Simplicity is Key: What We Can Learn from a 17 Year Old Multimillionaire


British teen Nick D’Aloisio recently made the news worldwide. The 17 year old popped up in headlines everywhere on Monday, March 25th, after he sold an app he developed to Yahoo for a reported $30 million. The app in question is called Summly and it allows users to more efficiently scan news stories by providing summaries within 400 characters based on the set of preferences the user inputs. The teen founder, who taught himself to code at the ripe old age of 12, claims that the genetic algorithm he developed actually mimics the way humans think, meaning that the app provides key points that matter most to people.

summly-simpleAt the heart of Nick D’Aloisio’s story is a powerful lesson for marketers and business owners alike: keep things simple. All too often we over-think and over-complicate our marketing communications to the point where the true message or purpose is lost or diluted. D’Aloisio’s idea was uncomplicated; he wanted to give people a way to get the key takeaways from news stories that matter to them all in one place.

So how can we follow in D’Aloisio’s footsteps so that we may also succeed in our business endeavors? Start by following the tips below. They may not guarantee you a cool $30 million, but they will help you simplify your marketing for better communication with your customers.

  • Refine Your Business Concept:

    The number one piece of advice we can give is to have a very straight forward business concept. You should be able to answer the questions “who are you?” and “what does your business do?” in one sentence, as we’ve done above with D’Aloisio’s idea for Summly. If you need more than one sentence to describe your business, not only does it mean that you are potentially confusing your customers, it shows that you are not so sure about what you do yourself.

  • Keep it Brief:

    From your social media posts to your blog, brevity is a virtue. When creating and dispersing your content, re-read it and ask yourself if everything you included is really necessary in order for your customers to glean your message. Trim unnecessary words and sentences. Also think about your medium. For example, Twitter allows you to include 140 characters, but for retweetable content you should keep it under 90 in order to allow your followers to add their thoughts.

  • Use Bullets:

    When it comes to your blog and website content, bullets are a great way to pull out your main points. Ask yourself what the three to five key pieces of information are that a user should take away from that page or post. Take these topics and make them into bullet points. A key advantage to bullet points is flexibility. You can include the bare minimum or you may add further detail. Should you choose the latter, bold the main points as we have here so that a user may quickly glance at the points and decide whether or not they’d like to read in more detail.

  • Don’t Get Too Flashy:

    In our interactive world, we know that the temptation is to overload your content with images, videos, and effects, but use these with purpose. Make sure that the elements that you use support your points and don’t detract from them. A beautiful, image heavy page on your website will do you no good if your customers can’t discern why the webpage is there and what their next action step should be.

Today’s moral: we should all strive towards simplicity in our marketing messages. Enough said.

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