Dumb it down for best results…

Today I read two blogs that were focused on something we have been preaching for many years – if the “lowest common denominator” in your business (customers and employees) don’t get it, nothing will change.

The first blog post actually led me to the second post.  The first post, “Dumb it up, People,” was posted on Marketing Profs website and was actually a commentary on the original blog post from Seth Godin’s Blog, titled, “Should you ignore the n00bs?”  Let’s start with the first post, Dumb it up, People.  They make an excellent point that says if you don’t make it overly simple, people will simply not get it and move on – in a nutshell.  Seems intuitively obvious, right?  However, in their experience and in ours, we see this is NOT THE CASE in most situations. I can point to countless organizations and websites that are NOT SIMPLE but rather so complex that only a few ever get what they are trying to say – that isn’t good. 

At the same time, we see the same situation happening internally to companies – their employees don’t even get it.  And you expect them to implement something they don’t get and communicate this to their customers?  What message do you think is actually getting communicated in this type of situation – not the right one that is for sure.  We strive to make sure that whatever message you have to communicate is simple and easy for everyone to get – the lowest common denominator.  One of our case studies, Financial Services, was a good example of this and can be found on our website.  This talks a bit about how everyone in the credit union needed to understand what was being offered and how it could be communicated – from the branch manager to the teller.  If everyone didn’t get it, the system broke down.  We fixed that and they achieved dramatic results – everyone is on board.  There are countless examples of this not working as well out there – probably in your own organization.

The second, and original post on Seth’s Blog talked about the same thing.  If the lowest common denominator doesn’t get your message or what you are saying, you won’t make the sale, people won’t be customers, employees will be unhappy and a host of other things.  However, there is one interesting message that I would emphasize in both these blogs.  That is, if you get down to a base level that is appropriate, and they still don’t get it, maybe you have the wrong audience OR you should give them a path to help educate them and help them understand it.  Both very astute pieces of advice.  You can’t create all the copy and other pieces for a handful of people but you can give them the tools to figure it out themselves at their own pace in their own language.  This is good advice.

So two points I would leave you with.  First, step back and assess whether or not your messages (customers and employees) are being understood by 90%+ of your audience.  If it is, congratulations, you are communicating effectively and change will happen much easier.  If not, go back to the drawing board and re-craft the message and the tools so that you can reach that number.  Second, if you have done Step One successfully, then look for ways to “train” the rest of the people so they can figure it out on their own as they move forward in the relationship.  Always give them a path to stay with you and learn.


Blaine Millet

Customer Experiences Inc.
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