One of the most surprising things for solo professionals to find out is that their prospects (potential customers) actually will more often make a purchase when they have less choice about what they can buy. It seems counterintuitive, doesn't it? I've seen more than one solopreneur run herself ragged, trying to finish many different “product lines” because she believed it was the way to make more money. In other words, if you have 3 e-books to sell, 12 e-books is better because there are four times as many chances that you will make a sale. Or, if you have bookkeeping services to offer, and you also add personal concierge services and web design, you will surely sell more over a year's time.
Guess what? Neither neuroscience or marketing research backs this up! I remember one of the first things I heard from Ali Brown a few years ago, and I've now heard it repeated by several other top Internet marketers. “The confused mind doesn't buy.” Ali applies this to several situations. She'll say, for instance, that if your prospect isn't crystal clear about exactly what next to do to place an order on your website, you will lose the sale. But she also means it when she works with you in creating what you offer. “Don't make it too complicated, keep it simple and streamlined,” she'll say. “The confused mind doesn't buy.”
Sometimes this is tough to take for a solopreneur who is good at many things. Those types of people tend to fight narrowing down their target market like tigers fighting over the last piece of carrion. But the truth is, if you say you are good at everything, you do make people wonder what, indeed, you are best at. It's wise to narrowly focus, knowing something very well and sticking to offering products and services around that thing. Later on, when you've met your market and built credibility, you can add another target or create another offer.
Professor Sheena Iyengar, who teaches at Columbia Business School, has been studying the science of decision for years. If you want to pick her brain on this topic, get a copy of her newest book, The Art of Choosing. She first discovered that children were happier when they were given only one toy to play with rather than a wide choice. Over time, she came to understand that what matters to us is the number of options we have when we make a decision, not just the options themselves.
Another researcher, a professor at Princeton, discovered that after about five to nine items our ability to choose becomes too complicated. This is one reason I teach my business clients to limit packages to three offers for their customers. We can easily wrap our minds around three. If you are a wedding planner, for instance, and you offer a bridge and groom 3 main types of packages, they will choose one and go happily on, perhaps asking you to customize one of the packages a little bit for them. But if you offer that same couple 27 packages, it becomes too complicated and overwhelming. They may well walk away, trying to decide. And BAM! Someone comes along with a simplified version of what you offered, they sigh in relief, and pick one – from the smarter wedding planner.
Here's my best advice to solopreneurs who are wondering about how to showcase what they offer.
- Keep your offers very simple and clear. If you have several different categories of products and services, label them very differently.
- Offer no more than 3 options of any one category. You can always charge more for customizing one package if that is requested.
- Keep your payment plans simple. Depending on the price point of what you offer, provide options for a single payment and perhaps a two-pay or three-pay installment over one or two months. Keep in mind that you want to collect your money before your product or service is entirely consumed, however.
- Use a matrix (a chart) to show what options are included in each package. People can then see at a quick glance what they are purchasing, and what is not included. It makes choosing easier.
Keeping your selections simple also goes for how you offer your products and services, but that's a topic for another day. Don't overwhelm your potential customers, and don't overwhelm yourself, either. You will make more money in less time, and you will also have more satisfied customers. It's a win-win all the way around! Less choice = more sales. Strange, isn't it?
(c) Sue Painter