marketing and sales executives from Silicon Valley

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Simple or Complex - the waffle paradox and the not-so-easy answer

Seth Godin's "waffle paradox" is one of those topics that seems to trip up fast acting decision makers. After all, people like simple answers, they make great sound bites -- and who needs complexity?

On the other hand, as Seth Godin points out:
"Nuance is the sign of an intelligent observer. Nuance shows restaint and maturity and an understanding of the underlying mechanics of whatever problem we're wrestling with. After all, if the solution was simple, we would have solved it already."
This goes back to a discussion I recently had over search engine marketing (SEM) and search engine optimization (SEO). The person I spoke with had been pitched by an SEO firm which told him that he needed to pay $30,000 to SEO his site to drive more traffic, close more leads, increase revenues, etc. It sounded so simple that he could just pour money on the unverified problem, and things would magically happen. The pitch was short, sweet, and direct -- AND good enough that the person asked me if it was worth it.

My response was "it's not that simple". I had a number of questions: Did he even know if there was a problem? If so, how large was it? Were there any signs of lost business? Would he really recover the $30,000 costs through increased sales? What would he really get for that $30,000? Did he get a free audit from any of the hundreds of SEO firms that will do free SEO audits in hopes of winning the business?

I worried that my response was too complicated. My colleague appreciated the list of questions, as they justified the uneasiness he felt during the SEO firm's pitch. He wanted nuance, but that would not have captured his ear. As it turned out, nuance had to combat simplicity. Of course, I had the context to ask the right questions.

So I don't blame the SEO firm for over simplifying in their pitch. Simplicity works - increase revenue, cut costs, don't leave money on the table. That get's my ear. On the other hand, simple may get you to the dance floor, but a business relationship is closer to a Tango with intricacies that are just more complicated.

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