TypewriterFrom The Urbach Letter – August 2002

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Elevator Encounter with Warren BuffettMarketing Tip of the Month - How to Give an Elevator Speech
You step into the elevator. The door closes. Now it’s just you and Warren Buffett riding down to the lobby. You have 20 seconds to say something interesting about yourself to Warren. What are you going to say to him? Huh? Most people in this situation would ride down in silence, possibly wasting one of the big opportunities of their lives to make a great connection. Don’t think this scenario is realistic? OK, then subtract Warren and substitute a leader in your profession or industry, or the chief executive of your biggest, most desired new client company.

So… you’ve got 20 seconds… what do you say? If you’re going to introduce yourself and your company, you better say something interesting, something engaging, something your competition couldn’t possibly also say. Think about what makes you different… and better. Perhaps you provide a unique solution to a difficult problem. Maybe you specialize in serving a particular kind of client. Or you may have a special way of providing added value to what otherwise would be a “commodity” business. Here are some examples:

  • A physician with a special ability to diagnose and treat food allergies.

  • A financial planner who specializes in helping people with Enron 401K’s retire before reaching age 90.

  • A salesperson who not only sells logo-imprinted items (“ad specialties”) to companies, but also helps them develop promotions, contests, and incentive programs around the items she sells.

Think why your customers/clients/patients prefer to work with you. Ask them. It has to be something other than, “They just seem to like me,” or “I give good service.” Anybody could say those things (and they usually do). Get really specific: “My clients like me because I do in-depth research about their specific industry and provide objective advice on the best solution for their particular operating environment.” Now take your “different and better” positioning and boil it down to a concise 20-second statement that’s easy for you to say to anyone, anywhere, anytime: “I specialize in developing sales incentive programs for technology and pharmaceutical companies, and provide them with highly unusual logo-imprinted items their people are proud to wear and display. My programs simultaneously generate immediate sales increases and long-term brand enhancement.” Compare that to what she used to say, “I sell ad specialties.” Yawn. So do a million other people.

To make a big impact, narrow your focus. Think rifle shoot, not shotgun blast. Don’t try to be everything to everybody; you’ll end up being nothing to nobody. Concentrate on promoting your unique ability, your most profitable products, and your highest-potential customer class – and really put your shoulder behind that specific wheel. I strongly advise going through this elevator speech exercise – no matter what your business or profession. (Even if you always take the stairs!) Done right, it can become your core marketing message, and you can incorporate it into almost everything. I’ll pick up on this topic in the September issue of the Urbach Letter, when I’ll talk about the three big M’s of marketing: Market-Message-Media.

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