If I were to ask you to quickly name ten companies who have tried to communicate with you in the last day, could you do it? If you’re like me, you might struggle to recall ten specific companies. Now, think about how many messages you are exposed to each day. How many do you see on your commute to work? As you watch TV or listen to the radio? At the top, bottom and sides of the web pages you’re viewing? Interrupting your latest game of Trivia Crack? In almost every place and at every time of day people are surrounded by marketing messages.
With so many opportunities to see or hear these messages, why do we struggle to retain or even notice so much of the information that is right in front of us? The answer is that our everyday lives are filled with communications clutter. Strategic marketer and author J. Walker Smith explained it this way:
“Advertising clutter is the single biggest problem with marketing. Not just today, but as long as advertising has been around. People are annoyed by ads that show up in unfamiliar places, but become used to them over time.
Yet, consumers can process no more information today than they could before, and perhaps even less. Multi-tasking is just a fancy word for paying little attention to many more things at once. If we really want to do good marketing, then we have to get out of the clutter business and stay solidly in the communication business.”
The multifamily industry is not immune to this clutter as the millions of listings on Apartments.com, Craigslist, and other internet listing services attest to. There is no shortage of apartment options for prospective renters to consider. All of this “noise” from competitors makes it difficult to capture attention, but sometimes marketers can create an even bigger problem by muddling up their own messages with too much information. Take a quick look at a few apartment community ads and it becomes apparent that many feel compelled to pack as many features and amenities as possible into even the smallest of ad spaces. This all-in-one information approach is understandable given the high cost of obtaining leads, but can often cause consumer eyes to quickly look elsewhere.
As a marketer, I’ve thought a lot about how to solve this problem of clutter in my own communications. My mind consistently comes back to the oft-cited KISS principle. KISS, an acronym for “Keep it simple, stupid”, promotes the idea that most things work best when they are left in simple form. In other words, in processes, communications, designs, etc., we should work to eliminate unnecessary complexity that can distract from our main point.
So how do you keep it simple? For me, the best way to maintain simplicity is to ask myself one question, “What is the single most important idea I want to communicate?” Posing this question, prior to creating a message, forces me to rank possible messages and then simplify to one idea.
Identifying a single focus allows a communicator to really hone in on the most compelling way to communicate their message. Some may worry that paring down to one main idea will not be enough to cause their audience to act. Remember that in advertising or other response messaging, it’s attention first and action second. Your ads will never be the most influential reason for people to buy into your message, it’s the conversations with property staff that are most effective. By simplifying your message to a compelling reason or benefit, you’ll pique curiosity and then can leave the real explaining and selling to your leasing agents.
An additional tip for keeping it simple is to let images speak some of your words. For example, an apartment community who uses their pool as a major selling point would be well-served to show an appealing image of the pool rather than just listing “pool” as part of their amenity list. An infographic highlighting the number of hours residents spent at the pool or how many bottles of sunscreen were used might be another interesting way to communicate benefits of the pool in a simple and interesting way. Visuals often pull people in when a block of text may cause them to keep looking.
Lastly, after a message has been sent, how can you tell if your message was simple enough? The most obvious indicator will be if your recipient takes the desired action, but even if this doesn’t happen there is great value in doing some regular analysis. Using a messaging tool makes it easy to review analytics and discover how many impressions ads are receiving, what time of day messages are most effective, which types of subject lines are performing best, etc. Looking at the numbers allows you to pinpoint effective messages and to simplify future messages to focus around those themes.
There’s enough clutter in the world around us. When it comes to communicating, take the time to really think through your message and remember to keep it simple.