Information Overload

In many ways this follows on from the post of a couple of weeks ago. Remember that folder on my desktop? Things that I really ought to read and never do?

One of the main contributors to that folder is a company called Hubspot – They’re American, and they’re successful. What do they do? Do you know, I’m not sure. Something clever with the internet and… search engines, maybe? I honestly can’t remember. I did know once, but I’ve forgotten.

That’s not to say Dr Alzheimer is tapping on my shoulder. No, the reason I’ve forgotten is that Hubspot send me so much free stuff that I’ve lost sight of their underlying message. I’ve now come to see them as simply a provider of free information.

Let’s have a quick look in my folder: never mind all the word documents and links, there are 31 PDFs that, as I confessed a fortnight ago, I’d almost certainly benefit from reading. At least half of them are from Hubspot, including:

25 Website Essentials
15 Business Blogging Mistakes
Hubspot Twitter guide 2011
Hubspot Whitepaper – Get Found Online

As I say, all stuff that I really ought to read – and really don’t have the time. There isn’t a week goes past when Hubspot don’t send me at least one (and sometimes more) guide-that-I-really-ought-to-read.

So much so that their main message – whatever it might be – has been lost among the noise. ‘Another e-mail from Hubspot. Another free guide,’ is how my chain of thought goes. Are they giving me customer service which is too good? Or are they battering me with information overload which is badly misfiring?

I tend towards the latter.

Clearly Hubspot are successful. But are they as successful as they could be? And is there a lesson that we can all learn?

You need to make sure that your business has a clear message, and that you communicate that message simply and effectively. I think what the Hubspot example shows is that your message must be clear, simple, blindingly obvious and not drowned in the clutter – especially as more and more business moves online. And that sometimes, you need to stand back and say, ‘Enough’s enough. If they don’t understand what I’m selling by now, maybe they never will.’

I was chatting to a fairly blunt web design expert the other day. He said that the landing page of your website had to answer four very simple questions:

Where am I?
Why am I here?
What’s in it for me?
What do I do next?

With a few tweaks, those questions could be applied to your key business message as well.

Even if you’re presenting your message face-to-face, make sure that it’s clear and unambiguous. “I’m a fitness coach for pregnant women” works (and more or less ticks those four boxes.) Mumbling about a bit of coaching and maybe some web design and maybe doing two days a week on something else definitely doesn’t work. And never will.

Remember too that you can’t be all things to all men. Don’t be afraid to say, ‘No, I don’t do that.’ After all, if you’re a member of the Alternative Board, chances are that you know someone who does do it. And who does it well.

But let me know what you think. Which business messages – either your own (and there’s a chance for some advertising…) or somebody else’s – work really well? And to keep us entertained, which ones don’t work?

And a clear, simple, unambiguous message from me to finish with. Thanks for continuing to read the blog. Have a great weekend.



  1. Steven Partridge · March 2, 2012

    I think the best messages engage actual or potential clients or customers. People need to be aware of your existence, what you do and how you can help, but ‘hard sell’, certainly in the professional field, does not work.

    Overload doesn’t work either. Certainly I suffer from overload, but I think I have now developed a sense of what I find interesting and helpful, keep that and don’t bother with the rest!

  2. Dave Rawlings · March 2, 2012

    The problem is to be specific about what you do, and who you do it for, without excluding more than you want to. So the trick is to devise a statement or tag-line (or image I suppose) that does this memorably. Rob “Death and Disease” Brooks is a good example!
    None of us wants to feel belittled by too narrow a description or public perception of ourselves. The boxer Jack Bodell (going back a bit now) had a smallholding in Derbyshire as well as being a professional fighter. A newspaper article poked fun at him and called him a “chicken farmer”. Bodell came back with “I’m not just a chicken farmer. I’ve got a horse!”

  3. Cath Blakey · March 2, 2012

    Think we all have good intentions to read those emails with the hope we will tweet better, work better and be a better person – but generally they stay cluttering your desktop (or if you are organised languish in a folder!!).

    My Business “The Fuse Creative Marketing” – we do marketing and we are creatives – hopefully we say what we do!

    Straplines are great – but remember be quick sharp and to the point, you have 4 secs on the home page of your website to say those 4 key points. Don’t build a pretty website build one that works, thats what we do (they genrally look nice too!).

  4. Jordan · March 2, 2012

    Great article. The idea that “less is more” is another way to think about it. Right now with the small business that I work for, we are trying to accomplish what this article says. Which is to have it made very clear what we do for a client and how we do it. In the industry we are in we are trying to find a niche and really define ourselves set the company apart from our competition.

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