Why simplification is hard [video]

I’ve always liked the idea that to get from simplistic to simple you have to wade through complex. In other words, simplification is not about dumbing something down, but rather it is about paring it back. To achieve this, you firstly need all the glorious detail to be able to hunt and find the bare essence.

There’s more to this, as we’ve found in one of our experiments. Let me show you a lesson we learnt about simplification from our customers. This may help you to simplify your own business. I’ll also share 6 steps to simplification and 4 gotchas.

 

Context

The experiment we built was around Funnel Plan, which is a great way to build a sales and marketing plan. It involves pulling together the view of sales and marketing to create a single view on one page. This is achieved by asking our users to answer a whole lot of questions for which we provide guided tutorials and lots of in-app help. We then synthesise and crunch this information, and transform the insights gained into a one-page plan.

We tested two versions side by side, and learnt something very interesting.  In the first (trial) version, the user’s experience is all around a basic menu navigation.  It’s quite clear, and it shows the user the menu they need to take as well as the steps.

simplification and trial user menu

Trial user’s experience – based around menu navigation

 

simplification and trial user steps

Trial user’s experience – shown the steps

 

In the second experience (starter version), there is no menu.  The user doesn’t have a great sense of where they are going – they need to enter information and click next.

simplification and second experience

Second experience – no menu

 

Lessons learnt

Despite removing functionality in the second version, we doubled web logins with the simpler experience – 100% increase in engagement!  This is in addition to lifting conversions to the paid version.

We did, however, make a mistake, where we failed to allow for any choice of tactics. Subsequently, this was adjusted where we added template (playbook) loads to both versions of Funnel Plan. This allowed the user to load a set of tactics from one of our templates. Following the addition of this functionality, we restarted the experiment.

simplification and choice of tactics

Choice of tactics

 

Conclusions

The experiment between the two versions, with the additional functionality of tactic template loads, resulted in great results for the simpler version. We achieved a 300% uptick, or 100% increase in engagement when the outliers were removed. Interestingly, users logged back into the simpler version more often even though they could do less.

How to apply to your business

The generalisable conclusions from this experiment, which you can apply to your business, includes:

  1. Ask your customers to describe the value they get from you, in their words.
  2. Map out the whole customer experience, which includes everything that is important to your customer and all that they need.
  3. From the mapping of your customer’s experience, identify the subset of steps where 80% of the value is delivered.
  4. Build a version of your offering, which includes only those steps necessary for the 80%.
  5. Build a robust experiment to test version A vs. version B. Read Learn Startup by Eric Ries who teaches about experiment design.
  6. Refine / pivot, based on your learnings.

 

Four gotchas

  1. Do the hard work so your customers don’t have to – make it simpler for them.
  2. Don’t ask your customers what they want – they don’t know.
  3. Don’t assume you know what your customers want – you don’t know.
  4. Imagine what good looks like, then ask your customers what they think (feedback), and then test and learn.

 

Share and subscribe

Do you need a great way to build your sales and marketing plan, where you can pull in sales and marketing inputs together into one page? If you do, check out Funnel Plan and give me your feedback. This is the tool we use with our customers. DIY customers also use it to build their own sales and marketing plans. You can as well. If you don’t have a Funnel Plan, get yourself a free trial here.

 

funnel-plan-sales-and-marketing-planning-tool

Our thanks

  • Nick Howard, Director & CTO, and his great development team.
  • Salma Abdulhussein, Marketing Manager, and her team.
  • Eric Ries for teaching us about experiment design in Lean Startup.
  • Claudia Ivanka for video production
  • Hugh Macfarlane for scripting and presenting this week’s show