Marketing Essentials: The 15 Second Elevator Speech

Marketing Essentials: The 15 Second Elevator Speech

Published January 8, 2010

Phillip Davis

President/CEO
Tungsten Branding

Distilling the Essence of Your Business

You're at a conference. Someone steps in the elevator, notices your name tag and asks, "So what do you guys do?" Quick -- what's your answer? You've got about 15 seconds before the doors open. For most business owners, getting to the crux of what they really do is the hardest, yet potentially most rewarding, quarter-minute conversation they will ever have. In that shortest of time spans, potential customers, vendors, and employees will make a complete assessment, deciding then and there if your company, products or services are worth pursuing. Why? Because it's all the time they have before the doors open - so make each second count. Think of it like Tweeting the essence of your business, but before you do, keep in mind these two common pitfalls...

For most business owners, getting to the crux of what they really do is the hardest, yet potentially most rewarding, quarter-minute conversation they will ever have.

Trap #1: The Laundry List - Naming Everything You Do

The commonest of traps is to try and list every product and service you provide. "We sell, service and maintenance new and used industrial fittings for the diesel engine aftermarket in North America, Canada and Guam."

The reply? "Thanks! This is my floor... nice to meet you!"

Solution: Like everything else in branding, your 15 second elevator speech should convey the essence of what you do, not just a descriptive phrase. It should stress the benefits of what you do, not the features. In marketing they call it "selling the sizzle, not the steak". Sacino's Formalwear in Florida had rented tuxedos for three generations. But upon closer examination, we determined that customers really did not want to rent heavy, expensive, snug fitting clothing. In other words, it wasn't about the cloth, it was what the cloth did. The heart of their new :15 elevator speech? "We make men look good!"

Like everything else in branding, your 15 second elevator speech should convey the essence of what you do, not just a descriptive phrase. It should stress the benefits of what you do, not the features.

In short, look for the solution or benefits your products and services provide. How can you sum that up in two to three sentences? For Harbour House Crabs, the central theme went from selling seafood to "Making any occasion a special occasion"! For Mark Mohr at Joe Ricos, it went from selling cups of coffee to creating a sanctuary where customers could "escape the ordinary." For CollegeSpring, with their mission to improve test scores, it was all about "student potential made possible." For child development portal EarlyMoments.com, it wasn't just a "book site," but a place where moms and kids could share the gift of reading.

Trap #2: The Sweeping Statement - Generic, Vanilla Responses

Once you realize the laundry list approach doesn't work, you may be tempted to simply summarize. This is great for the back of a DVD, but not good for getting new business. A typical sweeping statement goes something likes this... "We're into enterprise management software." Response? Unintentional yawn. Look down at watch. Leave with a nice pleasantry.

Solution: Add some pizzaz! While attending a business conference in the Bahamas a couple of years back, I heard a very dynamic speaker tell of her work in the philanthropic field, setting up foundations and putting together partnerships. When I asked her specifically what she did, she simply smiled and replied "I make magic happen."

I love magic.

You can bet I made sure to follow up and keep in touch with her as she worked toward setting up peace schools in various nations. Her work was varied, but her benefit was consistent... magic!

Make it a goal this week to develop a one to two sentence statement that sums up the benefits of what you offer. Avoid dry, purely descriptive statements and go for the "Wow!" factor. What is it you do that your customers truly appreciate, demand and are willing to  pay top dollar to obtain? To help you, think of the last customer you had that just raved about your products or service. What specifically did you do for him or her that really turned them on about your company. Distill that that into two or three simple sentences of pure marketing maple syrup and you will have your 15 second elevator speech... (and you'll also have the attention of a lot more customers).

Avoid dry, purely descriptive statements and go for the "Wow!" factor. What is it you do that your customers truly appreciate, demand and are willing to  pay top dollar to obtain?

This will be some of the hardest, and most rewarding work you will do. But as Emerson said... "So much of our time is preparation, so much is routine, and so much retrospect, that the path of each man's genius contracts itself to a very few hours." So spend a few moments and make this statement one of the rewards of those few hours.


About the author: With over twenty five years of company naming and branding expertise, Tungsten founder Phil Davis is a marketing and advertising veteran, having personally named over 250 companies, products and services worldwide. As a sought after branding expert, Phil has been quoted in The Wall Street Journal, Inc.com, Businessweek, Entrepreneur, and Newsday.

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