The Kula Ring podcast is essential listening for manufacturing marketers who want to grow their digital presence and compete online.
Sponsored by Kula Partners—an agency committed to helping leading B2B manufacturers craft digital experiences that transform how they engage buyers, serve customers, and outpace their competition—The Kula Ring podcast features conversations about marketing, sales, and technology with top manufacturing executives from across North America.
The Kula Ring podcast is co-hosted by Kula Partners principals, Carman Pirie and Jeff W. White, both of whom are frequently sought after for their digitally-focused B2B expertise. They regularly share their insights with audiences including conferences like B2B Online and HubSpot’s INBOUND, the Gardner Manufacturing Marketer blog, and other podcasts focused on B2B marketing and technology.
Manufacturing marketers can face a lot of pressure to do more. Include more. Say more. Sometimes it seems like the favourite word in marketing is “and’… there’s always an excuse to add this, and that, and this thing too, and.. well, you get it. In this episode of The Kula Ring, Jeff and Carman discuss why you should often choose to do less.
More Is Less Transcript:
Announcer: You’re listening to The Kula Ring, a podcast made for manufacturing marketers. Here are Carman Pirie and Jeff White.
Jeff White: Welcome to The Kula Ring, a podcast for manufacturing marketers brought to you by Kula Partners. My name is Jeff White and joining me today is Carman Pirie. Carman, how you doing, sir?
Carman Pirie: I’m delighted to be here, and you?
Jeff White: I’m really looking forward to this conversation.
Carman Pirie: Yeah. Yeah. Look, as we talked about today’s episode, it really occurred to me that we were… This is not a new problem. What we’re talking about is not even necessarily new advice. The problem is just marketers haven’t listened to it yet, so we’re going to choose to reiterate it on behalf of marketing writ large, oddly, in some weird way.
Jeff White: And we really only have one message today.
Carman Pirie: Yeah. So, here’s the thing. Let’s start with a story. So, November 25th, coming into winter in the northern hemisphere, and November 25th, 1999, you probably don’t remember what you were doing, but if you lived in North America, the chances are on that Thursday evening you were watching Friends because almost everybody did then.
Jeff White: Can you imagine having that now?
Carman Pirie: Yeah. That dynamic doesn’t obviously exist now.
Jeff White: Of everybody enjoying the same thing at the same time. Anyway, we digress.
Carman Pirie: Yeah. Chances are you were watching Friends. And if you were, you’ll remember potentially that that episode was The One Where Ross Got High.
Jeff White: Which is actually the name of the episode. They all start with The One Where.
Carman Pirie: Yeah. I just assumed everybody listening knew that.
Jeff White: Not necessarily. It could just be you editorializing.
Carman Pirie: Maybe. So, it’s The One Where Ross Got High. We’re not talking about the main plot of the show. There was a subplot in that particular episode where Rachel makes dessert, and those of you listening may now be starting to remember the episode, because she had kind of… I think there were some pages in the cookbook or what have you that had stuck together, so she had thought she was making a trifle, and she ended up making a combination, if you will, between a trifle and a shepherd’s pie. And if you remember that moment, Ross takes a bite and his remark is that it tastes like feet, and-
Jeff White: I can still hear it in my head.
Carman Pirie: Yeah.
Jeff White: Oh my God, it tastes like feet!
Carman Pirie: And if you’re Joey, he follows up with, “You know, I like it. Custard, good. Jam, good. Meat, good. It’s all good.” I’m going somewhere with this. I think for an awful lot of marketers, and even worse, for some of the people that those marketers answer to, when it comes to marketing they’re a lot more like Joey, which is to say they can always think of more things to add and adding more stuff is not making…
Jeff White: It’s not making it worse.
Carman Pirie: Not in their minds, right?
Jeff White: No.
Carman Pirie: But in everybody else’s, they’re not convinced. So, this is what we’re talking about today, is this notion that kind of like in the world of marketing, in the world of messaging, when we’re trying to persuade people, when we’re trying to get a message across-
Jeff White: Or trigger an action.
Carman Pirie: … or trigger an action or what have you, there is considerable benefit to focus. More in this case is less. And so, look, I think this is particularly acute in B2B because I think the B2C marketers have… Some of them have learned this because I think that they frankly are more practiced at creating advertising in the sense of the way we think about advertising. And so therefore, they’re more likely to work with creative agencies that have stressed the importance of being single minded in a brief, et cetera. They’ve kind of been introduced to that notion.
But my goodness, for an awful lot of B2B manufacturing marketers, that discipline, if it exists even within the marketing function, very often it’s challenged elsewhere in the organization as that marketing execution bumps up against approvals, right?
Jeff White: Yeah. No, you can… I mean, we’ve been in these situations, where you’re presenting something, it’s about the one thing, and what you end up with is a request to have… I think you call it another and, you know? Well, can you have this? And this? And we need to talk about these specs. And you know, our buyers are very technical. They need to know everything.
Carman Pirie: Yeah. It’s an interesting… Our buyers are very technical; therefore, they are not human, and the rules of attention need not apply, and we need to tell them everything all at once. Probably where I’ve seen the worst offense is when it comes to… Well, I don’t know if it’s the worst, but homepage carousels.
Jeff White: Yes.
Carman Pirie: They’re putting a carousel on a homepage and they’re like, “Just add another one. Add another slide. Add another slide.” And people think like, “Oh, if we added 20 slides to the carousel, well, it’s like…”
Jeff White: It’s 20 opportunities for people to engage in a different way and someone will find exactly what they’re looking for.
Carman Pirie: Yeah. But people’s attention span doesn’t increase 20 times because you put 20 times more slides.
Jeff White: Yeah. And I mean it doesn’t only introduce too many options. We’ve analyzed literally thousands of homepages, some of which have had carousels, using screen recording software, and heatmaps, and other things like that. Almost no one gets past the first one anyway. So, maybe in that way at least you’re kind of lucky. But what you’re doing is you’re then removing the thing that that person may have been interested in, the one action you wanted them to take, and then give them another one, and then three seconds later another one, and then another one.
Carman Pirie: And then worse yet, you’re paying for each of them. Everything that you put up there costs in some way money or effort to do so. And the only reason you’re doing it is to fool yourself. You’re only… It’s just so you can tell yourself a story that you are somehow saying more and communicating more. But again, that is predicated, and it assumes that somebody’s actually listening or ingesting on the other end. And I guess that’s what I want people to understand, is that marketing is a zero sum game. It’s always 100%. A homepage is 100% of a homepage. It’s you can choose to double the length of the homepage and it’s still a 100% homepage. Adding 20 more CTAs doesn’t make it 20 more anything.
It’s a displacement. It’s like liquid in a glass. If you have a glass full of liquid and you drop something in it, the equal amount is going to come out, you know? It’s just the way of it. And that’s the way attention is.
Jeff White: Yeah. Exactly. And I think it doesn’t necessarily… It doesn’t mean you’re a bad person to add more CTAs to the page. It just means you don’t necessarily understand how people want to be communicated to and how they consume things by default. You’re not really thinking about and you’re not directing them to do the thing that you really need them to do to get to the next stage.
Carman Pirie: And look, you know, or at least if you are doing that, I’m kind of encouraging people to do so consciously. To say, “Look, I know I’m introducing three CTAs here and this is a choice I am making for whatever reason,” but you also ought to know why. Why you would most likely be better served by trying to force more focus rather than accepting more ands. And more what I’m trying to do here in this episode I think is just to give people some ammunition for those conversations that they’re having with folks about any kind of marketing execution when they bump up against somebody that maybe is in the approval chain or what have you, that says, “Oh, I like what you’ve done here but can we also just include this?”
You know, in almost every case that is a choice to dilute attention, which in almost every case will detract from the main desired action that you want those folks to take or the main message that you want them to ingest. It is by necessity the case. So, that’s just what we ought to be aware of, and I just… Most people, especially outside of the marketing function that marketing sometimes has to answer to, they just don’t get this.
Jeff White: Yeah. And I mean it sounds a bit harsh to suggest that doing so is not respecting your audience, but in a way it isn’t. I mean, in a way you’re not respecting your audience’s ability to absorb things appropriately and kind of be led through their journey with you, and you’re trying to get them to consider everything all at once, which they just simply cannot do. You’re not respecting them.
Carman Pirie: Yeah. I think that’s an interesting way to think of it because it’s embedded in a level of empathy for the audience and a desire to try to understand them. But in some ways it’s a bit of a false choice, too, because you’re not really choosing between do I choose to respect the audience and therefore only communicate what’s essential right now and then let an experience unfold that I created? Is that something that… It’s a choice between that and trying to do everything, and by trying to do everything actually getting nothing. Because they’re not gonna pay attention to the everything. The marketer or sometimes the people approving the marketing, that’s what they’re thinking. “Oh. Well, we have a choice to communicate one thing or everything? Well, I’m gonna choose everything then. I’d be an idiot to only choose the one thing.” But it’s actually not. It’s actually a choice between communicating one thing and communicating nothing.
Jeff White: Yeah. What was that thing David Ogilvy said that you mentioned the other day?
Carman Pirie: I think he said a lot of things.
Jeff White: Yeah, but it was specifically related to this about… It’s around the idea of respecting your-
Carman Pirie: Yeah. It is a notion of respecting your customers. Again, in B2C reference probably, of course, but it’s the customer is not a moron. She’s your wife.
Jeff White: Ignoring the patriarchal element of that, that it came from, but-
Carman Pirie: Well, but I kind of like part of that, the notion that the husband-wife part of that is kind of interesting too, because embedded in that is that she chose you, so if you’re assuming she’s a moron and makes bad choices, so let’s talk about that choice.
Jeff White: Yeah. There’s a lot of layers to that.
Carman Pirie: Yeah. There’s a good little dig in there, but the sentiment is of course one of respect the audience, and in some ways it’s an interesting thing when you say, “Oh, our audience is very technical. We have an engineering audience and therefore we’re going to respect their desire and thirst for information and we’re gonna give it all to them right at once.” It’s like no, that’s not… They’re still human. They still consume information in a human way. They’re not robots because they’re engineers.
Jeff White: You can still orchestrate that experience and allow them to discover the information they need, but you have to realize you can’t do it through seven CTAs that are all competing.
Carman Pirie: Yeah. Exactly. Yeah.
Jeff White: Well, I think that’s fascinating.
Carman Pirie: Yeah. I think it’s just… I hope we’ve given folks a couple of extra kind of tools in their tool chest to help win these arguments and make your marketing messaging more single-minded. I think you’ll find it certainly increases its effectiveness.
Jeff White: We’ll leave it at that. Thank you.
Carman Pirie: Cheers.
Announcer: Thanks for listening to The Kula Ring, with Carman Pirie and Jeff White. Don’t miss a single manufacturing marketing insight. Subscribe now at kulapartners.com/thekularing. That’s K-U-L-Apartners.com/thekularing.