Simplify, Simplify, Simplify (Issue 1107)

In which we are reminded to help clients simplify their purchases of complex products by recommending options based on how they use them and likely outcomes (advantages and benefits) rather than technical wizardry (features). 

It should arrive by Friday, the laptop I’ve just purchased. My six-year-old, well-loved, dependable, two-keyboards-worn-out machine has developed some problems; the repairs would cost more than half as much as the replacement and it’s time to keep up with changes in ports and other features that have evolved in the last few years.

I have long preferred laptops and peripherals provided by a particular large PC manufacturer so I went to their website to look.

Yikes…. As the company’s website says, at one point, “There could be 10,000 products with the same model number and 1000 products with the same product number.” [There was more and you get the idea.]

The company offers 17 different models and I’d never heard of most of them. Where even to begin?

So, I typed the model number and product number of my current laptop into their search bar. They still make that model (they’re now in generation 10; my machine is generation 3) and there were 20 product variations on that single model, all with different price points. How could that be?

I used the compare feature. The differences showed up in operating system, chip (i.e., Intel® Core™ i5-1335U, Intel® Core™ i7-1370P, Intel® Core™ i7-1355U, and a half dozen other options), RAM (amount – 8GB, 16GB, 32GB, 64GB, number of cores, and number of threads), storage capacity (256GB, 512GB, and 1 TB), and “ready to ship” or “customizable”.

Seriously…? And this is only one manufacturer of dozens in the PC world.

I made a few decisions in seconds (14-inch screen, Windows 11 Pro (with a few concerns), ready to ship, price point, business-oriented rather than consumer, weight less than 4 pounds). I called my IT guy. “How much RAM and how much storage? He responded, “For you, 16GB and 512MB. You don’t need any more than that.”

With all of those criteria, I used the “all laptops search” feature. The search results suggested fifteen machines in five different model series. The company’s descriptions of the machines made all of them sound perfect, like I’d be sitting on top of the world, feeling the rush of their speed, power, and color.

I flipped out to the web, searching local retailers’ sites (not helpful) and digging for reviews and articles to “compare Model X to model Y” and “compare chip X to chip Y”. After three days and several HOURS of searching and reading, I narrowed my search to three model series offered by my favorite manufacturer.

I called the company’s help line and connected with a very sweet guy in Barcelona, Spain. “How can I tell which of these product series is right for me?” Without asking a single question, he responded by discussing the chips and chip speed, graphics cards, and storage.

Thoroughly frustrated, I called a tech-savvy friend. He asked a few questions about how I use my machine and then spent an hour looking at the machines I’d identified; searching the web for other options with better price points; mumbling bits I didn’t understand; and explaining the nomenclature to me, his non-technical friend.

“You know,” he said, after a while, “you probably wouldn’t notice the differences between any of these machines. These companies should offer simple sorting options for non-technical buyers based on how they use the machines rather than technical features, something like, ‘Choose screen size, laptop color, and weight and, then, ‘if you (do/don’t) use CAD/CAM or other design software and you (do/don’t) use massive spreadsheets or create huge PowerPoint decks and you (do/don’t) do video or audio creation or editing, and you have this much budget, here are three machines that could work, sorted by price point.”

Framed that way, I could have made my decisions in two minutes.

[And…please don’t write to me and tell me I should have gone to an Apple store. I get that!]


Nick Miller is President of Clarity Advantage based in Concord, MA. He assists banks and credit unions to generate more and more profitable relationships, faster, with business clients, their owners, and their employees through better sales strategies and execution. Additional articles on Clarity’s web site.


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