2012: The Opportunity for the Few in the Year of More

Mark Schaefer posted an excellent article this morning: Your 2012 Marketing Plan: Tell Me What to Do. 2012 is the Year of More (credit to Mitch Joel), but we are all overwhelmed by more. The opportunity for marketers is to enable less, in the face of the crushing volume of more. If you haven’t already, go read Mark’s post.

I love the thought, but it isn’t that simple. Mark isn’t going to write 500 posts this year and publish three books (or at least I hope not!). He isn’t creating more, and he shouldn’t necessarily turn around and create less. Mark’s opportunity, and the opportunity for every marketer, is to become one of the few that we, the audience, turn to.

Many marketers are simplifying, making messages easier to quickly grasp and consume. On websites, they are improving information architecture to make the content, information and products they offer easier to find. Recommendation engines allow companies to surface the best product or information, based on your history, profile and activity from other customers or visitors.

Individual marketers, companies or technologies are not creating the Year of More. I believe it is the Year of More for two reasons.

The Roots of the Year of More

1. More voices, more choices. Everyone wants a piece of the pie that only a handful of companies competed for a few years ago. Yes, each may be shouting a little bit louder now, but what makes it dizzying is 12,000, not just 12, companies shouting to be heard. Every new social network, gadget, movie or TV show is trying to get our attention.

Many smaller marketers have definitely found their voice and even individuals like me (with no associated company) are adding to the crushing number of voices.

2. Our refusal to be content. We cannot buy something without price checking it thoroughly. Amazon Marketplace and Google Shopping aren’t enough, we need to check deal sites, forums, EBay and anything else Google can turn up.

We agonize over which smartphone to purchase (yes, that was me a year ago). Not because we are trying to figure out which one will meet our needs, but because we are not satisfied with simply getting what meets our needs and fits our budget. We must assess all of the choices, and be confident we are making the best choice.

Can marketers help? Yes, they can, but it isn’t easy.

A Hypothetical Scenario

Consider making the following changes to how you buy products online.

  • Only research and purchase products online through Amazon. Do no consider any other sellers or information sources.
  • Only research or look for products to meet a specific need or want you had already identified.
  • Limit your time to 15 minutes for each purchase.

If you made these changes, you would have the Year of Less in 2012 in this one part of your life. You can make these changes today, without any change in Amazon’s marketing.

You would need to accept you are getting the best overall outcome, despite possibly getting the second-best product, with less stress over the decision made and more time available for the things that are truly important to you. It seems like a set of restrictions you would be unwilling to accept, yet it grants you other more valuable freedoms.

The Opportunity for Marketers

We are overwhelmed by the voices and choices. Become one of the few we actively seek out. Not by offering less, but by consistently meeting our needs.

By consistently winning our business and our attention after we sift through all of the competing opportunities, you will become one of the few we look to, rather than one of the many we stumble across.

Your Turn

Are you planning to personally simplify in this Year of More (the Amazon scenario above is personally appealing to me), or how can you as a marketer help your customers to simplify? Share your comments below or with me on Twitter (@wittlake).

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About Eric Wittlake

I am a digital and B2B marketer with a background in online media and analytics. I work with B2B clients on media and integrated marketing programs at Babcock & Jenkins. You can connect with me on Twitter at @wittlake or in the comments here on my B2B Digital Marketing blog.

  • http://www.businessesgrow.com Mark W. Schaefer

    This is a superb contribution to the dialogue Eric and I appreciate the exploration of a somewhat dissenting view through your post.  I agree but still think marketers need to be guiding consumers toward a highly-focused choice. Here are two examples.

    I have a system in place where my stereo, Internet, cable, TV and computer are all integrated. The wires got crossed over the weekend and i had to spend time trying to figure out how to sort through all these wires and connections. I understand that Apple is working on a TV offering. You know what? I’m pretty sure my problems would go away. I bet that I won’t need to figure out the right pieces, parts and connections any more. It will be in one device.

    This is one of the things that makes Apple great. Simplified choice. The first thing that Steve Jobs did when he returned to Apple was to dramatically slash product offerings and decrease consumer choice. We are all grateful for this focus!

    Let’s pin this down even more granularly to you and me. In 2011 I produced more blog posts than I did in 2010 (largely due to the addition of growtoons). Did i do a service or disservice to my readers?  Did I help streamline their Internet experience or clutter it?

    I am a bit of a generalist in my approach to my marketing topics. Do I need to have a more defined niche that might serve a smaller audience much more effectively? 

    I think the decisions we face even as bloggers are similar to what these brands have to deal with. It took courage for Apple to eliminate choices and possibly lose a group of customers. But in the long-term, their focus de-cluttered consumer choice (and also simplified their own supply chain!) 

    Now, compare that to a strategy where you are the 50th company offering local coupons. That’s fine if you have a differentiated niche or a revolutionary delivery system, but how many ways can you innovate on a coupon? Are those marketers solving a problem or adding complexity and noise?

    Like you, I have just written a comment longer than the original post. I suppose that is a good sign of vibrant dialogue!  Job well done today!

    • http://b2bdigital.net/ Eric Wittlake

      Thanks Mark! Wow, yes. Can I say both Less and Few are important?

      Love the Apple example, they have certainly seen a number of benefits from simplifying their product line. They also make great products (making fewer helps, but this is another thing Steve brought), and many of us have come to trust that Apple will have a good solution.

      Fewer choices makes it easier to buy from Apple, great products make it easy to buy confidently from Apple.

      Thank you, you have brought my “somewhat dissenting view” back to being an addition rather than a dissent, and collectively we have written a decent length article now on this! :-)

  • http://greenspotantiques.com vincej

    Eric, your point about limiting time for decision in purchasing is priceless.
    But… there’s a serious drawback.
    As more marketers and “search engines” utilize our social graphs they will be actually limiting the range of offerings you will “see”. 

    My view is :
    1.  if you don’t share much info about yourself, your 15 minutes will be geared to your specific search criteria at this moment… and you may have to sift a bit, but are likely to find exactly what you need.

    2.  If you share much info, and allow the search and ads to be thoroughly “pre-sifted” for you… you have less choice, and your choices were pre-made by the marketers.

    Hard choice either way, but the end result is, if you are after consumer products, mass produced, choice 2 is perhaps a time saver.  If you are after anything else, it’s a danger. 

    To limit oneself to one purchase venue is fraught with danger.  A friend recently pointed this out…   item on amazon for $9.95 plus $29.95 shipping… went to ebay, got for $9.95 including shipping free.   A further search might have turned up $10.95 at an outlet down the street, in his hands in 10 minutes.

    While choice can be overwhelming, and time-consuming.. an open and self-directed web is still the best option for an informed populace. Recommendation engines have too many “varied interests” involved for my taste to trust.

    • http://b2bdigital.net/ Eric Wittlake

      Vince, this is certainly an interesting development to watch. I don’t believe it is there ‘yet’, but certainly search is evolving towards a “recommendation” model in order to improve the relevance of the results.

      I completely agree that we need an open and self-directed web (and I have some concerns about the search trends). Will I shop only at a single venue? No, but I will limit time, in part by identifying the FEW venues that I quickly check, versus taking the extra time for an exhaustive search, for most products.

      Thanks for the insightful addition here, I appreciate it!

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