How many times have you been at an event or sitting at a bar when you meet someone new and they ask: So, what do you do? It seems really innocent and full of curiosity but your blood pressure spikes a bit as you tell this long-winded story about what you do and how you do it. Their eyes start to glaze over as they wait for you to finish. Their response says it all: oh, that’s interesting.
That situation stinks! And yet, we’ve all been there. Even the smoothest networking machine has been tripped up when they’re caught off guard or meet someone intimidating. You stumble, trip and fail to succinctly demonstrate the important impact you have on the world through your work mostly because you’re not prepared with that story.
All stories have a purpose
Ask any parent of an 18 month old about Goodnight Moon and they can either recite the entire book or tell you the most interesting parts in five seconds. How? Because we tell that story every single night until our kids are four years old! The story never changes. There’s nothing to keep you at the edge of your seat. Yet the book does exactly what it’s meant to do: help children wind down in an entertaining, rhythmic way. It’s even put me to sleep a few times.
Your story must do one thing (very well): succinctly demonstrate how you bring value to your ideal customer in ways that captivate and compel people to action. This is the purpose of your story.
Telling your succinct story
Most business owners and many sales people can’t clearly deliver a value proposition in a relevant way that leaves their potential buyer wondering how quickly they can buy their product. Some have a poor, over-scripted pitch that leaves people wanting to run for the door, and others describe the features of their product but forget to mention how it makes people’s lives better. People don’t by features, they buy things that make them feel better, more successful or somehow feed their ego.
That’s it. That’s why people buy. If your story can’t deliver those points, you have a problem. Thankfully, a solvable one.
Know your audience. Well.
There are buyers, and there are ideal buyers. Your current customers may be wonderful for one single reason: they pay you money in exchange for your product or service. But that doesn’t necessarily make them ideal. Ideal customers are those you want more of. They are dreamy. There are a set of attributes that make them ideal which go well beyond demographics. You must clearly understand their challenges and problems, and what they want from the very best solutions.
Address their needs
When you know exactly who your ideal customer is and speak directly to their emotional goals and desires, they are naturally compelled to buy from you. It’s like a beautiful dance. Apple ads speak directly to their fans — not this Android fan. McDonald’s introduced salads years ago for one reason: to offer something for moms of young children. When the kids beg for Happy Meals, knowing there’s something healthy there for her is likely to get mom in that drive thru. Salads speak to her.
When you know exactly who you’re selling to, it’s easier to build products and sell them to those same people. This is a mental shift from having a great idea that you’ll find an audience for, to the desire to fill a distinct audience’s specific needs.
Develop realationships with your audience
That’s no typo! When you are trying to authentically solve someone’s real problems, they want to learn more. People naturally want to do business with people they know, like and trust. The only way to do this is to develop authentic relationships with potential customers. Just like you would with a new friend, get to know them by conducting research, holding events, listening to them, and engage with them online. Give them an opportunity to kick the tires or sample your products to build trust. If it’s right, you’ll both know soon enough.
What in the world does any of this have to do with telling your story? Everything.
You elevator pitch is your story. Just like every good story or book you’ve heard, read or told, there are key elements present. Characters, setting, triggers and challenges, a climax and resolution. When you can clearly define who your characters are, their setting, triggers and challenges, you have everything you need to align your product or service to “save the day” and be the hero.