So, what exactly do you do?

When you run a small business, you are the business. You may not have the resources of BP or Nestlé; but what you do have is you. Every relationship you build has the potential to be a business relationship.

That means you need to think seriously about how you present yourself (your Personal Brand), and by extension your business (your Brand), to the people you meet. There’s a difference between knowing what you do and knowing how to talk about what you do. So the next time someone asks what you do, these points might help:

1. It’s not all about you. This is the old story about the man who wants to buy a 5mm drill bit, but not really wanting the drill bit at all – what he really wants is a 5mm hole. If your business is cleaning people’s houses you might be surprised to learn that you don’t really clean homes. What you actually do is give people time to focus on their families, or turn homes into sources of peace rather than sources of guilt. Start thinking about your business in your customers’ terms, rather than in your own. Their reasons for hiring you should be the foundation of your marketing communications.

2. Mugs, Elevators and Shakespeare. There are three different levels of marketing communication. You need to work out when to use which.

The mug: if you had to fit what you do on the side of a mug, what would it be? 5 seconds of speech – no more. When you’ve worked it out, how about putting it on the reverse of your business card?

The elevator pitch: in the time it takes to get to the 4th floor – 20 seconds – describe yourself and your business. What will you say?

Shakespeare: if someone is really interested in what you do, then you have permission to launch into the soliloquy.

3. Experiment. Edison tried thousands of times before getting a light bulb to work. It may take you a few attempts to get your message right. Aim for “interesting, tell me more!” not “what do you mean by that?”.

When you find what works, you’ll know it.
Doing this is hard work, sometimes very hard work. Crafting effective marketing communications takes patience, discipline, and creativity.

But it pays off when someone asks:
‘So, what do you do?’

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