The first question you will have is “what the hell does this have to do with a couple of little words I want to whack on my website and business cards?” My answer? This is a situation where the means is more important then the end. The process that you go through to develop your brand will provide you with the reasons why people will and should buy from you. If you do not know this, and more importantly, if you do not get this right then you cannot market your company successfully. (And that includes writing that sexy elevator pitch or strapline!)
It is easy to conclude that only a big company needs a brand. But this is not true. Every company has a brand under which it conducts its business, and thus, existing brand values and competencies. These assets can be leveraged to build brand equity, steal share from bigger players, prevent the encroachment of new entrants, and achieve marketplace success.
But brand has two strings to its bow. In just about every branding article I write, I reiterate the difference between brand development and branding. In order to develop that elevator pitch or strapline we need to understand both.
Branding can generally be defined as the constant and consistent use of colour, graphics, and type. In other words, branding is making sure the logo is always in the same place; the typeface is always the same, that the correct corporate colours are used.
Your branding consists of:
• Your name
• Company colours
• Strapline (optional)
• Visual appearance of all online and offline material
• The way you and your staff behave and treat customers and clients
What I really want to talk about is what comes first and that’s Brand Development.
Brand development is the discovery of a brand’s distinction and the development of a communication of that distinction. Both branding and brand development are mutually exclusive functions, branding being tactical and brand development more strategic. But both are essential in professional communications. The definition of a brand is, “A claim of distinction” or “a name, symbol, design or some combination that identifies the product of a particular organisation as having a substantial differentiated advantage .” Without distinction or differentiation, your brand is generic, or in the worst-case scenario, a mere commodity. Without a point of distinction in your marketing, the message will more than likely be reduced to features and benefits. When this occurs, you are no longer communicating effectively with your target market.
Now let me connect the dots. A formal brand discovery process will uncover a brand’s true distinction, or what we call a “strategic positioning statement” — those unique selling points that no other brand in the category has. After that discovery, the next step could be to create a communication of that differentiation. Many times the outcome is a strapline like, “Nike – Just do it”, “Apple – think different” “BMW – The ultimate driving machine” “UPS – Moving at the speed of business” (Aha the strapline!)
So the first thing we need to do is develop the strategic positioning statement. Questions to ask yourself could be:
• What are your company values?
• What are the key characteristics of your products and services?
• Who’s your target audience?
• What is it that makes you unique? What are your special strengths?
• Define how you are unique – make a long list and then pare them down to a few truly unique and strong qualities
• What benefits will people associate with your products and services?
• What emotional reasons will lead people to buy your products or services?
• What do you want people to think when they hear your name
• What personality do you want your brand to portray?
Now you are ready to write down your strategic positioning statement! Before you do that here is a little checklist that will make it as easy as ABC:
Who is your Audience?
What is the Benefit?
What is the Compelling reason why?
Here is an example: For “audience”, XYZ company provide “benefit” that’s because “compelling reason why”
In practice it works like this: “For parents with young children, Michelin is the safest tyre you can buy to protect the lives of your young ones. That’s because duel-walled Michelin tyres perform exceptionally well in all weather conditions, gripping the road so you won’t have accidents.”
Michelin has a specific target, a clear benefit, and a compelling, believable reason why.
Strapline? Tagline? What’s my line?
With the strategic positioning statement in place you can now move onto the strapline. People use the terms strapline, tagline, and slogan interchangeably (let’s stick to “strapline”). A strapline is a translation of your positioning statement into a short, one-line marketing phrase, which helps differentiate your company or product. (Aha, it all goes back to that brand development stuff!).
• The strapline is a secondary sentence, attached to the logo to clarify the service and/or company position.
• The strapline needs to communicate to people who don’t know you who you are and what you do.
• The strapline must be short, probably around seven words or so.
• The meaning must be clear to everyone, not just us who know what you do
• And, it should be written from the customers or client’s perspective.
In the case of Michelin above there resulting strapline was “Because you have a lot riding on us”
Caution: Not all businesses have them, and not all businesses need them. If you think your name is self-explanatory, your logo is strong and all your other communications elements are in place – then you may not need one.
So what’s all the Hype about the Elevator Pitch?
Definition: An ‘elevator pitch’ is a term taken from the early days of the dot-com explosion when web development companies needed venture capital. Finance firms were swamped with applications for money and the companies that won the cash were often those that had a simple pitch. The best were those that could explain a business proposition to the occupants of an elevator in the time it took them to ride to their floor. In other words, an elevator pitch that worked was able to describe and sell a business idea in 60 seconds or less. Nowadays an ‘elevator pitch’ is a concise, carefully planned, and well-practiced description about your company that your mother should be able to understand in the time it would take to ride up an elevator.
Think of it this way, have you ever had someone introduce themselves, using their title, and then you tuned out the rest of their introduction? Have you ever introduced yourself to someone and watched an invisible wall come up between the two of you? Have you ever sat in a meeting bored listening to a 60-second pitch? When we tell people “what we are” instead of how our services can benefit them or “who” we are, walls often pop up. So how can you get and possibly keep someone’s attention? It all goes back to knowing who your audience is, telling them about your unique benefits and giving them a compelling reason to believe (have I said this before somewhere?)
What your “Elevator Pitch” must contain:
1. Put a tag on it.
Start with a strapline (aha there it is again!) — a wordplay to pique interest in your pitch. For example, GE “brings good things to light,” Archer Daniels Midland is “the supermarket to the world,” and the New York Times publishes “all the news that’s fit to print.” A tag line must encapsulate your business’s core purpose or product, but, more important, it must grab your audience’s attention — you’ll fill in the rest a few sentences later.
2. About 150-225 words
Your pitch should go no longer than 60 seconds!
3. Solve a problem.
Avoid sounding like a solution in search of a problem. Right after your tag line, launch into an explanation of the need you meet. If you aren’t solving a problem or filling a need, you’re in for a tough sell.
You need energy and enthusiasm if you are going to hold their attention. A good pitch changes the pulse rate of both people!
5. Make it tangible.
Throughout your pitch, talk in tangibles, not abstractions. Frame the problem, your unique solution, and the benefits your company will bring to the average person. Keeping it tangible means killing MBA- and tech-speak. Eg Robert Gareb might say “Utilizing the 20-48 Diffie-Helman key exchange of 160-bit Triple DES we can…” Or he could say “We safeguard your communications.”
6. Conclude with a call to action.
Always end your pitch with a call to action. Different audiences prompt different requests. Ask friends and acquaintances if they know anyone who would be interested, who’s working on something similar, or who’s got the same customers as you (in a non-competitive situation). Ask potential clients if they’d take your call, or if they’d be willing to set up a meeting. If you’re really in an elevator, offer to walk straight back to the office to talk more.
So there it is the strapline and the elevator pitch, they evolve from you intimately knowing who your audience is, what is unique about you and why people should believe you.