Tuesday, January 30, 2018

A 13 Word Value Proposition

Most people know about the “elevator pitch”.  If a prospect rides in an elevator with you, what would you tell them about your company in the time it takes to go one floor?  What would you say if they rode with you two floors?  And so on.  Your story begins quickly and progressively builds, adding details as the prospect stays on the elevator.  It’s a great way to create a foundation for consistent messaging in introductory meetings, cold calling and trade events.  It also provides a starting point when designing marketing support materials of various sizes and lengths.


The most important part of the elevator ride is the first-floor.  Get it right, and the prospect will stay on the elevator.  Get it wrong, and your prospect will be pushing the open door button like a teenager playing a video game.  To prevent this from happening, the first-floor pitch must be fast, direct and include the most important nouns, adjectives and adverbs best describing your company and its value proposition.  It should be one sentence and it should answer the question “what does your company do?”  More importantly, it must pique the interest of your prospect.

The one and only rule I have for the first-floor pitch is the word count.  Some marketers ask their clients to describe their company in three words.  Most of the time, the response is integrity, insight and ingenuity (or synonyms of these words).  All good words, but not very definitive.  Other marketers may ask a client for a single word description.  Again, the response includes one of the same three words.  If every company has integrity, ingenuity and insight, then there is not much differentiation in the market.

The first-floor pitch should have enough words to communicate the company value proposition, but only enough words to convey the full statement during a one floor elevator ride.  I have found the ideal number is thirteen.  No more, no less.  In a thirteen word sentence, there is only room for the most important nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs.   Sentences with more than thirteen words start drifting away from the MOST important points in the statement.  Sentences with less than thirteen words tend to become the three obligatory terms described earlier.

The next time you finish a strategy meeting with cross functional company associates, ask them to create a thirteen word sentence to describe the company – the first floor elevator pitch.  Remember, thirteen words exactly.  In your next meeting, put them all on a white board for review but don’t reveal the author of each statement.  If you already have a first floor pitch, put that one on the board, too.  Start by asking the group to identify similarities in all the statements and begin building a unified sentence. 

It might not take very long to get a major portion of the pitch in place.  But, when trying to hit that key number of thirteen words, much discussion will center on the use and importance of just one or two words.  Each associate will be influenced by their experiences – in and outside the office.  More importantly, many of the associates may present new ways of promoting the company during these sometimes heated discussions.  As a marketer, sit back and listen.

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