I’ve just finished judging a contest for small business owners. The first question on the entry form is this: What does your company do? Guess what? Most of them can’t say. They can go on for 500 words about practically nothing at all, but they can’t seem to articulate what it is that they do.
I don’t know a lot of investors, prospective customers or potential employees who will throw their lot in with a company that can’t explain what it does.
If you’re a little worried that your sales or executive teams aren’t quite explaining things properly, here’s my template to help you talk about what you do in terms even Grandma will understand:
Our company [insert a verb here such as builds, designs, sells, creates]
[insert a noun here such as buildings, software, clothing, air conditioners]: warning: “solutions” is not an acceptable noun since it doesn’t mean anything (unless you are actually selling chemical solutions).
for [insert two or three examples of your target audience such as retailers, public transportation agencies, plastics manufacturers]
that [insert a benefit verb-noun combination like reduces costs, improves quality, fixes leaks, supports foreign dictators, increases customer satisfaction, solves global warming]
There, you’re done. Everything else exists in the context of another question. Like where you do it, how you do it, how long you’ve been doing it, why there’s a dog in your logo. All that extra stuff is additional, but not essential information and belongs in your mission statement or value proposition or other corporate twaddle.
Get the people in your sales team to go through this exercise. Take the best, clearest version and test it out on old people, little kids and people who have never heard of you. If they smile and back away or change the subject, try again. If they ask a follow-up question, you’re probably on the money.