According to Seth Godin, the most effective billboard ad ever says, “free coffee, next exit.” In four words we know the incentive and what action to take. The ad tells a simple story – to get this, do that. Let’s call it “The Billboard Rule.”
The Billboard Rule reminds us that no matter how complex our processes and procedures are, they have at their core, a simple story about what they accomplish. The simple story, and only the simple story, is what goes on the billboard.
When someone is driving by our billboard at 70 miles per hour, they don’t need to hear about how we sourced free-trade coffee to come up with the finest beans which are then roasted locally before being bagged and purchased by this specific highway rest stop to encourage travelers to visit. This is simplified on the billboard.
From the customer’s perspective, they don’t need to be reminded that if they tell the kids to stop singing for a moment, double-check the GPS expected arrival time, glance at their mirrors, put their turn signal on, and get off at the next exit – then they can get a free cup of coffee. That is simplified on the billboard too.
“Free coffee, next exit.” To get this, do that.
We run complicated businesses. We have processes and procedures and nuances that give credence to why others can’t just do what we do. The bigger story about our depth still matters, it just doesn’t belong on the billboard.
The Billboard Rule serves as a reminder to think about the medium we are using, and how to use it most effectively. It doesn’t summarize everything, it just distills the next, most effective step in the journey our clients are on at the moment we are reaching them.
Our value isn’t just in the things we do, it’s in making it easier for our clients to get what they want. Not everything at once, but in easy to follow steps.
Keep it simple. Keep it actionable. The Billboard Rule is a powerful one to remember.