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Mastering Tech Product Complexity Through Simplification

January 14, 2022 Elke Nijhoff

How to simplify and communicate a complicated tech product?

Apple has effectively proven to the entire world that “the simpler, the better,” yet tech founders and CEOs still struggle with one concept: simplifying their technology.

They’ve worked months and even years on a brilliant product, living inside the weeds of its technology. How would they be able to dump all this down and write to the 10th-grade level? 

I totally get it. 

But here’s one question for you. Have you ever noticed all the Excel commands at the top of a spreadsheet? Do you ever use them? Most of us key in numbers into rows and columns, do some basic formatting, use the AVERAGE and SUM, and that is pretty much it, right?

Does Microsoft promote all Excel’s functionality? 

No, it’s a spreadsheet. 

I understand that your tech product might be a game-changer, and you don’t want any of that getting lost, and you don’t want it to seem too ordinary and not innovative enough. But neither do you want customers leaving demos confused with no clue what you are trying to communicate. 

Simplifying your product messaging and positioning doesn’t mean finding the perfect 3 words that sum up everything. Instead, shift your perspective away from your product features towards your customer’s pain points and motivations and see your product from their eyes. 

Simple doesn’t feel natural to most tech founders, but the complex is even more awkward, and here’s why. 

Product differentiation has nothing to do with its technical features anyway.

Indeed, customers are generally willing to pay for a product that solves their problem only if they know what those features could mean for them. And they rarely have this clarity and recognize their pain points in the first place. Instead, tell a story about your customers and show how this product will change their lives for the better. 

Simplifying your tech product is not about explaining its powerful features in layman’s terms. But helping target customers relate to it. In other words, it’s translating how it works into how they’re going to benefit from it and how it fits into their current world. 

In short: To keep your customers, keep it simple. 

Here’s how to get started. 

1. Always start with the problem you are solving, not your product or the technology and innovation.

2. Do not just indicate the benefits your customers will get but how your product will help them achieve those benefits. Otherwise, you’ll be simply communicating a set of claims.

3. Identify who your target customers are and describe your product in terminologies used and understood by them.

4. Support your message with real, practical examples if possible.

5. Test your messaging with people that represent the average buyer, not the sophisticated one.

6. Don’t try to describe everything your product does. Overfocusing on the benefits can turn them off. Instead, mention the relevant ones only.  

Simplifying complexity and figuring out what messages to send is not easy. Everyone wants to show how smart, innovative, and out-of-the-box their product is. But as simple as this might seem, being able to speak directly to your customer turns heads, changes minds, and encourages action. 

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Elke Nijhoff - Product Marketer & Strategist

The world is changing fast. I have always been interested in how products and companies can remain relevant with ever changing markets, competitors and customers. Having worked for different technology providers in different growth stages, focussed on both internal growth and change as well as external customers, I have learned how to get the results needed with minimal disruption. I also love to write about the topic, hope you enjoy it!

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