When meeting folks for the first time in a business networking situation I’m often asked, “Now, who is it that you work for, and what do you do there?” To which I used to respond with a mouthful, “I work for the Kansas Small Business Development Center Network where I’m the associate state director slash marketing and product manager.”
As you might guess, my response was either met with either a short “Oh” or a puzzled “I’ve never heard of it. What exactly is that?”
I learned quickly that this was NOT the response my inquirer wanted to hear. After all, they were networking. And when they’re in networking mode they don’t want to hear a long drawn-out explanation of someone’s job responsibilities or an About Us page regurgitated. They want to hear how they’ll benefit from doing business with you or by referring business to you. They want to hear how you’ll help their business or them personally in their career.
If you’re networking, isn’t that what you really want to know?
So, how do we – you and I – ensure that we’re not boring our audience with something that sounds like Charlie Brown’s teacher and instead leave them with something memorable?
Here’s some food for thought when networking.
Develop an elevator pitch.
Some argue that this is a canned pitch and is ineffective. I would argue that it has its merits. A well-crafted pitch can be repeated by every person in your small business. It gives those that struggle with articulating your message a quick tool to use and delivers a consistent message. And consistency is critical to your brand development.
On the flip side, an elevator pitch is most effective when tailored to the audience at hand. You wouldn’t pitch the Shark Tank sharks the way you’d pitch a potential employee. Want more? Read about the best and worst shark tank pitches according to Mark Cuban.
My favorite approach is to answer a question with a little more fact gathering. Using the networking example above, I’ll pause when asked what it is that I do and respond with, “First tell me about your business, and your role, and then I can better explain what it is that I do.” This usually results in the person of interest opening up and revealing what’s important to them. I then respond in kind with “In light of what you’ve shared, this how the Kansas SBDC can help you and your business.” And I proceed to tell my story using what they’ve just shared with me.
Develop a memory dart.
In his blog post, Steve Woodruff suggests that the elevator pitch is one step premature and suggests the memory dart as a verbal business card to accomplish three things:
1. Leave an image behind – preferably an effective analogy.
2. Establish quickly if there is a potential area of need. This includes not only the individual you’re talking with, but includes someone they might know.
3. It opens the door to say more. This is where you want the listener to invite you to tell the rest of the story (“So, how do you do that?”).
The idea behind any approach is to get at what resonates with your audience – and get there with very few words. Still not feeling it? Here are Six Simple and Irresistible Alternatives to the Elevator Pitch.
Remember, we can tell you all day long how to do it, but actually developing any short story will take several hours, days or even weeks of hard work. You’d think that fewer words are easier to put together, but they’re not. Choosing the right words for the right audience while staying true to your core message is and can be a daunting undertaking.
One of the ways we help small businesses succeed at the Kansas SBDC is by helping them, by helping you, develop their/your short story. Whether you want to call it an elevator pitch or memory dart or “the best response in the world” to what it is that you do, our team of consultants can help you develop the most priceless response to this often asked networking question. And only we can do it for free.
Ready? Contact a center near you.