Let’s Make Marketing Simple Again

There is a hair salon in an upscale retail area of Atlanta that has been in business for over 20 years with a very loyal following of both men and women. One day the owner of the salon walks out the front door of her business and sees a new sign out front of the shopping center directly across the street that read:

 “Ten Dollar Haircuts”

A new discount barbershop had recently opened up across the street and was advertising very cheap haircuts. When the salon owner saw this sign she immediately became fearful of the potential negative impact this new discount business might have on her salon. She then had a marketing brainstorm and decided to put her own new sign out in front of her salon.

 “We Fix $10 Haircuts.”


I don’t know if this story is true or if it’s just an urban legend. Either way, it’s a great example of the importance of simplifying your marketing message. This is a mistake that I find many small businesses make. They complicate their marketing message. Too many big words. Too many contradicting strategies. Too many industry acronyms.

In simplifying our marketing message, let’s start with my favorite definition of marketing from marketingprofs.com:

“Marketing means solving customer problems profitably.”


I love this definition for several reasons. First, it’s simple. Just six words. I remember when I took my first marketing class in college and the textbook used multiple paragraphs to define what marketing is. The definition spoke of supply and demand, exchanges of goods and services, and the dreaded 4 P’s. Blah, blah, blah…

I also love this simple definition of marketing because it suggests that effective marketing starts with understanding our customers, the problems they face, and the opportunity to solve those problems. Too often we complicate marketing by inventing the product first without any sense of who the potential buyer might be. A cool gadget with multiple applications and no known target market. This is a formula for marketing failure.

Lastly, this definition simplifies marketing by suggesting that at the end of the day our marketing efforts should result in a positive ROI for our company and the customer. What a novel and simple idea!

Where else can you simplify your marketing? Here are three suggestions.


  1. Your website. I visit way too many company websites that appear to be a complicated mess. Your website is a substitute for a personal conversation between you and your customer or prospect. Within five seconds or less upon visiting your website, I should have complete clarity on what you do and how you are better than your competitors. Instead of packing everything I may need to know about your company on the home page, give me options to find that information using tabs to other pages on the site. Make navigation of your website easy for the visitor.
  2. Your competitive advantage. By definition, your competitive advantage must be a core competency of your company, something none of your competitors can claim, and it must be valued by your target market. In addition, there must be proof or evidence for it to truly be a competitive advantage. Lastly, it must be stated in simple terms starting with “We are the only company that…”
  3. Your offering. This must be stated in terms of customer benefits, rather than product features.  You are not selling the drill, you are selling the hole. Keep it as simple as possible. Harvard professor and best-selling author Clay Christianson said it best when he suggested you consider this question: what job do your customers hire your product to do?


Keep your marketing simple. Instead of offering $10 haircuts, be the one that fixes bad haircuts.