If You Want Action, Start by Simplifying

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In my professional career, I have seen, with my own eyes:

  • A binder of over 200 pages meant to explain “our brand idea.”  (“Just absorb these 30,000 words, and you’ll get it.”)
  • A presentation by an agency president to his employees, listing 19 strategic priorities.  (“Our success depends on only 19 things!  Memorize them all!  Now get to work, and good luck.”)
  • An 80-page marketing plan.

That last one was my own creation, by the way.  Very early in my career, I mistakenly equated volume with quality.  Fortunately, I had a boss who set me straight.  After patiently allowing me to walk through all 80 pages, he asked a series of smart, pointed questions.  Among them:

“If you had 5 minutes of my time instead of 90, what would you keep from this deck?

Point taken, sir.

In many companies, this is considered productive.

Nowadays, my deliverables to my clients typically include a single-page summary.  It’s entirely possible to capture the core elements of positioning or strategy on one page.  (With normal margins and 12-point text.)  There’s plenty of support behind this single sheet of paper, but getting it on one page matters – a lot – in execution.

Why?  Because if I can make strategy easy to convey, my clients are better set up for success.  As just one example, a one-page summary provides excellent guidance for a company-wide presentation or a board meeting.  Simplifying helps.

Of course, executing plans across departments often requires more detail.  In that case, the summary helps to ensure that everything cascades cohesively.

Some consultants believe they’re paid by the page.  But my goal is to create meaningful change in an organization.  Change depends on action.  Action depends on clarity.

Change depends on action. Action depends on clarity. Click To Tweet

There’s a saying: “If you can’t simplify it, you haven’t understood it.”  I’d add: “If you can’t simplify it, you can’t communicate it.”  And if you can’t communicate it, you’ll never get the action you seek.

If you want change, start with a simple, clear message.

Ask & Act:

  • Can you summarize the core of your brand strategy and positioning on a single page?
  • Could you capture the key aspects of your brand plans (situational assessment, objectives and next steps) in less than 12 single-sentence bullet points total?
  • If you’re leading a team, ask them to generate a single-page summary for any important strategic documents.

About Matthew Fenton: Matthew helps challenger brands to focus, grow and win.  Since founding his consultancy, Three Deuce Branding, in 1997, he’s helped hundreds of brands to achieve “brand clarity.”  His consulting services and speaking engagements help brands to focus on what matters through positioning, strategy and ideation.  Contact Matthew here.  He calls Chicago home.

Copyright 2017 – Matthew Fenton. All Rights Reserved. You may reprint this article with the original, unedited text intact, including the About Matthew Fenton section.