Submitted Date 02/11/2019

We all know the story about Goldilocks and the three bears. It’s rather cute, isn’t it?


A young woman waltzes into a cozy woodland cottage that appears to be the handiwork of an interior decorator obsessed with the number three.


Actually, the cottage is home to a furry family of bears who have gone on a morning stroll, leaving behind three steaming hot (but hopefully cooling) bowls of porridge.


There are also three bear chairs and three bear beds in this minimalist bear family that celebrates the simplicity of handmade craftsmanship (or did they perhaps assemble the beds from Ikea?).


There are different versions of the tale (as always) but for our purposes, we’ll focus on the one where Goldilocks tries out each and every option until she finds the one that’s just right.


One porridge is too hot, the other too cold, and the middle one just right.


One chair is too big, the other too small, and the final one just right.


One bed is too hard, the other too soft, and the other one just right (we bet you want to know what mattress store that one came from).


Goldilocks falls asleep in the bed she likes best, and the bear family comes home. Like most bears, they’re pretty pissed off that someone has broken into their home, but they manage to hold some civil discourse about it, remarking that “someone” has been eating my porridge, etc., until they find the sleeping girl in the bedroom.


In the sanguine version of the tale that we’ll stick with, the frightened girl runs home, leaving us with a hazy moral to the tale.


Don’t break into people’s homes?


Don’t mess with bears?


Don’t eat strange food you find lying around?


The Magic Number


What if a business moral could be read into the story? What if Goldilocks represented customers, clients, or visitors to a website?


Goldilocks finds what she likes best, precisely because there are options. If there was only one porridge bowl, one chair, and one bed, she might eschew her only choice, or settle for it unhappily.


You do want to have some options for your clients and customers, because every person is different and has different needs.


At the same time, it’s important to keep in mind that there are only three options in the story.


Well, actually there are nine...but within three categories, there are only three options for each.


Zone in on the best choice


If you’ve ever worked in sales, you know that part of the art of closing a deal is about having a conversation with the client, discovering what they need, and then zoning in on the best option.


Presenting clients with too many options to choose from often results in confusion and lost deals: “I’ll think about it and come back to you.”


Some companies have gone so far as to only have a handful of options—like one or two.


As the American entrepreneur Henry T. Ford said about one of the first automobiles, the Model T:


“You can have any color as long as it's black.”


And you know what?


He sure sold a lot of cars.


It’s important to realize our clients and customers are a little bit like the young girl of the story. They will enter into the realm of our business, poke their noses around, and find what suits them best.


The magic number of options varies from business to business. If you’re a large department store selling a variety of items (clothes, furniture, electronics) you’re going to have more categories and more options than a small store on main street or someone’s Etsy page.


Conversely, if you’re only selling one product, you may very well consider the benefit of offering limited choices: strawberry, chocolate, and vanilla. Sure cuts down on the supply chain headache.


In fact, there have been many recent success stories in the upcoming world of e-commerce from digital entrepreneurs who only sell one product.


But if there are two many options, or too few, clients and customers might get dissatisfied or overwhelmed and leave for simpler pastures.


More porridge for the rest of us, the bear in you might say.


And hopefully your porridge is just right.

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