When my daughters were little, I used to love to read them one particular book. It was called Simple Pictures Are Best. It’s the story of a farmer and his wife who decide to hire a professional photographer.
When the photographer comes, the couple can’t decide what to wear, where to sit or what to include in the picture. The farmer ends up wearing his new shoes on his feet and his old shoes on his ears while holding bundles of farm produce. His wife wears both of her hats, includes all her pets and stuffs her pockets with cooking and gardening utensils.
Each time the couple decides to add something to the picture, the photographer advises them that “simple pictures are best!” Finally, all the commotion causes a bull to charge the photographer, and the only picture taken that day is of the bull.
Recently, I worked with Ryan, whose company provides computer graphics to financial services companies. Ryan had been running two expensive half-page ads every week in a local, general-interest newspaper.
“How much business do these ads generate?” I asked him. He said he didn’t know. It turned out he had been running the ads for years and spending hundreds of thousands of dollars but had never asked his new clients how they had found out about him. “If you don’t know if there’s any benefit to running these ads, why do you keep running them?”
Ryan explained that he had started the campaign along with several other broad marketing efforts years earlier. He also disclosed that he was paying for a lot of other advertising and marketing efforts without knowing whether they were working.
I thought of the farmer with his shoes on his ears and his arms full of produce. “Simple pictures are best,” I told him, and this applies also to marketing: