Keeping Things Simple

One of the biggest barriers to entry for new people in building their online business is the feeling of overwhelm that people can get because of all the technology involved.  When you think about it, it’s quite a complex operation: you have to set up a web page, you have to have the ability to take payments and you need some form of technology in most cases in delivering what you’ve sold.

And before I move on, I want to stress how genuinely complicated that stuff can be.

Back in 2001, a friend of mine and I set up an online store to sell computer and console games to people.  Marketing wasn’t really our strong suit, we called the site “Deliverance” had a red “devilish” logo with a golden halo about the name.  We took out full and quarter page ads in all the physical magazines in Australia that were dedicated to gaming.  Except we didn’t say what we did, we just had a solid black page with this logo and a URL on it.

Our strength was the technology and back then, if you wanted to do e-commerce, you had to know what you were doing.  We literally built our own shopping cart from scratch in that totally integrated into our fully custom built website with completely custom built order processing.  It took us about four or five months to build.

It was complex and despite our extensive technical prowess, it had issues.  Sometimes people would place orders, we’d see the credit card gateway had processed them but we couldn’t find the order in our database.  Other times, whole products would go missing from the website.  It was crazy, but it worked – it became a handy little business.

Think about how you’d do that today?  It might take you a couple hours to get the bare bones up in Shopify… Maybe.  If you bought a skin or were willing to make some minor modifications yourself, you could easily be up and selling product on Shopify inside of a day.  Everything we had to build ourselves is handily delivered in a single package now for less than the cost of a hash brown at McDonald’s every day.

And despite how cheap and easy it is to just pay for access to Shopify, some people insist on doing the same thing we did fifteen years ago.  It’s insane.  The level of complexity and possibility for errors are outrageous and that’s ignoring stuff like security.

If it were just e-commerce you could chalk it up to an idiosyncrasy of people that want to sell products online, but it isn’t!  It is endemic across a variety of markets and business models in the online world.

People seem to want to take the easiest answer and throw it away so that they can make it unnecessarily complex.  Worse than that, they tend to do it in areas they know nothing or very little about.  The classic one is listening to people talk about “their funnel” when they have no traffic – it’s building an elevator in a one-storey building.

You should fight complexity at every turn in your business online.  When something is complicated, as yourself why.  Has someone tried to sell you something that suits them more than it did you?  Do you know exactly what purpose the complexity serves and have you examined another method?  If you’ve chosen the more complex path because it offers something you need, challenge yourself on whether you really need it.

I had a coaching client a few years back that had an amazing info product program.  It was genuinely one of the best niches I’d ever seen and they nailed the execution of the product itself.  Unfortunately, they started getting lost in the technology.  The more I would tell them to follow an easier path, the more money and effort they would throw at creating complexity in their systems.  They spent in excess of $25,000 on building out their Infusionsoft integration with their website and had almost no sales to speak of.

Eventually, the weight of the complexity of systems crushed them.  They lost their will to carry on because things got so broken and complex that every time they’d fix one problem, three more would appear.  They were unwilling to compromise or see that they didn’t need all of this technology they were deploying.  As a result, they just ended up playing whack-a-mole until they quit and gave up on the business.

That’s a pretty common thing in the online space – people bury themselves in unnecessary complexity, which leads to frustration and before long you lose interest.  They just overwhelm themselves and focus on stuff that isn’t in their skill set and doesn’t help the business progress.

Your goal should always be to root out complexity and remove it.  Make things easier to run and ensure that you work on stuff that can free you up to work on growing your business as opposed to just maintaining it.

Complexity ruins businesses, remember that.

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