it.  Even your Facebook page has a million things going on.  The increase in complexity has led to a decrease in focus.  It's hard to know what even matters anymore.

Well the same is true for your customers.  The noise is so deafening sometimes that your most important message can easily get lost in the shuffle.  What are you trying to tell me?  What do I need to know about you and your products?  What is it you want me to remember about you, your company?

Everybody's talking at once, saying so much, that customers can no longer remember what we started talking about in the first place.  Tweets are flying through the atmosphere as thick as a flock of birds, filling minds with an endless stream of useless information, and crowding out the few things that were really worth knowing.

Why is this so important?  Because the world is noisier now than it's ever been, the competition is tougher and more global, and your customer is being bombarded around the clock with a massive stream of messaging that makes it ever more difficult to remember you and your company.

What can you do about it?  Focus on simplicity.  To be truly memorable, to be the one product or service that people remember when the dust settles, you need to narrow down your message, streamline your sentences, cut out all the fluff, and deliver one--yes, just one--strong, simple message, and deliver it clearly and concisely.

One of the most valuable skills in the world is the ability to explain complex concepts in simple, easy-to-understand terms.  Writing lots of words is easy.  Making your point with an absolute minimum number of words is really hard.  Yet it is so much more effective.  Mark Twain once said: "I would have written that shorter, but I didn't have the time."  Find the time.

Imagine you had a quick minute to tell a potential customer why he should do business with you.  Because in today's world, that's all you have anyway.  Write down what you want to say.  Now cross out as many words as you can, each time reading the sentence again to see if it still delivers the point you want to make.  Keep crossing out words until you have created the shortest sentence you possibly can.

Next, go to one person and deliver your simplified pitch.  As soon as you are done, have that person tell a person who wasn't in the room what you just said.  The goal is this: if a person who hears your simple message can repeat it pretty accurately to the next person who asks what your company does, you've got it right.  If they don't say exactly the words you want repeated--to build your brand and establish your company's unique value--go back to the drawing board and simplify it some more.  Keep it brief, straightforward, and clear.  Eliminate any industry-specific jargon.  Avoid the noise and clutter.

There is an elegance in simplicity.  Simplicity does not mean removing features, benefits, or services from your product.  It means distilling what's most important about those features, and explaining them in the fewest words possible.  Go ahead, write yours down, and get busy crossing things out.

(Admittedly, I probably could have written this column in only two paragraphs.)

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Last updated: Nov 26, 2012

JEFF HOFFMAN | Columnist | Co-founder, ColorJar

Jeff Hoffman, co-founder of ColorJar, is a serial entrepreneur who was on the founding teams of Priceline.com and uBid.com. He is also a frequent public speaker on the topics of innovation, entrepreneurship, and leadership.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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