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Do You Have Your ‘Elevator Speech’ Ready?

Tampa Bay marketing firmYou and a stranger are standing in a hotel lobby waiting for an elevator. He has the appearance of a fine, upstanding chap and you’re in an affable mood so you comment on what a nice day it is. He’s welcoming of conversation. Additional pleasantries ensue, followed by introductions and the customary handshake. The elevator finally arrives and just as you and your new friend step inside, he asks about your business.

It’s time for the ‘elevator speech.’

Of course, this is a very literal exposition on phrase; it can take place practically anywhere. The elevator speech is brief (the time it takes to take a typical elevator ride), to the point, and delivered in a casual, conversational way. It’s the friendly alternative to a dull recitation of your organization’s vital statistics or suggesting someone visit your company’s website.

An elevator speech shouldn’t be confused with company ‘boilerplate’ that commonly appears as a paragraph at the end of a press release. The purpose of PR boilerplate is to identify your business—where it’s located, when was it founded, what it sells—and to let people know where to get more information. An elevator speech, on the other hand, informs the audience why an organization is worth getting to know in the first place.

Elevator Speeches Can Pave the Way for Future Sales

We’ve all seen the stereotypical sales rep in movies and TV shows—annoying people who never miss an opportunity to launch their pitch. Doubtlessly such behavior in real life would be a colossal turn-off. As annoying as such salespeople would be, however, they are correct in realizing chance encounters might possibly bear fruit as a sale.  A nicely crafted elevator speech gently plants the seed.

You simply never know what doors new acquaintances might open—either as a buyer or as a potential referral. And when people ask you about your business, they’ve given you permission to ‘promote,’ so take advantage.

But what if you’re a dentist, a CPA or some other professional or highly skilled service provider operating a small business? People are already familiar with those occupations, so how much of an elevator speech could these professionals need? The answer is “just as much as any other company.” There may be a lot of other folks in your line of work, but there’s only one business that depends on your skills and unique expertise. Here’s your chance to differentiate your operation from your competition.

Tell Your Company’s Story in 30 Seconds or Less

It’s time now to sit down at your computer (or pen and paper if you’re decidedly old school). The goal will be to tell a story, and do so in about 75 words or less. As with most stories, there are three essential parts:

  • Introduction – Identify your business and its general purpose.
  • Body –  Describe your typical customers’ needs or challenges
  • Conclusion –  Close with how your business benefits your customers.

Example: I own Big Mike’s Express IT. We set up computer networks, provide disaster backup systems, monitor hardware and software for problems as well as other related services. Our clients are mostly local small-to-midsize businesses. They need fairly robust information technology but lack the in-house resources to manage their own systems. Basically, we solve our clients’ IT problems so they can concentrate on what they do best.

Your value proposition should play prominently in your elevator speech—so your audience understands how your business benefits your customers. Be aware, however, that honesty is THE fundamental element in a good elevator story. If you believe what you are saying, your listener will be more likely to believe it as well. Sincerity comes through.

Finally, let’s say you’ve carefully distilled, refined, crafted and edited your words to deliver maximum impact in the least possible amount of time. You don’t want it to sound rehearsed. Read through your elevator speech a couple of times, then set it aside and try to repeat it aloud. The idea isn’t to recite it word-for-word; in fact, that’s exactly what you don’t want to do. Your delivery should sound natural. As long as you hit your main points and deliver them in the right order, you’re prepared to help your business make a good (and memorable) first impression.

For some additional takes on elevator speeches, you may want to check out the following articles:

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Marketing as a New Year’s Resolution

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Is one of your New Year’s resolutions to grow your business? To do more marketing? To be more strategic? To work smarter, not harder? You’re not alone! Each year, our phones start ringing on January 2nd with clients ready to start off strong.

If you need support to refresh your brand, launch that new web site, generate new content, shoot new videos, design new marketing collateral, build relationships with the media, or just to keep you on track – we’re here for you. Let’s set up a meeting and discuss your resolutions!

Be More Awesome in 2016!

What Makes a Survey Worthwhile?

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We’re all familiar with ubiquitous greeting, “How are you?” Instinctively, we understand the only socially acceptable answer is “I’m fine.” If someone is truly interested, he or she might place a hand on our shoulder, look into our eyes with a concerned expression and say, “Seriously, how are you?” That’s how you should approach any survey conducted for marketing purposes; you must sincerely care about getting a truthful answer.

Of course, there’s one really big difference in our analogy: A survey for your business may seem to inquire as to how your customers feel, but what you’re really asking is, “How am I?” You may not really care how Uncle Ed is adjusting to his low-sodium diet, but you do have a huge interest in your own company.

Honesty in survey responses is everything. Only accurate answers are going to provide the intelligence you need for: identifying your true value proposition and managing your brand; making decisions regarding your product or service offerings; correcting operational deficiencies; or taking advantage of developing opportunities.

Getting the Most from a Marketing Survey

Caring about what your customers (or prospective customers) really think about your business is just the starting point for creating a worthwhile survey. Here are a few rules for survey construction that will put you on a path to gaining actionable information.

Use perfect grammar. We have grammar rules for reason—they help us better understand the messages carried by language. Consider the difference made by something as seemingly innocuous as comma placement. Consider: “Let’s eat, kids,” vs. “Let’s eat kids.”

Screen your survey subjects. Is the respondent a customer or someone who could easily become a customer? Demographics-related questions will help answer these questions. You might also want to ask questions to help weed out anyone with an incentive to provide faulty information such as someone working for a competitor.

Be clear what you are asking about. Ambiguity is your enemy. Generally speaking, short, direct questions are best—provided there’s a relatively limited list of logically possible answers. Longer questions can be okay provided they help narrow the respondent’s focus by setting parameters of consideration.

Group questions for logical progression. How questions are arranged will aid your subjects’ focus on various areas of interest within a survey. For longer surveys, distinctive grouping will help respondents feel they are making progress completing the questionnaire.

Provide applicable answer options. Many questionnaires provide survey subjects with a range of answer options—usually four or five. This will work fine, if you’re confident the vast majority of respondents will choose some answer other than “I don’t know” or “N/A.” A better approach may be to ask subjects to pick a point on a sliding scale to indicate their level of agreement, like or dislike, likelihood of taking some kind of action … etc., in response to the question.

Keep it brief. Any survey that takes longer than 5 – 10 minutes for the average person to complete is probably going to test respondent patience. You don’t want people to give up—or worse—hurriedly answer questions without regard to accuracy. If the survey absolutely has to be longer than 10 minutes, give the subject fair warning before they begin.

Once you have your completed surveys in hand, the real fun begins as you tabulate results. (Some people actually do enjoy statistical analysis … others, not so much.) Here are three important steps:

  • Group your respondents by their demographic profiles to help spot trends.
  • Record every question result to establish a baseline against which to measure future surveys.
  • Review poll results with an eye toward improving your next survey. (For instance, too many “N/A” or “no opinion” answers indicate a problem.)
  • Follow through and follow up. There’s really no point of doing a survey unless you act on the results. Additionally, you want to let your respondents know that you value their input, with some small token of appreciate if possible but a thank you email at a minimum.

The ‘science’ of surveys is relatively straightforward. The ‘art’ is in the interpretation. Initial thoughts of “what does this mean?” will often be followed by “but what does this really mean?” Talk the results over with: trusted staff members, friendly peers in your industry, insightful friends and family members, or even some of your best, longest-term customers. An openness to other assessments will keep you from hearing just what you want to hear, or from making mountains out of molehills.

Finally, resist the urge to be defensive in your reaction to negative survey results. Marketing research is designed to help improve your business. (You can’t improve what’s already perfect … and no organization is perfect.) Think of criticism as being like a friend who lets you know you have spinach stuck on a front tooth.  Conversely, if your feedback is glowingly positive, don’t simply set back on your laurels in smug satisfaction. Build on success by getting busy using the things you do well as a springboard for new outreach and business growth.

P.S. For more information about surveys, you might check out these online articles:

Sharing Survey Secrets at the American Marketing Association Conference

How to Create a Market Survey

Constructing a Questionnaire

How to Get More People to Take Your Survey

Analysis and Handling Survey Data

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Pinstripe Bookshelf: The Perfect Pitch

I’ve been invited to pitch for hundreds of pieces of business over the course of my career, and I’ve been fortunate to win a significant percentage of them. Our clients know that we don’t go into meetings with PowerPoint presentations or slick handouts – we’ve all suffered enough with death by PowerPoint.* According to Jon Steel, author of The Perfect Pitch: The Art of Selling Ideas and Winning New Business, we’re doing something right, but I know we can always get better. That’s why I picked up this book and discovered more than a few new insights to boost our new business efforts.

perfectpitchAlthough written from the perspective of a strategic planner pitching new business in the advertising industry, the content is relevant for anyone charged with selling ideas and landing new clients. In the professional services realm, one can imagine what new business pitches look like – the parade of suits promising a commitment to client service, full-service capabilities, unmatched experience… all hiding behind a projector, screen and a stack of “leave behinds.” Sound familiar?

Perfect Pitch is not a call to end PowerPoint presentations, but a manual on how to understand your audience and present ideas in a compelling, persuasive fashion. There are dozens of useful nuggets and commentary throughout the book – things to do as well as what not to do.

One of the resounding themes throughout the book rang familiar. My very first pitch for Pinstripe was a soon-to-be-fast-growing software company and I was fortunate to end up on the short list against one of the largest and well-known agencies in Tampa Bay. After a few meetings and submitting a proposal, I won the account which helped get the agency off the ground and was the beginning of a long, rewarding relationship. In that meeting where the CEO officially hired us, she asked if I wanted to know why they picked us. I was so stunned that I didn’t know what to say, but she responded, “you were the only one who behaved as if our business was important to you.”

It was then and it is now.

Order The Perfect Pitch from Amazon

* In 2006, Wall Street Journal estimated 30 million PowerPoint presentations are given every day around the world. We’ve seen the backlash over the last nine years, so we can hope it has gone down since then. Unfortunately, it has probably become worse.

A Beginner’s Guide to Hashtags


You have heard the term “hashtag” used in reference to Twitter or Instagram. You may have even heard it used as slang in spoken language, usually said ironically and preceding a cliché, such as “hashtag YOLO” or “hashtag ladies who lunch.” This slang use emphasizes the original intent of the hashtag, which is to link associated content — an easy search tool for social media. For example, if you want to post on social networks about a Tampa Bay Rays baseball game, use #TampaBayRays or #RaysUp and it will appear in searches along with thousands of other Tampa Bay Rays posts.

If we focus on the hashtag as a marketing tool rather than an ironic reference to cultural vapidity or slang, we begin to see its usefulness. It is one of the best ways to place your content in front of the appropriate eyes on social networks, and the more specific you can be, the better chance you have of reaching your target audience. Consider the following simple rules:

  • Hashtags are not case sensitive – so even though phrases should have no space, capitalizing the first letter of words in a phrase allows you to distinguish between the words – #FirstLady
  • Try to incorporate the hashtag into the body of your post – say “#ProfessionalServicesMarketing” rather than “Professional services marketing #ProfessionalServicesMarketing”
  • Think about what your client/customer/user wants to read. What are they searching for? These are your keywords and they will be your hashtags.
  • Once you come up with a list of hashtag phrases, use the social networks to search the phrases and keywords to see what other content is trending – is it relevant to your content? If the content you see is not related to yours, try to come up with a keyword that will put your content in the right place.
  • Look at your competitors’ posts – what hashtags are they using and what content are they posting? You can learn a lot by regularly visiting their social media accounts. Avoid “me too” marketing, but use competitive insights from this research to generate new ideas.
  • Choose your words wisely – you only have 140 characters to get your point across on Twitter and you don’t want Instagram, Facebook or G+ posts to be too lengthy.
  • Avoid hashtag overload. #toomuch #unreadable #annoying #whodoesthis #hashtagsforhashtags #marketing #advertising #pr #socialmedia

Twitter can be an important part of a social media strategy. It is ranked as the second most popular social media platform, next to Facebook, so it is brimming with potential customers. Instagram is among the fastest growing platform and companies are finding success with advertising/promoted posts. The challenge is to reach your prospective clients by using good hashtags and consistent posting.

Pinstripe Marketing has a social media team brimming with ideas for your campaign. We can help generate ideas or take the load off your hands so you can work on your business.

For more information on social media strategy, read some of Pinstripe Marketing’s other social media articles. 

Tampa Bay public relations