Simple Pictures Are Best

When my daughters were little, I used to love to read them a particular book.  The book is so seemingly outdated that it has only recently been revived from out-of-print status by the miracles of internet shopping (and used copies now sell for just a cent).  It’s called Simple Pictures Are Best.

It’s the story of a farmer and his wife who decide to buy each other a photo session with a professional photographer for their anniversary.  The fun begins when the photographer comes and the couple can’t decide what to wear, where to sit, or what to include in the picture.  The farmer ends up wearing his new shoes on his feet while showing off his old shoes on his ears with arms full of farm produce.  His wife wears both of her hats, brings all of her pets, and stuffs her hands and pockets with kitchen and gardening utensils.

Each time the couple decides to add something to the picture, the photographer warns, “Simple pictures are best!”  But the couple continues to ignore him and assembles everything they can into the picture.  Finally, the commotion causes their bull to charge at the photographer, and the only picture taken that day…is of the bull.

Simple Pictures

Recently, I worked with Ryan, a client whose company provides computer graphics packages to financial services companies.  Ryan was running two huge, expensive half-page ads weekly in a local paper with a broad-based readership.

“How much business do these ads generate?” I asked him.

“I don’t know,” was his reply.

It turned out that he had been running these ads for years, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars over time, but had never asked his new clients how they found out about his company, and had never asked existing clients whether they had even seen the ads.

“If you don’t know whether there’s any benefit to running these ads,” I asked him, “Why do you keep running them?”

His real answer took several minutes to get to.  He told me about how he had started these ad campaigns along with several other very broad marketing efforts years before.  He also disclosed that he was still paying for a lot of other advertising and marketing efforts, without knowing whether any of them were working.

I thought of the farmer with the shoes on his ears and his feet and arms full of produce.

“Simple pictures are best,” I said to Ryan.

Science often adheres to Occam’s Razor, a theory which tells us that when there are several competing explanations for something, the simplest explanation is probably the right one.  More or less, it says, “The simplest of all possible solutions is preferable.”

Similarly, the “Simple Pictures” rule tells us that if you have a practice you’re looking to grow, the simplest marketing picture is probably best:

1. Be very clear on your target.
2. Choose strategies that are designed to reach that very clear target.
3. Test to see whether and to what extent those strategies are working.
4. Keep using the ones that work until you have the kind of business or practice you want!

Another principle I like to fall back on is K.I.S.S.

Create a simple picture that works for you.  If you want to climb high…get a ladder, and then, keep REACHING…

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