Sell With KISS, As In Keep It Simple, Stupid

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One of the most useful and fundamental communications lessons that has been repeated to me over the years, ever since my earliest days of formal business training, is the fabled, famous, and fabulous "KISS" formula.

In my college marketing class we were told "Keep It Simple, Stupid!" When I entered my three-month sales-training orientation at New York Telephone way back in 1968, it was a more refined "Keep It Short and Simple." New York Telephone didn't want us recruits to hear negative words like stupid. In Army OCS we were given a variation of KISS. KIFSS wasn't quite as short and simple, but it left its firm, indelible training mark with a greater sense of, uh, military bearing. Even though he was never in the service, I see from recent news items that Veep Dick Cheney has picked up that same military jargon.

However we choose to use it, simple messages have the greatest impact. That is why concept slogans like "Intel Inside" are so successful.

Think about how the major players in today's highly successful technology sector apply the KISS formu-la. Microsoft simplifies its message in its definitive product names: Word, Office, At Work, Excel. These are all KISS names that don't require you to think too much to figure out what the products are about.

If your product or service is not already a household word in your vertical niche market, rather than rely on words like fast and easy, what you really need to convey is a word that you can brand that tells it all.

Which brings us to your message. Here's are four steps for simplifying your marketing message and defining your market position.


Think of all the things you do and sell as accommodations to meet customer demands, and then work up a more narrowly defined, focused list of those things you prefer to sell to make money.

When you get right down to it, you probably offer a lot more products and ser-vices than you want to, but you have to, in order to meet certain customer expectations.

This is fine, but let's face it. Unless you're a distributor like Wal-Mart or Costco, you don't really want to promote everything you sell, do you? I know I don't. Loss leaders are not a part of the value-added service niche that we are comfortable with, although dozens of Internet companies are willing to lose money to buy market share in the hopes of selling, not profitable products, but their own stock on Wall Street. I've been read-ing the red-ink quar-terly financials of the latest of these short-term wonders.


Determine who your com-petition is and what makes him/her better.

Determine why other people buy from him and not from you.

How does a fresh competitive analysis assist you in simpli-fying your message and improve your chance of success? First, it's a reality check to determine if you have chosen the right niche to domi-nate, or if you merely are suffering the after-effects of second-hand smoke from Cheech and Chong's cigarettes. (If you don't understand this, ask your folks and I guess I am older than I think).

Second, how can you even con-sider communicating a competitive positioning message unless and until you can verbalize what you are competing against?


Now, let's discuss what you bring to the marketplace that's newer, cheaper, stronger, better tasting, less filling, fat free, or otherwise truly unique.

Under no cir-cumstances are you allowed to say that you "care more" than the com-petition, or that you are "more service oriented". Everybody says that.

You are not all things to all people, but you are all things to some people, sort of like Rush Limbaugh or Ralph Nader. You probably fit the same description. If you take the time to write down what you do that is all things to some people, you can take it all the way to the bank.


You've defined your focus, decided where you can't beat the competition, and determined where you can beat them cold. Now tie it up in a neat verbal bundle.

Remember, the point of all this is not to see how cute you can write; that's my job. Instead, just try to communicate simply and directly what you do and what you want the reader to do (like call you). Most importantly, don't forget to test your message on the unsuspecting to see if what they read is the same as what you think you wrote.

A winning message is one that can be read on Monday and recalled on Tuesday or, dare we hope it, Wednesday. I test my mate-rial out on friends, relatives and the guy who owns the local diner - people not in the business.

I figure that if those outside the business can easily understand what I'm talking about without explanation, then I won't have to worry that my message is too obscure or cryptic. That's the heart and soul of the KISS formula.

(From "Smart Marketing ? What big companies practice and you should learn about marketing branding and business development" by Stan Rosenzweig).

About The Author

Stan Rosenzweig is a sales trainer, marketing consultant and author. He creates customized corporate sales training and directs strategic marketing, product development and cost management consulting for large and middle sized companies.

For ten years, he was senior contributing editor for a major computer trade publication, writing over 120 articles on sales and marketing management. He has published five books, including "Smart Selling", "Smart Telemarketing", and "Smart Marketing" which can be sampled at

Rosenzweig has written and collaborated in writing of monographs for clients, including "Engineering a Technologically Superior Building", "Technology Construction Planing - Completing The Project Management Mission", and a series of self-paced training courses for specific clients.

This article is copyright 2004, Stan Rosenzweig. Reprint permitted only if in entirety with attribution and web address. For more articles go to his website.

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