Less Is more: Why expansion doesn’t always equal growth

- September 7, 2023 3 MIN READ


There is pressure on businesses to constantly reinvent themselves, creating new products or services, but sometimes a ‘less is more’ approach can actually lead to success, explains David Fish, founder of No Two Fish.

The problem starts when there is a feeling of not having enough of something; not enough products to sell, not enough proof points, not enough options to choose from – ‘What if they don’t like that one? We should cover a couple of bases with a few more options’ – even insufficient slides to make a valid argument or look like you have really thought this through – ‘We can’t present a $1 million solution on just one slide … can we?’ This then leads to expansion, which starts out as a positive. You go into creator mode, resolving this feeling by doing and creating more and more.

When it becomes too much

The problem is that you don’t stop. You just keep expanding. And as you do so, there is this silent expectation that you have to keep everything you have now sourced and created. You need to sell everything, put every product on sale, squeeze every poof point in every ad on every channel – and we simply must present every single slide in the deck… Have you ever felt the expectation to include more just because it was there?

Expansion creates complexity

Dan Sullivan coined the phrase The Ceiling of Complexity ™; he discusses the idea that as you expand, there is a subtle pressure to increase your responsibilities and expectations. Eventually, these expectations add a layer of complexity that becomes a ceiling on any further progress.

Your expansion has now become your limitation

In my experience, this is the point at which you are significantly diminishing your value and even becoming hard to buy.  You have reached the point where, as you put more out in the hope that something sticks, the opposite can be true, and you get less than if you had limited choice, something that now feels very hard to do.

The easy choice is not to choose at all

As Barry Schwartz outlines in his excellent book The Paradox of Choice, giving people too much choice can be demotivating and lead to people defaulting to making no choice, choosing not to buy. Schwartz reviewed the evidence from a series of studies titled ‘When choice is demotivating’. He goes on to share the findings from an experiment that highlights how when the options increase, the sales impact does the opposite. In this experiment, consumers were presented with the chance to sample six different jams; after the tasting, 30% went on to purchase. When the selection of samples was increased to 24 different jams, only 3% of shoppers purchased. When it becomes too hard to choose, our default, the easy way out for our brain, is not to choose at all.

It is how we are wired

 When faced with a plethora of choices, our brains have to work harder to compare, processing a large amount of information to evaluate each option. This cognitive load can overwhelm us, making us feel like we have an information overload, which reduces our motivation to decide. That is not a winning combination in any sales situation I know of.  Worse still, as the choices increase, so does our fear of making a mistake: “What if I pick the wrong one? What if jam 23 is better than 19 or if jam 16 has less sugar than jam 4?”. The potential for regret and the fear of getting this wrong can literally paralyse decision-making. That isn’t a winning sales strategy, either.

Lead with value

 The breakthrough comes when you can tame expectations and refine your offer through a customer lens, aligning with their specific needs to simplify what you do and then leading with where you add the most significant value to them.

When you package how you present this fine-tuned selection, leading with value and organising how you limit choice by optimising how you display your options, you will make it easier to compare and choose. You are making it easier to buy from you.

This will unlock more value for you and for your customers than any shopping list ever will. The real challenge lies in not relapsing back into that expansion mindset and learning to extract the most from what you already have before you seek to add more.

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