Imagine you are a fruit picker in an orchard. The low-hanging fruit is easy to reach, and you can often pick them as you walk through the orchard. However, if you wanted to reach the fruit higher up, you would have to drag a ladder from tree to tree.

The low-hanging fruit principle in business then refers to the mentality that executives adopt to focus on the most easily attainable goals which lead to the quickest most fruitful results. It can apply to many aspects of business including problem-solving, marketing, sales and growth. For example, you might reinvest into selling an already popular product rather than exploring a new product line. Below, we discuss some examples to show your business can leverage the low-hanging fruit principle.

How Can Businesses Use the Low-Hanging Fruit Principle?

1. Understand These Three Microeconomic Principles

Although many factors influence business decisions, you should understand three fundamental microeconomic principles:

  • how opportunity cost functions;
  • the cost-benefit analysis; and
  • the law of diminishing returns.

Opportunity cost refers to the benefit that you could have received, but which you gave up when you chose to take a particular action. For example, let’s say you had $1000. After contemplating whether to put the money into marketing or buy new equipment, you chose to put the money into purchasing more equipment. If investing in marketing meant that you could increase your revenue by $10,000, that amount is the opportunity cost that you forfeited. Hopefully, you would have based your decision to put the money into equipment purchases on the fact that it would give you a higher return.

The cost-benefit principle is the process of summing up all the direct and indirect benefits and costs of a particular decision. Your cost analysis should include any potential opportunity costs or risks. It may also help to put a dollar figure on intangible benefits and costs. Using the analysis, you should only take a desired action where the benefits exceed the costs. The marketing versus equipment purchase example is a simple illustration of how you would conduct a cost-benefit analysis.

The law of diminishing returns refers to the observation that as we increase a particular input, the amount of output generated slowly decreases. In our example, if you had an infinite sum of money to spend, the question would then be: how much capital should I purchase? Applying the cost-benefit principle, you should continue to purchase equipment until the costs outweigh the benefits that it provides. If you applied the low-hanging fruit principle, you would use the first piece of equipment in its most productive area, the second in the next best productive area and so forth. As you continually increase the amount of capital, the production you receive in return diminishes.

The danger here is that it’s easy to assume that buying more equipment will lead to increasing revenue. However, these microeconomic principles illustrate that you will eventually reach a point where the costs exactly offset your benefits of adding another unit of capital as the output slowly decreases.

2. Understand Business Triggers

The low-hanging fruit principle is premised on obtaining results with little difficulty. Usually, you will have done the hard yards to discover a methodology that works which you can replicate when making further decisions. In the context of marketing and sales, the key to success emulates from understanding what triggers work for your business.

For example, when prospecting sales leads, why is it that targeting a particular set of customers works better than others? It might be because a particular aspect of your business suits them. Similarly, why is it that a particular marketing campaign worked so well? Again, it might be because you offered a special promotion, or you displayed your advertisements in a particular location. Understanding the specific triggers will ensure you place yourself in a strong position when trying to replicate results.

3. Understand Your Conversion Funnel

In the context of sales and marketing, the low-hanging fruit principle can play a pivotal role in attracting clients. However, getting customers through the door (or your website) is only the first step. If you can’t convert them into paying customers, it means nothing. At this point, you should aim to know what your business triggers are and also have a solid understanding of what your sales or marketing funnel looks like in action.

What Are Some Examples of Applying the Low-Hanging Fruit Principle?

As mentioned, the low-hanging fruit principle applies to many aspects of your business, including:

  • reusing marketing campaigns that have previously worked for your business;
  • retargeting former customers to increase sales;
  • focusing on existing product lines before expanding your offering;
  • expanding your business into multiple states and territories using the same business model;
  • targeting your social media followers or a subset of your existing customers with a special offer;
  • cross-unit collaboration between teams, as opposed to hiring new people with the same skillset;
  • collecting emails in return for content on your website;
  • making decisions on quickly solvable problems before tackling more complex ones;
  • updating and republishing evergreen content; and
  • recycling content.

What Are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Focusing on the Low-Hanging Fruit Principle?

The low-hanging fruit principle’s primary advantage is promoting efficient gains. Businesses that concentrate on this principle will be able to:

  • hit targets faster;
  • make quick decisions;
  • close more sales;
  • have a steady flow of leads to the business; and
  • achieve more rapid growth at least in the short term.

However, the issue with low-hanging fruit is that it is usually finite. At some point, the fruit-picker will need to bring out their ladder. Likewise, businesses will need to increase their efforts to achieve greater results. The problem with focusing on low-hanging fruits to the exclusion of others is that it makes achieving these results more challenging long term.

Further, focusing on the low-hanging fruit principle may also create a race to the bottom. For example, let’s say you ran a marketing campaign on Google Adwords. You also promoted this Google Adwords campaign with a special 10% discount. Not only are you targeting the same low-hanging fruit as your competitors, but you are also reaching customers who may not be particularly loyal to your business.

In many instances, the low-hanging fruit principle is also not in tandem with your organisational strategy and goals. It may be the case that your focus moves away from the overall importance of achieving milestones to choosing the quick and easy option. For example, let’s say you needed to make a series of decisions at a 30-minute meeting. By dealing with the quick and easy decisions first, you reduce the time to address the larger issues. Further, you may not discuss the more important matters in depth as you choose the easier alternatives to deal with them.

Lessons for Business

Experienced fruit pickers don’t usually start with the low-hanging fruits. They always start by picking the higher fruits for several reasons. Fruit that is higher up has more exposure to the sun, meaning in most cases, it’s riper and ready to eat. Further, fruit pickers have gravity on their side when they start from the top of the tree. When their bags get heavier, they can work their way down as opposed to climbing. Finally, lower-hanging fruits have the tendency of being damaged by bugs, bruised or unripe.

Similarly, low-hanging fruit may tempt businesses, but they may not be beneficial in the long run. In most circumstances, they represent short-term gains. Comparatively, higher fruits require more effort but yield greater rewards. Businesses should then always have these bigger targets that they aspire to achieve.

However, the practice of starting from the top and working your way down may not always hold true. It makes sense for cash-strapped businesses or those with limited resources to start with the low-hanging fruits. Low-hanging fruits represent wins, and businesses need wins to create momentum to grow and scale.

Rather, companies need to find a way to lower the tree. That is, they need to think outside the orchard. How can they simultaneously pick out the low-hanging fruits while climbing the rungs of the ladder? How can they systemise a process of reaching the higher fruits, so that they can repeat it effortlessly? Figuring out a way to lower the tree, is having a real understanding of the low-hanging fruit principle.

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How have you lowered the tree in your business? Let us know your thoughts on LegalVision’s Twitter page.

Stephen Yoon

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