I’ve just discovered one of?the most interesting books I’ve ever run into; “Thing Explainer: Complicated Stuff in Simple Words”by Randall Munroe. Here’s how it works.
As it turns out there are only about “ten hundred” (1,000) words that we use most often. And when explanations go beyond those words, it’s highly unlikely that you will really, truly understand what you’re hearing or the reverse — what other people are hearing from you.
This isn’t a marketing book – but it sort of is
I’ve decided to tell you about this book because it is such a reflection of what DIYMarketers stands for; the idea that marketing should be simple and that it’s more important to get your message across than it is to look or sound smart. And “Thing Explainer” is exactly that kind of book, aside from being insanely fun to read — you’ll find that you’ll finally begin to understand things you thought you understood, just not in the same way.
Speaking simply is more smart than stupid
Here is a snapshot of Munroe’s description of the “International Space Station” — what he calls “The Space House” — which is exactly what it is!
Now that you’re curious — here is a list of a few other items that are included:
- food-heating radio boxes (microwaves)
- tall roads (bridges)
- computer buildings (datacenters)
- the shared space house (the International Space Station)
- the other worlds around the sun (the solar system)
- the big flat rocks we live on (tectonic plates)
- the pieces everything is made of (the periodic table)
- planes with turning wings (helicopters)
- boxes that make clothes smell better (washers and dryers)
- the bags of stuff inside you (cells)
Your Customers Will Love (Remember) You For Simplifying
This book is super fun to read. But there is a much deeper marketing lesson inside — it’s easy to hide behind tech talk and industry jargon to not only make you “sound” smart, but to also hide the fact that you might not understand the inner workings of something.
When you truly understand the inner workings of something, you should be able to explain it in words that a ten-year old can understand. This is NOT dumbing something down. It’s quite the opposite — it’s making your knowledge and expertise accessible to a broader audience. And to explain something in an understandable way is a true mark of expertise.
Don’t believe me? Here is a real-world example.
About thirty years ago I worked in the rubber industry. The company I worked for manufactured little tiny rubber parts that were used in medical devices like syringes, and IV sets. We worked with natural rubber materials (that came from trees in India) and we worked with synthetic rubber that was made in a lab. We also worked with Thermoplastic elastomers — this was a material that BEHAVED like a rubber but was manufactured like a plastic.
Wait — you probably need a picture to understand what I’m talking about — here’s one. This is what a Thermoplastic elastomer looks like —
What? Don’t you get it? How about this?
Hmmm – still doesn’t make sense?
How about this?
AHHHH — now you get it? ?The rubber stretchy strands are the spaghetti and the plastic chips are the meatballs!
This was explained to us by an award-winning, patent-holding PhD — who really knew and understood the world of rubber, plastic and —- sales.
He used this simple visual explanation to train more than 50 salespeople who did not have technical degrees, but who had to sell this product. We all walked away from that meeting seeing this scientist as more brilliant and more intelligent than anyone on that stage because he was the only one who was not afraid to simplify his message.
It’s been thirty years since I heard this 30-second explanation of what a thermoplastic elastomer was and I have never forgotten it.
Take a look at YOUR marketing materials and your messaging — is it simple enough to understand? If not, grab yourself a copy of “Thing Explainer” and start working on it.