Whether you’re in a chamber of commerce, a trade association, or a business referral group such as BNI, you need to be able to give a concise and compelling presentation of your business – and do it in about 30 seconds.
This is Not an Elevator Pitch
When we think about networking, we may think of the infamous elevator pitch – your 30 to 60 second pitch of your product or services that you might give to someone in an elevator, or who you meet for the first time at a networking mixer or standing in line for coffee at a chamber breakfast.
Your commercial is different. Your elevator pitch, though practiced and rehearsed, should come of informal and conversational – you are delivering it to one other person in a conversation. You commercial, however, will be delivered to a group of people. It could be a group of 10 around your table at a luncheon, or to a group of 60 at a breakfast. It is more of a formal introduction.
This is an important distinction. If you sound “rehearsed” in a one to one conversation, it can be off-putting – people think you’re just trying to sell them something. However, if you sound too conversational in a “commercial” situation, you can come off unpolished at best, and incompetent at worst.
The hard part is, you shouldn’t have only one commercial. Because of its short nature, it needs to be dynamic; geared to have a specific outcome for a particular audience. That can seem like a daunting task, but here are some guiding questions to help you build out a few key commercials to use at the events important to them.
Who’s your audience?
This is actually a pre-planning question. It’s important that you understand, at least in general, who you are talking to. It primarily influences what you talk about – what’s important to them. It also influences how you talk to them. If you’re a lawyer at a bar association meeting, then you can use all the legalize, industry-specific acronyms, and case law abbreviations you want. If you’re the same lawyer at a chamber breakfast or referral group meeting, not so much.
What’s your goal?
What are you hoping to gain from this commercial? Are you talking to potential clients and hope to attract one into further conversation? Are you with peers that you hope to turn into referral partners that send you a particular type of client? Most often in networking commercials we’re not directly asking for business, we’re asking for introductions through their networks, but not necessarily
Maybe you’re not looking for clients from the audience, but subscribers to your email list, or supporters that will share your content. Whatever it is, you need to clearly define – as in write it down or audibly speak it out loud – who you’re delivering your commercial to, and what you want them to do about it.
And BE SPECIFIC! Don’t list off your entire catalog. Either pick a single product/service or come up with a succinct category that captures the broader offerings.
What’s the value?
You may have heard of the WIIFM principle – What’s In It For Me? I believe the more accurate statement would be WIIFT – What’s In It For Them?..
What’s the value of what you’re offering to the end user? If you’re not sure trying filling in the blanks here:
I want (end user profile) to buy (retain me for, etc) (product or service) so that they can (value that the end user will receive) .
If you’re our lawyer friend:
I want business owners to retain me for contract reviews so that they can prevent costly litigation when disputes arrise .
To put it another way, what will the end user be able to do once they use your product or service to solve their problem?
This is important to note when you’re asking for referrals and introductions. People refer you business to help their referrals out, not to merely help you out. You need to make it clear to them the value you’re going to deliver to the people in their network.
Why should they care?
This is a little more specific than the value question. This is where you tune into the audience and offer some bit of information that captivates their attention, and just as important, illuminates one reason why your product or service is important – the problem it solves. This could be a significant fact, some timely news, a change in the law or regulations, a story or scenario, or any number of things.
“Last year small business owners spent 4.8 gazillion dollars in lawsuits that could have been prevented with a simple service contract. I write those contracts.”
The key is to not only share what you do (in this case, I write contracts) but to communicate what you do for people. People won’t always understand what you do, especially if it’s technical. But they can generally understand the results you generate for people.
Why should they care about YOU?
So, you (insert your product/service here)? Why should I use you or refer people to you?
They may not ask it out loud, but if you caught their attention and they are interested in your service or referring it, they will be thinking it.
There are several common mistakes here:
- You say too much – pick one, maybe two, differentiators. Make sure they are explicitly relevant to the product or service you are promoting.
- You’re too subjective – Saying things like, “We have great customer service!” to matter how authentically is useless. Anyone could say that, even if it is untrue. If you’re going to go subjective, PROVE IT. Share some form of 3rd party validation such as an award or recognition, or a customer story that demonstrates what you’re saying.
- You’re too objective – You may something like “I have a Harvard MBA,” or “I’ve been in business for 30 years,” or something else that is a provable fact. Now ask yourself this question: SO WHAT? In most cases, you need to connect the dots. So what you have a Harvard MBA? How is that going to add value to me or my referral? How does that make you the better choice than your competitors?
What do you want them to do?
The last thing you need to plan out is that specific call to action. What are you going to ask them to do so that you can achieve your goal? This is where you close the loop on this whole process and tie in the value you’re going to provide
Be active. Don’t use a passive position like “I’m looking for….” Yes most people do that. But you want to be effective.
“I would like you to refer me to the small business owners you know so I can help them prevent costly litigation”
Or, more strongly:
“Who is a business owner you know that doesn’t have a good service contract? If you don’t want them to be at risk of loosing thousands of dollars, introduce me to them.”
Put it all together:
Finally, we have to put these pieces together. And although we started planning with the goal in mind, we’re going to deliver differently.
- Captivate – “Last year small business owners spent 4.8 gazillion dollars in lawsuits that could have been prevented with a simple service contract. I write those contracts.”
- Differentiate – “Unlike other business attorneys, my years of experience in my family’ business and my Harvard MBA allow me to write contracts that are clear to business owners, and not just other lawyers.”
- Activate – “Ask the small business owners you know where their service contracts came from. If they just copied something from the internet, introduce them to me so I can review it and help them prevent costly litigation.
Don’t forget to introduce yourself
This is obvious, yes. But there is some nuance here. Most people start with “Good Morning, my name is…. and I’m with…..”
- It wastes time.
- If you’re not one of the first two people to say, people will start to tune you out because their minds will think you’re about to say something they’ve already heard.
You’d be better leaving it to the end as a lasting impression, but my favorite spot is right between those Differentiate and Activate pieces.
Polish it up, and you’d have something like this:
“Last year small business owners spent 4.8 gazillion dollars in lawsuits that could have been prevented with a simple service contract. I write those contracts. Unlike other business attorneys, my years of experience in my family’ business and my Harvard MBA allow me to write contracts that are clear to business owners, not just other lawyers. I’m John Smith with the Smith Law Firm. Ask the business owners you know where their service contracts came from. If they just copied something from the internet, introduce them to me so I can help them prevent costly litigation.”
By the way, that whole thing can be delivered in about 33 seconds. Clear, concise, and on point.
Let us know if this helps!