At the start of a new financial year, as you are starting your new plans for the coming year, it is a great time to ‘dust off’ your messaging and corporate descriptors and give them a spring clean!
Everything that happens in business is in ‘fast forward’. Your messaging and your business both move onwards at great pace. While most organisations focus hard to move the business on, many forget to move the messaging forward in tandem, so that it reflects the changing business plan.
So it is not unusual to find that the messaging on the website is lagging behind how the Managing Director and Sales Director are ‘selling’ – telling the story of the business - to their new prospects and customers. This is mainly down to the time it takes for the messaging to filter down through an organisation to the marketing team, who are responsible for the website, the sales team and the other stakeholders that need this information on a day-to-day basis to manage and develop relationships.
So consider this for a moment. Why do I even need an elevator pitch? Let alone a new one?
Let’s start with, what is an elevator pitch?
Firstly, it is not something that elevates people! As I overheard someone explaining recently, it comes from the American term for a ‘lift’ and the principle is that you step into the lift with somebody that you then realise is someone that you know, but you have not seen for some time and they ask you who you are working for. The elevator pitch is your reply. A brief and concise description of what your business does.
Now, the trick is to ‘tell it from the front’. That is to say, that you don’t know when your audience is going to step out the lift, you don’t know what floor they are going to, and you don’t know how much time you have.
Time is, therefore, of the essence. And the secret to success is to tell the whole story in one sentence at the beginning of your description. Then, if there is time, you can go back and tell it in some more in detail, expanding on the story as you go. A simple premise but one that so many people get wrong.
When we go through this process with clients we start with a 25-30 word description of what exactly the business does. I am not talking about working for Nike and telling them ‘Just Do It’ more so that your employer is ‘NIKE Inc., the world's leading designer, marketer and distributor of authentic athletic footwear, apparel, equipment and accessories for a wide variety of sports and fitness activities.’ In a nutshell, you are saying what the company does, not the aspirational brand messaging.
Then having created that 25-30 word statement, I would recommend getting everybody around the table – Directors and Senior Management – to buy into that description. They all need to agree. Write it down. Share it with everyone. Then from that, we shorten it to create a 10-word version, and most importantly a three-word version. We write those down and then get everyone to agree it and repeat it. Then we expand into 50 words, 250 words and a boilerplate – which is what is used at the end of your press releases to explain what you do.
If you only do this once a year, do it now - at the start of your business year – this is the right time to do it. Set your messaging correctly now and when you get into the elevator with that prospect or old friend you haven’t seen in some time, you can tell them exactly what you do in your 25-30 words. Then if you have time, you can expand on that and tell them more of a story. The main thing is to realise that you have got to be able to describe your company in less than 45-minutes, with less than a 50 slide PowerPoint deck which, like half of UK Plc, is how you do it right now! Death by PowerPoint never actually helped anyone sell anything and your audience will enjoy it more and remember it better, if it is short, clear concise and to the point!