Conversion, compliance and measurable results depend on key people making informed decisions and doing what you want them to do. Nothing happens if you overload them with too many confusing options. Too many choices destroy results. Relevant choices make people act. Here’s what you do.
What’s It All About?
The instant people see your marketing or sit down in a meeting or event, they want to know what’s it all about. They want quick answers to: What are the most important things to understand, to value and to do? The problem is we often pull them one way and then another. We tell them, “XXX is the most important thing.” But the next moment we state, “YYY is the most important thing.” It’s a classic case of information overload. Since they can’t decide what is the most important action to take … they don’t do anything.
FACT: If your audience can’t decide what’s the best choice, they can’t do what you want them to do.
The Problem with Choices
Let’s face it – everyone likes choices. As companies, communicators and marketers, we like to think that our customers will appreciate us if we give them more options. So we end up with 25-page restaurant menus, 1200 colors and shades of house paint and 35 different workshops.
However research has shown that while we like the idea of lots of choices … we actually hate having too many. Psychologists and economists have studied the issue and have come to the conclusion that an overload of options may actually paralyze understanding, decision-making and action. The destroy conversion, compliance and measurable results.
Too Many Choices
The whole choice question started in 1995 with research by Sheena Lyengar, a psychologist at Columbia University. She set up a display of jams in a gourmet food shop. On the first day, she offered samples of six flavors. The next day she offered samples of 24 flavors. Her findings rattled lots of corporate cages. Every day, the majority of customers tasted just two flavors. That’s all. And even though more people walked over to the big assortment of jams – only 3 percent bought a jar. More people bought from the smaller display!
Even more revealing: The people who made a purchase from the display with fewer choices actually felt more satisfied with their selections. But the real issue isn’t the number of choices. Dr. Lyengar discovered that the problem isn’t having too many choices – it’s not having enough relevant choices.
Why We Create Choice Overload
Having people’s attention is a gift. For just a short time they are focused, paying attention and ready to understand. So we try to cram in as much data, information and motivation as we can. Hey, that’s just taking full advantage of the opportunity, right? But ask yourself:
• How many purchasing and payment plans do your customers or dealers really need?
• Does any hotel guest want 50 booking options with multiple room types, rates and packages?
• Why would 1500 people in the audience care about information that only concerns 30?
We offer lots of choices because we can’t decide what is important and then give people a clear path to attain it.
That’s why we end up with marketing that doesn’t sell and events that don’t communicate. If you want to improve conversion, compliance and measurable results, the best objective is to provide meaningful choices and make our products, services and messages easy to accept. Convincing people to take action isn’t the goal. Helping your customers and audiences take comfortable, satisfying actions should be your #1 priority.
The key is to stay focused and create relevant choices. Here’s how to make it easy for your customers, employees and audiences.
Four Steps to Creating Relevant Choices
Let them learn before they choose –Let customers, employees and audiences focus on what they want and need before you hurry ahead with all the details and procedures. Why attempt to rush them to a choice before they have any way to understand what value you offer?
Customize choices – If you have lots of options, give people a way to eliminate the non-relevant ones. It doesn’t matter if it’s marketing, a meeting agenda or a presentation you’ll lose their attention if you force-feed unnecessary content.
Present a path – Take time in advance to think about your customers, employees and audiences, so you know what they want to happen. Then give them a clear, easy-to-follow path to a comfortable, satisfying decision. Don’t load them up with “what” and don’t explain “how” and “why.”
Make it easy to take action – Help them narrow down and group relevant choices together. This is how people make decisions. Focus them on the fewest choices that need to be considered to make a decision – then reduce the noise and distractions. Don’t add any more information. Too many meaningless messages are distracting.
How Many Choices
Okay, it’s the moment of truth. How many choices do you provide if you want to improve conversion, compliance and measurable results? The startling answer is, “It depends.” It depends on the quality and relevance of the choices a person has to consider. If there isn’t much difference in the benefits and results you offer, then just two choices can be too many.
Sears made millions of dollars offering three choices: “Good,” “Better” and “Best.”
McDonald’s did market research and found that most customers want five choices of Chicken McNuggets sauce.
Cognitive psychologists suggest no more than seven choices because that’s the number of things most people can remember.
The key is – if the decision is complicated, make the choices simple.
Improve Conversion, Compliance and Measurable Results
You’ll also maximize your results if you focus on the majority and not the exceptions. Offer relevant choices that are valuable to the majority of people. Don’t get lost with options that affect only a few. Do you really want your customers, employees and audiences to feel like they’ve wasted their time sorting through all the wonderful plans, products, programs, content and workshops that don’t relate to them? Give them relevant choices that are actually different and are meaningful to the most people.
The bottom line is this. Give people a few really good choices of jam instead of 24 confusing ones … and they will actually do what you want them to do.