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Keep It Simple: Why Businesses Need to ‘KISS’ More and How to Do It

Sean Peek
Sean Peek

Simplicity is a powerful tool that can make your workplace more effective and creative.

There’s an effective marketing tool your business can use for virtually no cost. The “keep it simple and straightforward” (KISS) method can improve the relationship between your company and consumers, increase your team’s creativity, and minimize complications within the workplace. Let’s explore how to use the KISS principle to improve your business operations.

What is KISS, and how does it apply to businesses?

KISS is a design principle that stands for “Keep it simple and straightforward” (or sometimes “Keep it short or simple” or “Keep it simple, stupid”). For businesses, KISS can be a useful reminder not to make anything more complicated than it has to be. In a nutshell, this design principle advocates the simplification of processes and systems.

KISS can be translated into business practices in general and, in particular, marketing communication. In short, it is better to keep it simple.

Did You Know?

One company that’s famous for following the KISS principle is Apple. As Ken Segall, Apple’s creative team leader, wrote in his book Think Simple: How Smart Leaders Defeat Complexity (Portfolio, 2016), “There were principles that Steve [Jobs] would never compromise. Simplicity is one of them.”

What are the benefits of KISS?

When you keep things simple, there is more emphasis on action, fewer opportunities for problematic complications and more creativity in work projects. Kelly Johnson, a lead engineer at Lockheed Skunk Works, even applied the KISS method to military equipment designers. Johnson, aware that in battle there was no room for complications, told the designers to make equipment simple enough that the average soldier with basic training could fix it if needed. [Read more about prioritizing tasks as an entrepreneur.]

Here are some of the benefits of applying the KISS principle at your business:

Improves productivity and efficiency

While business tasks may seem overwhelming at the beginning stages, the KISS method reminds companies to look at the big picture, divide projects into smaller tasks and continue to do so until things can’t be broken down any further. The KISS principle’s simplified and direct communication methods enable productive work and more efficient problem-solving

Prevents information overload 

There’s research that demonstrates the benefits of the KISS principle. Sheena Iyengar, a professor at Columbia University and a leading expert on the theory of choice, led an experiment that showed consumers are more likely to take action if they are faced with few and simple options.

Iyengar became curious about the KISS principle when frequenting an upscale grocery store that she said made her feel like she was “going to an amusement park”; it carried over two dozen brands of bottled water, 75 kinds of olive oil, and 250 options for mustards and vinegar. Even though she had a lot of choices and enjoyed shopping, she never seemed to buy anything. 

Increases sales and customer loyalty

Barry Schwartz, author of the award-winning book The Paradox of Choice (Ecco, 2004), supports the KISS theory with his research. He suggests that consumers prefer fewer choices because, when faced with more selections, people are more likely to feel regretful, indecisive and, in general, less content than if they had fewer options. Brands with simpler offerings are rewarded with more customers and increased loyalty across all business industries.

Bottom Line

The KISS principle leads to better focus, fewer complications and, because consumers prefer fewer choices, increased sales and happier customers.

How to apply KISS to your business 

First, businesses need to analyze how easy it is for a prospective customer to fully understand what your product or service offers. Optimizing both your business’s primary channel for presenting itself (usually, a website) and your marketing communications is the best way to get customers’ attention and business. Follow these tips to apply KISS at your business:

Website homepage

  • Put important info front and center. Consider what users see when they land on your business’s homepage. The information should be simple and easy to understand. There should be a clear statement about what your business does, as well as a simple way to continue navigating the website.
  • Make it easy to navigate. To attract and engage customers, companies need to have a vision for creating a simple and easy-to-navigate website. The average website bounce rate, or the percentage of visitors who leave the website right after landing on it, is around 40% to 50%. The reason most visitors leave is that they cannot easily find what they are looking for. It is up to you to immediately convey why your product or service is valuable immediately and then make it easily accessible.
  • Make it attractive. Customers prefer graphics and visuals to blocks of text. Neutral and basic colors are not always bad; in fact, sometimes they’re better than a complex color palette that may be rough on customers’ eyes. 

Marketing communications

  • Make it clear. Many businesses make the mistake of sending mailers, emails and/or advertisements that consumers need to spend time reading before they understand what the offer or benefit is. Those are wasted marketing dollars, because people will not spend time deciphering what the mysterious offer is or what the company is trying to convey.
  • Avoid information overload. Some businesses think more information is better. The problem is, consumers do not appreciate information overload. Keeping marketing communications simple across all channels and formats is the way to get consumers’ attention and business. 
  • Prepare your sales process. When applying KISS, always plan how to address cold calls or advertisements. To create simpler products, sales associates must prepare answers to predicted responses and react accordingly. 
  • Use graphics. Try making simple instruction manuals, if applicable, or emails and text messages with simple graphics showcasing the company’s main message. This will allow customers to understand with one picture or sentence what your company is trying to get across in an email. Businesses can even allow opt-in email marketing, which can benefit both the company and the consumer.
Image Credit: Ivan-balvan / Getty Images
Sean Peek
Sean Peek
Contributing Writer
Sean Peek has written more than 100 B2B-focused articles on various subjects including business technology, marketing and business finance. In addition to researching trends, reviewing products and writing articles that help small business owners, Sean runs a content marketing agency that creates high-quality editorial content for both B2B and B2C businesses.