Using Positioning for your Elevator Speech

Quick – say what you do in 30 seconds or less. And don’t be awkward. Hard huh? Use positioning

The process for describing what you do is as definite a process as the production of Fords. 

I ripped that quote off from James Webb Young, who wrote an excellent book called A Technique for Getting Ideas, which codifies “the” ideation process, which is based on leveraging the subconscious mind in combination with doing an absurd amount of research. 

As Gary Bencivenga said about copywriting, “You should know 7x more than you think you need to know.” This applies to all kinds of problem-solving undertakings in business, not just finding the right messaging. 

But it’s indispensable advice when it comes to finding messaging. If you want to describe what you do well, you should know 7 times more about what you do than you think you need to know.

Here’s a caveat or three, though: I don’t know much about how to describe what you do if you are an employee; I was never any good at that, maybe because I didn’t know what the question was: what do I myself do, or what does my company do? 

So if you are a full-time employee listening to this talk, YMMV. I am speaking to people who have some kind of stake in their business, whether it’s a few points or 100% ownership. 

Those of us who literally own what we do should be able to say what we do, who we do it for, the problem it solves, and what’s different or unique about our approach.

Johnathan Stark, the author of hourly billing is nuts and host of the Pricing Seminar, calls this the LFPS: the laser-focused positioning statement. Here’s the LFPS with handy merge tags.

We’re a [DISCIPLINE] who helps [TARGET MARKET] with [EXPENSIVE PROBLEM]. Unlike my competitors, [UNIQUE DIFFERENCE].

A simpler way to describe this is, “X for Y”: We’re a [DISCPLINE] who helps [TARGET MARKET]. 

What’s the problem? I don’t like this very much because it doesn’t specify the expensive problem.

Most SaaS providers and tech consultancies have this in common: they skip the middle parts, the target market, and the expensive problem. And they don’t even propose a unique a difference; instead, they propose a non-unique difference.

Or they propose a unique difference that is emotionally stale. If you can

I’m a messaging expert who helps B2B tech firms balance short and long term lead generation. Unlike most of my competitors, I use a unique ideation process that combines intensive research and subconscious contemplation.

Extend your unique difference with strong points of view

Going beyond describing what you do: hold distinct points of view. There’s a coach named Alberto Rhiel who does a fabulous job in describing what he does. Alberto is a coach and course teacher who helps life insurance agents create lead generation through by (a) developing professional talent and (B) instituting a specific kind of digital marketing funnel

That’s not a bad positioning statement. Actually, it’s a great one. But he doesn’t stop there; he has a story to tell that comes with a strong point of view.

Alberto grew up in a middle-class home attending a local private school in Houston, Texas, where he was an A student and the oldest of four children. He had stability and security. Until he was 9. When he was 9, his father died in a tragic accident. And unfortunately, Alberto’s father was the sole breadwinner.

But he had life insurance, so no problem – right? Wrong. The policy was badly written. Sloppily written. Negligently written.

And the life insurance company did what life insurance companies do – denied all the benefits to Alberto’s family based on a technicality. After a failed legal battle, and with infant children to raise, Alberto’s mom had to sell their home and move into a challenging, dangerous Houston neighborhood; private school and college tuition were out of the question.

So what is Alberto’s strong point of view? That no child should ever be denied a future because of a badly written life insurance policy.

And he’s making sure that happens, one life insurance agent at a time.

And if that doesn’t make you choke up a little, then you maybe you aren’t a very emotive person, which is OK. I know some of my readers are engineers (sorry couldn’t resist).

He has another point of view that might provide some comic relief: no life insurance agent should ever sell a policy over Thanksgiving dinner. Funny, but foundational to his definition of what he does: generate leads from outside the friends and family Rolodex. As it should be. By the way, part of how he does that is through leveraging paid digital advertising, which Max Bidna talks about.

So take Alberto’s example for your business. Reinforce your unique difference with strong, even emotional, points of view.

I’ll give you a few of my own. I believe that:

  • I believe the messaging in your marketing should be a reflection of the messaging in your product or services, and vice versa. And I mean the actual words baked into the UI. Chris talks about this in his presentation.
  • I view messaging and strategy as inseparable because a strategy is always expressed in words. I don’t believe that it’s possible to define a strategy without being able to write it into words that inspire action
  • In the B2B tech space, I view the differentiation between product as services as semantics, ultimately. You use software to solve business problems; who cares how it’s delivered and priced? That’s not the point; the point is how it solves problems for specific targets.
  • Independent entrepreneurs and experts have the ability to change the world by liberating global revenue from the global Fortune 5000, which takes 80% of worldwide GDP, with per-employee revenue of $400,000/year. 
  • I view the act of helping entrepreneurs and experts tap into that almost limitless source of wealth by solving the dual problems of short term and long term lead generation.

Of course, when I say “of my own”, you have to laugh at me. There is no such thing as an idea of my own, ultimately. All of our ideas are ultimately combinations of pre-existing ideas. 

How to apply this with a real-life example. I have been talking to a SaaS startup who solves a seemingly age-old problem: CRM UI’s suck.

Has anyone else been in a services, sales, support, or marketing role – and been forced to use a CRM? Raise your hand? And did the word “forced” come to mind all too often? Raise your hand.

The number one obstacle to CRM adoption is not training or motivation, but usability. HubSpot sort of solves this problem. Ironically, even Salesforce 

What does it mean to describe what you do? If you could boil it down to its very essence, it’s the problem you solve. That’s the one piece you can’t leave out.

The scope of your definition is dictated by the context. Sometimes the context is quite literal, as in the case of LinkedIn, or Twitter, constraining character count. 

Other ways to talk about what your business does. 

I’ve been using the principle of positioning as a foundation for describing what you do; specifically “cross-hair positioning”, or what LFPS. Philip Morgan talks about