Marketing shouldn't be complex and difficult.

"Complex." It’s the word that defines most online marketing strategies. Marketing has a funny way of making our lives more and more complicated if we aren’t careful. As we get new ideas and inspiration, we try to incorporate it all and unwittingly add complexity. We make it more difficult to succeed.

For example, we could add a new Twitter profile to our repertoire , or a whole new category to our blog. What seems like simple changes add complexity, and they have the potential to distract us from our real goals.

We all suffer from this marketing bloat; the longer we’re in the game, the more layers of complexity we add. The solution is to cut it back, leaving us with the only real step for improving our online marketing – to simplify.

The Complex vs. The Simple

Complexity is all around us. It is the difference between the iPhone and Android, or the difference between a muffin and breakfast buffet. The problem with complexity is that it continually adds more decisions to our day. With each added decision, we loose mental energy and the ability to focus on more singular problems.

The math is actually very simple.

  • The more Twitter accounts we mange, the more complex our software must be.
  • The more blogging we do, the more comments and spam we must filter through.
  • The more sites we advertise on, the more we must track and follow leads.
Now, it isn’t like any of these things are particularly bad. In fact, they might be the right thing to do in a particular situation. But, as complexity grows, it is easier for problems to arise and more difficult to know how to solve them.

The Problem With Complexity

  • Distracts us from our audience. The desire to reach and please everyone is cancerous to true communication.
  • Randomizes our content. When we allow ourselves to be less focused, our marketing may follow suit. This leads to unnecessary variety in what we are publishing.
  • Aids reliance  on vanity metrics. Vanity metrics tell us things like the number of fans or readers that we have. They are very broad, as literally thousands of variables influence them in some way. We need to do more than just take that kind of general measurement of our success.
  • Distracts us with noise. A complex marketing plan is like an overly busy and carelessly assembled Twitter feed. Full of noise, and low on value. We easily get carried down roads that take us away from our goals.

Solving The Complexity Crisis

How do we go about solving our complexity crisis? The answer is that we need to simplify our approach on every front. Of course, it’s easy to say that the only step you need is to simplify, but what does it take to actually do it?

Step 1 – Pick A Single Goal

What is the goal of your marketing? Are you looking for a comment, a follower, or an RSS subscriber? There are many channels that our audience can use to stay connected with us, and it is easy to want (or assume we need) them all. The reality is that you aren’t going to get them all. You can get much better results if you focus on just one.

Let’s say that the goal of our blog is to get someone to sign up for our email list. In this case, focusing on a free ebook or subscription box is the right way to go. In order for this to happen, though, we need to reduce the other clutter. Who cares about Facebook and Twitter if you can get their email? Or, start with an email and then work them into the other channels.

Most sites don’t take this approach. They are covered in share and follow buttons from head to toe. Simplify your call to actions. Choose one primary goal, and make it obvious. Make it simple for your audience to convert.

Step 2 – Cover Fewer Topics

Whether you write a blog or maintain a Twitter feed, you should be choosing a small set of topics to focus on. Generally, we have good intentions and start much too broadly. What would happen if you dropped one of those topics? It would likely lead to a simpler feed that was easier to understand. They easier you can make it for your audience to understand your expertise, the more likely they will be ready to hear what you have to say. If you are currently blogging about snow boots and raincoats, what would happen if you stopped talking about the coats? Could you ‘own’ the market when it comes to snow boots?

The trouble is that we often try to “fix” or address a problem by adding more variety rather than taking it away. It seems that more is better. Unfortunately, this can slowly confuse or disuade our audience from hearing what we have to say. In the long run, more topics lead to more complexity.

Step 3 – Reach Fewer People

Sometimes the best way to know your audience is to decide who you aren’t talking to. By nature, many of us are very inclusive when it comes to choosing our audience. We’ll take anyone with a heartbeat! Most of the time this means we end up with a diverse group of people who are easily distracted rather than a focused audience. This adds complexity. We need to cover more ground to reach them all and keep them happy.

Wouldn’t it be better to have a slightly smaller audience with a more focused niche? Small and loyal is much better than big and fickle.

Step 4 – Unfollow The Noise

Sometimes complexity creeps in because of the company we keep. Everywhere we look there are 5 great tips to improve our marketing (irony, I know). Perhaps we would do better by ignoring the 5 great tips and focusing on crafting great content. The more voices that we let in, the more likely we are to get off course.

Even an over-populated Twitter stream can add noise. Sure, tweets are easy to filter out, but notice reduces usefulness. A simple step to reducing complexity may be as easy as unfollowing a few non-friends and unsubscribing from a few blogs (not this one, of course).

Step  5 – Focus on clarity

Sometimes complexity exists because we aren’t actively making it go away. Have you told your audience in no uncertain terms what you’re all about? Do they know what you are an expert at? Often, the problem simply comes down to clarity in communication. Where on your blog have you spelled out what your site is all about? What do you stand for? You should constantly be refining this message to communicate your vision with as little information as possible. Most of the time, explaining your marketing message starts out complex. As long as you are simplifying it as you go, you are moving in the right direction.