How often are you asked the question, "What do you do?" Maybe once a day? I hear this question at least once a day, sometimes two or three if I'm out and about a lot for my business. So how do you answer? And why does it matter?
Your one-liner is your first line of offense in your marketing. It is your first (and maybe last) chance to share what you do in a clear, succinct, and memorable way so they lean in.
My hero Sir Richard Branson puts it best when he says...
“Today, if you want to succeed as an entrepreneur, you also have to be a storyteller…It is not enough to create a great product; you also have to work out how to let people know about it.” —Sir Richard Branson
You may have a fantastic value proposition, but if you can't communicate about it in a way that is 1) understandable, and 2) captures their attention, you're going to have a hard time selling your idea and yourself.
Living in San Francisco, I hear a lot of startup one-liners that fall totally flat. I once asked a tech startup co-founder what his company did, and he said, "We're like VR for Snapchat." And in the same conversation he said they were interested in reaching the mainstream American market.
Well I'm from mainstream Texas, and I can say with 100% certainty that "VR for Snapchat" is NOT downstream marketing (i.e. My uncle Gary just won't get it).
This example illustrates what we call "the curse of knowledge". Many entrepreneurs and small business owners are so close to what they do they can't explain it in a way that makes sense to someone not in their company. And people in your company already know what you do!
Having a one-liner that communicates quickly and in everyday language what you do is the first step in your marketing journey.
Once you nail this down (and memorize it), you can start to bring it through to all your marketing collateral, and it will help you put a framework around your overall messaging formula.
So how do you create a one-liner that gets their attention? How do you create a one-liner that sticks in their memory so they call you three months later when they need your services?
First, a well-conceived one-liner is succinct, uses everyday language, and is memorable.
A one-liner is not an elevator pitch. A one-liner is meant to land in one breath before the other person has a chance to think about if they want to go back to the bar for another drink. You have to hold their attention. This means getting in and out fast. Two sentences tops.
And when I say everyday language, I mean ten year old language. If you're in tech, don't drop phrases like full stack API on people (unless you know they're in your industry and 100% get it). Your goal is to communicate, and this means meeting them on their level. Don't try to show off your knowledge—it just turns people off. You want them to get it, remember, and then tell someone else. You see how that works?
A successful one-liner focuses on your client's pain, your solution, and the results they are looking for.
For example, my clients struggle with communicating what they do so people get it and engage. The results they want are that their businesses grow. I have a process that helps them communicate a clear message in a fresh way so they can grow their business.
Of course, I do a lot of other things with my clients, but if I tried to cram all of that in, they'd tune out, and I would lose my opportunity to be remembered.
You will have to leave a lot out of your one-liner.
It's not about being thorough; it's about being SUCCINCT so you keep their attention. A little mystery helps too. You can see from my one-liner above that I say "I have a process..." I don't say anything else about the process, just that I have it. That makes you curious, and so you ask me to tell you more.
Of course, most people have a process to their work, but when you share that you have one, it becomes part of your unique value proposition, and they get a little hooked by the mystery of it. See how that works?
Everyday I help small business owners and entrepreneurs communicate how they are different, and I can help you too.
If you don't yet have a one-liner that describes what you do in a succinct, memorable way in everyday language, get in touch.
Struggling to define and communicate your brand? Get clear with the Brand Identity Brief free download here.