Simplifying the complex is, of course, easier said than done. Whether it's explaining the value behind the engineering (the stuff you can't see), positioning a new technology, or even just describing how it's all organized - transforming the technical into the relevant is never easy. And easy in this case isn't necessarily synonymous with simple anyway. The point of simplifying is finding the balance between significance and sophistication. And of course, knowing your audience. 

If you can't explain it simply then you don't understand it well enough. – Albert Einstein

Einstein's quote is sure to ruffle any technical person's feathers if you challenge them with it. After all, their job is to know the details and every detail about the details. But as a marketer, or business person, you have to be able to unwind all the facts and figures, specs and functions, to find the significant nuggets of information that can be simplified into value and everyday language for your client.

Why? Well, for the most part, clients don't care as much about the how. Don't get me wrong, the how is relative and certain points are important to give them confidence your solution will work. But on the other hand, they simply want to know why they should buy and what's in it for them. No one wants to do the work for you to figure out exactly what you do and why they should care. They want the relative. They want the significant. And they want to consume it simply. 

Now, I can already hear the objections through some of your computer microphones. So I'd like to make one clarification: if your audience is a very technical audience, then yes, they will want to dig deeper into the how. They will need more information, more facts, more details. And they will want the back-up. But even so, the main goal is still to identify what is most relative and organize the information in a way that is easy to consume and to understand. 

So how do you go about simplifying the complex? It always starts with them.

In the blog post Whole-mindedness, we talk about empathy and really that's at the center of simplifying. You have to start with walking in the audience's shoes and discover what is significant to them

Once you have your audience mapped out, you can turn the lens back to you to sort through all the complexity of what you do, how you do it, why you do it, and so on. Ann Handley talks about always creating "the ugly first draft" in book Everybody Writes. Though Ann applies it to copywriting, really it's necessary for the simplifying the complex process. The concept is easy – get it all out there, map what you do, how you do it, and all the good stuff. Understand the details. Understand the technical. Understand the complex. Create an ugly first draft of everything that might be relative.

Then go back and completely rip it apart. Sweat the details. Look at your audience map and decide what they care about versus what you can put on the shelf so you can still look at your prize-winning trophy, but you don't bore your audience with doing so. Think about the other aspects of whole-minded marketing (design, symphony, play, story, and meaning) and how you can transform the data into simple, easy to grasp information. And then ask yourself these simple questions:

  1. Am I speaking in my audience's language?
  2. Am I only supplying them with the information they ask for and that adds value to them?
  3. Is there an easier way to communicate or display the information? 
  4. Are there words or points that I could take out? Anything not relative?
  5. Have I distilled everything down to its most significance?
  6. Is there anything left that makes me feel good but doesn't actually matter to my client?

In our upcoming blog posts we will dig deeper into the simplifying the complex concept and provide more tools and tips. But in the meantime, remember Einstein's words and that simple = significance.