My late grandfather used to often tell us to “keep it simple stupid.” Keep it Simple Stupid (KISS) is a term coined by the U.S. Navy in 1960 that says systems work best if they are kept simple. As a boy, he would say this most frequently to my grandmother during holiday meals or family dinners. His message was clear: we don’t need anything fancy, just being together for the holidays or a Sunday dinner is more than enough. He lived by the “less is more mentality” and had great success in life doing so. He raised three children with my grandmother, owned and sold a successful belting business and flew airplanes passionately from boyhood until his passing.
While complexity is sometimes necessary, I have learned to appreciate the simpler things in life and business. From enjoying everyday experiences with my children to evolving as a manager of our firm, I have begun to understand and appreciate why my grandfather adopted the KISS principle throughout his life.
I feel an important part of what “keeping it simple” means is that you say what you mean and follow through on what you say. This holds especially true in business where calendars can fill up with meetings (sometimes unnecessarily) that result in fancy spreadsheets and long PowerPoint presentations that may look and sound great – but aren’t very useful. Oftentimes, more can be said in a one or two-page document than a 10 or 15–page presentation. But it can be harder to create a more concise summary. And unfortunately, some people may rate a plan, proposal, article or white paper on its length.
Two key areas I believe the KISS principle should be applied in B2B marketing include:
When developing a marketing plan, communicate what you want to achieve, who you want to reach, what you will say and how you will do it. Sounds simple, right? Unfortunately, I have reviewed marketing plans and proposals that are packed with corporate jargon but don’t say much about the who, what, where, when and why.
A good marketing plan should include:
The goals communicate the higher-level desired outcomes while the objectives define how you will you achieve the goals. For example, if the goal of the campaign is to “increase awareness,” an objective could be to “increase media placements in key industry trade media by 50% in 12 months.” If the goal is to “increase sales by 25%,” the objective could be to “generate 300 leads per month.” The objectives should be measurable, timebound and reviewed regularly to determine if you are achieving your goals.
Identify your target industries, organizations and the people within the organizations you want to reach. For example, you may target CMOs, VPs and Directors of Marketing within small and midsized businesses (SMBs) in hospitality, retail and foodservice. While getting granular can be helpful, too small of an audience can limit your campaigns. Determine which audiences offer the most opportunity for your business, do you your homework and target them methodically.
Whether it’s communicating a product’s value propositions or the benefits of your corporate social responsibility (CSR) program, delivering a message that is clear and impactful is critical. The messaging development process begins with understanding your target audiences’ interests and needs. Talk to front-line sales team members, conduct customer surveys and stay abreast of the latest trends being covered in the media. If you don’t understand your target audiences, you can’t develop messaging that will resonate with them.
Once you have defined your goals, strategy and key messages, you can then determine how best to reach your target audiences. Don’t overcomplicate things. Using the example earlier, if your goal is to build awareness and your objective is to increase media placements by 50% in 12 months, then your strategy would be to execute a PR program. Your tactics may include press releases, targeted pitching, PR campaigns, bylined articles, testimonials, etc. Framing the campaign in a calendar format by tactic can often help to simplify the plan further and assist your team in tracking progress.
From plans to articles to press releases to white papers, I have written and edited thousands of pages of copy throughout my career. Over that time, I have come to appreciate one thing more than anything else: direct sentences that are easy to read. People often pack content with marketing hyperbole and words that no one uses in everyday life. This takes away from the readability, and more importantly, understandability of the content.
Remember that your prospects, customers, investors, internal stakeholders and others don’t have time to read every paragraph, descriptor and adjective to discern what you are saying. Edit yourself. Proof carefully. Delete any sentences or words that don’t help you make your point. By keeping it simple, you’ll have a greater chance of influencing your reader.
While there is no rule for how long a plan, article, white paper or any form of content should be, they all have one thing in common. They need to communicate your point clearly. In a world where we sometimes must do so in 280 characters or less, brevity and conciseness are more important than ever. By remembering to “keep it simple stupid,” you can have a greater impact on your target audiences, whether internal or external, and drive greater greater business value.
Matt Serra is the CEO of Mulberry Marketing Communications, an award-winning full-service B2B communications agency based in Chicago, London and Australia. He has 20+ years of experience overseeing global and regional B2B campaigns.