The dirty little secret about simple: It’s actually hard to do. That’s why most people make complex stuff. Simple requires deep thought, discipline, and patience – things that many companies lack. That leaves room for you. Do something simpler than your competitors and you’ll win over a lot of people.
There are only three major items on Chipotle’s menu: burritos, tacos, and salads. In Chipotle’s Secret Salsa, Founder and CEO Steve Ells sums up its business model in a single sentence: “Focus on just a few things, and do them better than anybody else.”
One thing you won’t find at Chipotle is dessert. Restaurant analysts say a cookie or other dessert at the end of the food line could instantly boost sales by 10 percent or more there. Ells doesn’t care. “We’ve had 10 years of double-digit comps in a row, and we’ve done that without cookies,” he says. “So why start now? I see only the downside to adding cookies.”
The yogurt chain Pinkberry started off by selling only two flavors of yogurt: original and green tea. That meant fewer worries about inventory, machinery, recipes, and other complications that would have resulted from selling a variety of products. Instead the company focused on flavor. It’s now a chain with dozens of stores and devout fans who refer to the yogurt as “Crackberry.” (Ever think about how your product would sound with “crack” as a prefix?)
This isn’t just for restaurants either. Nintendo has won big by doing less than competitors. The Flip has won a big percentage of the camcorder market by doing less. Fixed-gear bikes have been growing in popularity due to their simple, low-maintenance design.
You can try to win a features arms race by offering everything under the sun. Or you can just focus on a couple of things and do ‘em really well and get people who really love those things to love your product. For little guys, that’s a smarter route.
When you choose that path, you get clarity. Everything is simpler. It’s simpler to explain your product. It’s simpler for people to understand. It’s simpler to change it. It’s simpler to maintain it. It’s simpler to start using it. The ingredients are simpler. The packaging is simpler. Supporting it is simpler. The manual is simpler. Figuring out your message is simpler. And most importantly, succeeding is simpler.