More jam, anyone?

Or, ‘how does having more to choose from affect your choice’?

Have you ever felt so daunted by the amount of different things to choose from that you ended up not choosing anything at all? If so, you are not alone, as the results from the following experiment show. A stall was set up in a supermarket for jam tasting. On one day the stall had 24 jams, and on a different day only 6 jams. Although the stalls with more jams attracted more attention (60% of the people passing by stopped, compared with only 40% for the small-selection stall), of the people who stopped only 4% at the stall with the larger selection subsequently bought a pot, whereas 30% of the people who stopped at the small-selection stall went on to buy a pot(1).

Too much choice can make us feel overwhelmed and not know what to choose, thereby often not making any choice at all. Even when we do choose something, we are often dissatisfied, thinking we have probably made the wrong choice (2)(3).

So what does this mean for sales and marketing?

In our B2B world we often meet very clever, very technically brilliant people in great companies who want to tell the whole world all about how technically brilliant they are. Technically brilliant people are also most often very analytical people, so they are more left-brain dominant rather than right-brain dominant. This leads them to believe that telling all of their customers about all of the facts, about all of the features and benefits of all of their products or services will just demonstrate how brilliant they are and their customers will naturally fall at their feet and want to buy their offerings. This rarely happens. This approach just frightens or baffles customers and then they’re just paralysed into doing nothing. The worst possible outcome for our technical company.

Rather than focusing on technical brilliance we believe it is much better to spend time on developing your corporate value proposition – determining exactly what your customers’ value. Spend time defining your customer groups, what offerings you have, what benefits you generate. Then do the same for your separate offerings ensuring your offerings are in alignment with your corporate view. Then develop very clear communication around the few things you want to be famous for, so long as they fit in with the corporate position.

Just think about the best retailers. Does Harrods have everything that they sell crammed into their shop windows? No. They might have one window with nothing more than a beautiful, strategically placed coffee pot on a simple table. But this coffee pot says everything about Harrods, opulence, beauty, quality, precious objects, etc. Also, all the windows will be co-ordinated together into one main theme that reinforces the main message, the main brand. So Harrods signposting is very clear to their customers.

So stop giving customers too much choice, too much information, and you might sell more jam!

I’m very interested to hear about examples of B2B companies who do this very well and also those who fall into this trap, so please let me know your examples.

(1)1 Iyengar S and Lepper M (2000) ‘When choice is demotivating: Can one desire too much of a good thing?’ Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 79, pp. 995-1006
(2) Schwarz B (2004) ‘The Paradox of Choice: Why more is less’ New York, Harper Collins
(3) This article was inspired by Behavioural Economics, New Economics Foundation, London, July 2005