August 3, 2012

Why Nobody Reads The Scarlet Letter

By Patrick Mahan

I recently read that the CliffsNotes version of the classic novel, The Scarlet Letter, outsells the real version three to one. What does that mean? It means people like shortcuts. The easy way out. The path of least resistance.

Here are a couple of take-aways...

1. If you own a company... make it super easy for customers to do business with you. Eliminate all barriers and friction. Remove the hurdles. Spoon feed them. That might mean filling out the paperwork for them. Removing the old appliances when delivering new ones. Having a real person answering your phones. Coming to them instead of them coming to you. Offering a finance plan. Eliminating the fine print. Offering a money back guarantee. Maybe a free trial period. How about no blackout dates? Do whatever it takes to create a path of least resistance and your customers will gladly follow that path.

2. If you work for a company... become a "shortcut" for your boss. Offer to do the things he does not want to do. Make his life easier. Rather than giving him a 20 page report, distill it down to something that is quick and easy to digest. A CliffsNotes version. When the boss needs something done, he turns to Cliff. Because Cliff gets things done. And he's willing to do things that make his boss's life easier. Be like Cliff.

Now... take a look at your company's processes, policies and procedures. Is there any way you could simplify things for your customers? Are there any rough edges that could be smoothed out?

If you step into your customers' shoes and walk through the entire buying process, chances are you will find a particular area where the road gets bumpy. It may be your check-out line. Or maybe your customer service department. Or maybe a hard to navigate website. Or poorly designed directional signage in your store making it hard for customers to find what they're looking for.

Remember, people don't like to jump through hoops. If any part of the buying process causes your customers frustration—or slows them down in anyway—they will start to look elsewhere. So don't waste their time. Your product may be superior (like the real version of The Scarlet Letter) but in today's world, if a customer can get a similar product or service faster and with less effort, they will choose the easier alternative. Probably three to one.

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