The critical few
Stop doing more things poorly, start doing fewer things better
There’s an unstated elegance about focusing on less in your digital efforts. In fact, my most successful blogs, clients, marketing programs were ones where we refined efforts over time to do more of less. We discovered what worked, found a formula, dialed it up and relentlessly removed the fluff.
This is counter intuitive to how most of the marketing/PR and business world functions. The majority want to implement an ever-expanding mix of tactics over time (they think more activity is always better, to the point some people miss offices purely because they like to see their team working, which of course has nothing to do with results).
And while I’m not advocating you don’t experiment - experimenting within the framework of a strategy makes a lot of sense - it shows maturity to say no to more tactics being proposed simply for the sake of doing them.
Critical few metrics
You don’t need to obsess over every metric. In fact, my friend Avinash makes a compelling case for focusing on the critical few:
If your business was on the line how would you know things are going well or badly? Cutting through all the clutter of data, what are the metrics that are your Critical Few?
Almost all of us have too many things we measure, too many things that distract us, take away our precious time / attention.
You probably have at most three Critical Few metrics that define your existence. Do you know what they are? If you have 12 then you have too many.
Indeed – while having more KPIs is OK to have as a gauge – find your critical metrics and focus on them as priority.
Critical few platforms
Seth Godin doesn’t spend time on Facebook or LinkedIn. He actually doesn’t spend much time creating content with frequency anywhere other than his own blog and is focused 100% on opt-in at the source. By doing this his community does all the propagation across channels for him and he can focus on what he does best – writing and sharing ideas with us.
Seth has true leverage on the web (and in the world) by having a community that is platform agnostic. Far more than those who have multiple communities updated sporadically in other people’s platforms where there is no control over the signal to noise ratio. I read Seth’s emails every day as do countless others. Millions buy his books and pay to attend conferences he speaks at. No one even notices he isn’t posting TikToks or various status updates. It doesn’t even matter.
Critical few words
Paul McHenry Roberts has a brilliant essay: How To Say Nothing In 500 Words (I summarized it previously here). The whole essay is worth reading and drives home the point of being succinct, but one of the points made highlights the elegance of less:
Instead of stuffing your sentences with straw, you must try steadily to get rid of the padding, to make your sentences lean and tough… You dig up more real content. Instead of taking a couple of obvious points off the surface of the topic and then circling warily around them for six paragraphs, you work in and explore, figure out the details. You illustrate.
As a marketer, writer and an artist, I’ve been trying to refine my work for years to cut out superfluous layers and force myself to focus on the meat of the issue. It takes patience and self-control, but I find I’m much happier with the results. More is common and expected. Less is rare and surprising.
Some parting thoughts…
Simplify your message and you increase the chances it will be remembered (vastly improving the changes it will actually get shared). Say too much and people will not only leave confused, they may never return.
Simplifying design to just the essentials focuses attention on less, improving user experience, mental efficiency and actions taken. Add noise and everything suffers.
Simplify your day to focus on what matters, putting everything you can’t control out of mind and get far more done. Worrying about things you can’t control is a poor use of mental energy, cause of stress and illogical.
Strip away your art to its core essence and you’ll create something elegant and timeless. Clutter it with too many layers and it will look like everything else or be too busy and ignored.
Complexity is standard and expected, simplicity is elegant and surprising because it’s daring. It requires confidence – you’re taking a chance that what you’re putting out there is good enough to stand on its own.
Complexity is more common because it provides room for excuses. If it has everything everyone wanted and fails, it’s easy to place blame. But going with less forces you to choose only the essential elements which creates a better product.
Adding more is easy, leaving things out is the challenge.