What is Low Hanging Fruit?

Michael Pollick

We have Mother Nature to thank for the expression low hanging fruit. A fruit-bearing tree often contains some branches low enough for animals and humans to reach without much effort. The fruit contained on these lower branches may be not be as ripe or attractive as the fruit on higher limbs, but it is usually more abundant and easier to harvest. From this we get the popular expression, which generally means selecting the easiest targets with the least amount of effort.

Low hanging fruit, both literally and metaphorically, is the easiest to harvest.
Low hanging fruit, both literally and metaphorically, is the easiest to harvest.

In business, the term low hanging fruit is often associated with the sale of consumer products or services. Sales professionals, especially those who are just entering the field, are encouraged to seek out the easiest customers first. Competitors may spend more of their time seeking out the higher commission sales of higher "customer branches", leaving the low hanging fruit behind for others to claim. Parents seeking low-cost insurance for school-age children, for example, may be considered low hanging fruit by insurance companies.

Another use of the expression can be found in the political arena. A politician may set a number of easily attainable goals, and accomplish them with minimal effort. The voters may perceive the politician's actions as proof of his strong work ethic, but in reality he only reached for the political benefits of low hanging fruit. Critics often use the expression to describe someone who chooses a sure thing over a more difficult but more rewarding pursuit.

The idea of low hanging fruit can be viewed as both a positive and a negative. On the one hand, it is usually plentiful and often ignored by those looking for more attractive offerings. But low hanging fruit can also be seen as a negative, since the picker understands how low the quality of the fruit can be and picks it anyway. Someone who consistently chooses the immediate gratification could be seen by others as lazy or unambitious.

Critics of the low hanging fruit business model point to the examples of real fruit harvesters. Orchard workers routinely begin picking at the highest point of a tree, where the fruit has been exposed to the most sunlight and is usually the ripest. It makes sense to pick the low hanging fruit last, since it requires more time to ripen. In a business or social sense, it also makes sense to avoid the easiest options if a little more effort and time would result in a much better payoff.

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Discussion Comments


@concordski: Also in my business, the phrase is used quite often and really what the majority does to achieve 'quick wins'. That being said, the 'low hanging fruit' is only perceived at a fiscal year basis, up to 12 months and highly based on an individuals performance review. So really, how can they show high impact in a short amount of time?

I find often the low hanging fruit only 'reports' impact but does not actually make a longer term benefit to the initiative and strategy. It's the company culture that drives this but most often the win is only perceived, is a short term solution that does not last and does not contribute to the longer term strategy.

I believe having the broader plan in place and taking time with that will enable the right selection of easy priorities areas to focus, vs picking the unripened apple from the bottom of the tree and hoping it will eventually ripen after I have picked it.


What does the "world is not round mean"?


@ Concordski- I have never heard the expression low hanging fruit, but I like your analogy of the term. Sometimes entrepreneurs do not make the best business people, and business people do not make the best entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs often need a partner or support network to help them focus their good ideas. The idea may be great, but the execution may be lacking. The aesthetic details often sidetrack entrepreneurs, causing them to lose focus on the less glorious inner workings of operating a business. Using the low hanging fruit idiom in the way that you did describes the common flaw many entrepreneurs share.


We use the phrase "low hanging fruit" in business all the time. But it has nothing to do with sales to customers... rather we use the term to refer to the things that we should be do first.

We go after the low hanging fruit first because those initiatives, by definition, are the ones that are easiest to do and will have the biggest impact on the growth of our business.

Its common sense, really, but I have run across many entrepreneurs who do not focus on the important and easy stuff first; they focus on some unimportant aspect instead of being laser focused on what matters.

For example, some web-entrepreneurs over focus on design issues, and worry about minor details (that can be time-consuming to get just right). They would be better off focusing the majority of their time on developing new features that their users want.

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