How to explain what your business does so people understand quickly

If you’re a barrister or you own a restaurant or you’re the marketing manager of a coworking space, this isn’t the blog post for you. But if your business is slightly harder to define – if you dread going to a networking event and someone asking, “So what is it that you do?” – then you’re in the right place. 

Many of our clients are experts in complex subjects that don’t lend themselves to a one or two word description. We’ve been working with a number of them recently to create foundational copy, messaging and brand voice guidelines to help them clearly communicate what they do.

If you struggle to explain what your business does so people understand quickly, here are a few tips to get you started.

Does your audience speak your language?

The first and most important step in any communication is to know – really know – who you’re talking to. If you’re a B2B tech brand and your target client is as tech savvy as you, for example, then talking at an expert level and using appropriate jargon is perfectly acceptable.

If, on the other hand, your audience isn’t as familiar with your area of expertise, you’ll need to think about what they might need to understand, what might confuse them, where they might draw the wrong conclusions or be put off by technical language.

The beauty industry is a great example of where brands do this well. Sure, they might mention retinol or keratin or silica to give a gloss of scientific weight to their advertising. But they know that their audience aren’t scientists – they just want younger looking skin, glossier hair, and sparkling white teeth. 

So they chuck in a “here comes the science bit” and then focus on being “worth it” – a much more resonant message.

Forget the features – what benefits do you offer?

One of the biggest challenges we have with expert clients is getting them to stop thinking about all the amazing things they can offer and start thinking about what it is that their audience is actually trying to achieve.

When it comes to benefits vs feature, the best description of the concept is a truth widely acknowledged by marketers – that no one wants a quarter inch drill bit; they want a quarter inch hole.

Your technology (and it’s often technology brands, we’ve found, who struggle with this) may have all sorts of shiny features that make it the best on the market. But what does your audience need to accomplish with those features?

Do they need their employees to be more productive? Do they want to reduce the time they spend collating management information? Do they have environmental safety targets they’re currently failing to meet?

When you identify what benefits your audience is interested in, you have a starting point for what to talk to them about.

Does your audience know they need you?

There’s a big difference between a potential customer who is problem-aware and one who is solution-aware. 

If your audience is problem-aware, they know they have an issue – they need to make more sales, for example – but they might not know that your CRM can help them track and nurture leads to improve conversion.

In this case, what you need to communicate is an understanding of their problem and help educate them so that they begin to realise that you have the answers they’re looking for.

It may be that they are pretty “low problem-aware” and need some helping defining the real issue. So perhaps they think they need more leads but what they actually need is better quality leads or better conversation rates.

If, on the other hand, your customer is solution-aware – in other words, they know they need a CRM and they’re shopping around for the right one – you need to start talking about what makes you different to the competition and a good fit for them.

What if your offering sits within a unique category?

The toughest sell is something that disrupts the market in some way. Something that sits in a category of its own or across more than one category so that people either have no idea what it is or confuse it with things it isn’t.

This is where you really need to drill down and understand the problem that you’re solving for your audience. That way you can sell your product or service with the right framing and value proposition.

Let’s take Nepresso as an example. When they first brought out their pod-based coffee model, people may well have laughed. Why would you want to spend 40p on a cup of coffee you had to make yourself, when you can have any other instant for a fraction of the price? 

But Nepresso knew that their audience wasn’t looking for a better tasting instant coffee. They were looking for a cost effective alternative to high quality take away coffee, which they could make in the comfort of their own home. And so that’s how they communicated their offering.

Use this pitch format to help explain what it is that you do

Whether you’re selling a complex technology product or you’re delivering your service via a disruptive new business model, it’s important that you can communicate your business offering in a way that is clear and easy for your audience to understand.

Spend time getting to know your customer or client, their ambitions and their challenges. Think carefully about the language you choose, how technical or straightforward it is. Look at the benefits working with you or buying your product can deliver. And be clever about the way you opposition yourself to help cement your value proposition.

Then use this pitch format to start honing your key messaging: For [your ideal customers or clients] who are [trying to do X or facing X challenge], [your product or service] is a [product category] that provides [key value proposition]. Unlike [closest alternatives] [your product or service] offers [key features].

If you’re struggling to fit it all in, you have more work to do.

To find out more about how we can help you define and communicate your business offering, get in touch to find out more about our brand voice and other consultancy services.


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