Sometimes we can be too vague in the way we communicate what we do.
This was one of my biggest mistakes when I started consulting back in 1997. I told people I was a “marketing consultant,” which is about the same as telling them nothing at all.
My mistake was choosing a frame that was too broad. So I attracted a bunch of inquiries that didn’t fit my areas of specialty.
Hello, wasted time.
And sometimes, we can be too clever. By now, we’ve all seen those LinkedIn profiles that say something like:
“I work and play at the intersection of design, culture and influence.”
That sounds very pleasant, but I still have no idea what you do.
When we’re vague, we’re unmemorable. And when we’re unmemorable, we don’t get hired.
Being clever may feel more “creative,” but that’s not the same as effective. And effectiveness is the measure of any communication.
It’s okay to lose the sale if the prospect doesn’t need your offering.
It’s not okay to lose the sale if the prospect doesn’t understand your offering.
If you want to be hired, be clear.
Imagine you’re at a networking lunch. There are nine strangers at your big round table. You’re doing that thing where you take turns introducing yourselves, and everyone has about 20 seconds to speak. It’s time to break out what is often called an “elevator pitch.”
What do you say?
You’ll want to communicate some of the following:
- Category – your competitive framework
- Target – who you serve
- Offering – what you do
- Difference – what makes you better
- Result/Benefit – what your target gets
- Need/Problem – what triggers your target to seek a solution
- Pain – what needs fixing in the current way of doing things
Let’s call the above the “Seven Elements.”
But here’s the problem: If you try to shoehorn all those elements into one comically long sentence, nobody will remember any of it.
So you need to make choices.
There are many ways to combine the Seven Elements. Over the years, I’ve created a list of fill-in-the-blanks templates that work hardest in the real world.
Let’s call these the “Eleven Templates.”
These are below, with examples of how I might answer each for my consulting business.
I’m a CATEGORY and I help TARGET get RESULT/BENEFIT. I’m a brand strategy consultant, and I help challenger brands to achieve brand clarity.
I’m a CATEGORY and this is my DIFFERENCE. I’m a brand strategy consultant, and I only work on the most important brand questions – what you stand for, who you serve, and how you’ll win.
I’m a CATEGORY who specializes in OFFERING for TARGET. I’m a brand strategy consultant who specializes in positioning, strategy, and guidance for challenger brands.
I help TARGET get RESULT/BENEFIT. I help challenger brands to achieve brand clarity.
I help TARGET by OFFERING. I help challenger brands with their aspirations, positioning, strategy and messaging.
I help TARGET get RESULT/BENEFIT by OFFERING. I help challenger brands get clarity in their positioning, strategy and messaging.
I help TARGET get RESULT/BENEFIT without PAIN. I help challenger brands get clarity without the navel-gazing clutter of so many branding programs.
I help TARGET with NEED/PROBLEM. I help challenger brands to focus on what matters most.
I help TARGET with NEED/PROBLEM by OFFERING. I help challenger brands move from “fuzzy” to “focused” in their positioning and strategy.
I help TARGET who NEED/PROBLEM to achieve RESULT/BENEFIT. I help challenger brands who struggle with focus to achieve clarity.
I help TARGET achieve BENEFIT through DIFFERENCE. I help challenger brands to achieve clarity on their most important strategic questions.
Here’s how to build yours.
Action Step #1:
Generate multiple answers for each of the Seven Elements. Then plug those elements into the Eleven Templates.
Remember that these templates are meant as directional guidance. Feel free to tinker with verbs or the order of the elements. I did some of this in my examples above.
If in doubt, default to everyday language, not industry-speak.
Action Step #2:
Choose two or three finished statements to road-test.
How to choose:
Consider what people already know about you. A table full of strangers at a luncheon is not the same as a prospect who visits your website with some knowledge of what you do. It’s appropriate to use different language for each.
If people are unfamiliar with you, I find it helps to use a category statement. This gives people a mental box in which to place you, and it allows you to contextualize your difference and benefits.
If people are familiar with you or your line of work, you have license to go a little higher-order, to address needs, pain, difference and benefits.
If a certain pain or problem is pervasive in your industry or niche, and you sell a solution, it’s good to open with that pain or problem.
Remember that you can’t say it all. So don’t try. There are inevitable trade-offs in emphasizing certain elements at the expense of others. Ask yourself what communicates most effectively and what works hardest for you.
Once you have a handful of statements that feel best, test them out. Get the opinions of colleagues and friends. Try different statements in different real-world settings. See what gets eyes and ears perked up and what leads to additional conversation.
Eventually, you’ll find the few statements that work hardest for you, and that feel most comfortable and natural. (Yes, this means you may have more than one, for different settings. I certainly do.) Keep testing & sharpening until you get there.
And remember: Be clear, not clever. Clarity is your friend. Clarity gets you hired.
Your time is valuable, and I hope I’ve rewarded it. If so, your shares are greatly appreciated, as I try to spread the gospel to as many freelancers as possible.
Need help sharpening your own elevator pitch? I have a limited number of slots available for 1-1 coaching. Click here to find out more about how my customized coaching can help you level up.
Copyright 2022 – Matthew Fenton. All Rights Reserved. You may reprint this article with the original, unedited text intact, including the footer section.