Lift yourself right up with a good elevator speech

Elevator speeches are a delightfully North American invention if for no reason other than North American cities tended to have very tall commercial buildings before the others in far-flung places got there. And anyway, people – whilst travelling in their elevators (lifts) – have the opportunity to share their raison d’ètre with whoever happens to be going up or down with them at the same time.

Despite many big city buildings being unbelievably tall, their elevators move fast, so whatever you say to your co-elevatorees on the way up or down needs to fit into around 30 seconds or so.

Realistically, “elevator speeches” are set pieces in which you need to define why you exist – in business terms – within a very short space of time whether you’re yomping up and down in an elevator, speed-networking at a F2F meeting, or chatting to a potential client while waiting for a bus or train. Whatever the circumstance, this is not the right occasion for trotting out your mini-biography, no matter how concise it might be.

Whereas mini-biographies talk about you, elevator speeches must talk about what you do for your clients. Big difference. However don’t be intimidated. All you need to do is identify how whatever your skill or business capability is, helps clients do their stuff better.

To illustrate, here is a short bio of mine, followed by an equivalent “elevator speech…”

Bijou bio:
Suzan St Maur is a leading business writer, best-selling author, editor and writing coach. Check out how she can help you write more effectively here: http://HowToWriteBetter.net

Elevator speech:
I help people create text that works – from whole books to microblogs. I’m also an editor / proofreader / writing coach with 30+ published books of my own, so I really do know how to help you successfully write whatever you want to!

See the difference?

Yes, but everybody says “I help you do blah-blah-blah” …

And when they do, they’re on the right track. However someone in an elevator with a half-dozen random business people who says:

I can help you get rid of bugs that eat your baby lettuces with my amazing organic, eco-friendly bug deterrent

…isn’t necessarily going to score too many points.

But relax. If you do something that specialized, you don’t need to avoid big city elevators and focus on country buildings where amateur veggie growers congregate to admire the huge size of each other’s cucumbers.

Not only are these latter buildings unlikely to contain an elevator in the first place, but also they are unlikely to contain quite so many potential clients who could use your broader talents.

So, how do you adapt your elevator speech for bigger urban elevators where potential clients could abound? By thinking wider and broader.

Take a few steps back and develop the big picture

Say you are that gardening expert and you can, indeed, show people how to stop bugs destroying their baby lettuce crops.

But … what else does that do?

Sure, we have to assume that some people in that elevator won’t give a sh*t about growing vegetables. A few will, but far more importantly most if not all will be interested in ways to improve eco-friendly, organic ways of making sure their salad is bug-free and clean.

So, how about something like this for your elevator speech:

If you eat salad, I bet you care about how bug-free your lettuce is? Well, my business gets rid of any bugs that could contaminate your salads … organically and safely.

As always, think about “what’s in it for them”

I know I’ve been banging on about “what’s in it for them” for years now but as I’ve pointed out above the sad reality is that your elevator speech needs to ignore, potentially, what you’d really like to say, and focus purely on what you can offer the other people in the elevator.

If in doubt about the content of your elevator speech, check out this article of mine – it’s a bit harsh, but it stops you writing up blind alleys and keeps you focused on what you need.

So – good luck. (And if you do happen to know how to kindly and organically divert bugs away from my young lettuce plants, please share here in the comments….)

Now, give all your writing a lift:

“Super Speeches”…how to write and deliver them well

“How To Write About Yourself”…how to make the most of yourself, whatever you need to write

“Business Writing Made Easy”…everything you need to know about writing for business in English

photo credit: lrargerich via photo pin cc

I’m so glad I’m not the only one to write for “you”…

On the prowl once again for useful little videos to share with you, I happened upon this one by Jeffrey Gitomer, the famous US business trainer.

In this short clip Jeffrey points out the importance of being “you” focused in all your business/social media writing … something I’ve been banging on about for years, as I suspect he has too!

If you’ve not seen or heard him speak before, you’ll enjoy his easygoing, friendly style and obvious expertise at what he does. You can see more of his work on his YouTube channel, BuyGitomer, where many of the video clips involve writing for business and sales – useful advice.

Now, let’s get you  writing brilliantly for you:

“How To Write About Yourself”…how to make the most of yourself, whatever you need to write

“Business Writing Made Easy”…everything you need to know about writing for business in English

“Banana Skin Words and how not to slip on them”…over 1,500 spelling and grammar tips to perfect your written English

The simple way to write a sizzling sales letter

Much as we spend most of our lives online, there are still occasions when a printed letter is required … even if all you do with it is to attach it to an email! Here, then, are some tips on how to approach it effectively.

It’s important to differentiate here between the really hard-nosed direct mail sales letter, and, say a new business announcement, or a covering letter you send out to accompany some marketing or other information to a prospect or customer. The former type is best left to professionals, because it takes a great deal of skill, practice and experience to do it well. The latter kind, though, can be done quite effectively by the DIY sales writer. Here are my thoughts on that.

The one main difference between sales letters and personal letters is the role you play. In a personal letter you write in your own style about what you want to say. In a sales letter your focus is totally on the recipient, and you write in the style that he or she will identify with most readily – regardless of your own personal style. Because of this, your style will vary according to who is going to receive the letter.

Show them you care from line one

Right from the very first line, you need to show your readers that you empathize totally with their needs. The better you do that, the more likely they are to keep reading. To achieve that you need to do your homework and find out what your readers real needs are, and focus everything you want to sell them on how it meets those needs and benefits them.

You also need to focus very firmly on “you” and avoid talking more than strictly necessary about “we” and “us,” except for where it obviously benefits “you.”

Facts, not sales talk

Finally, a good sales letter needs to focus on facts – not selling jargon. Readers aren’t stupid. They’re not going to be interested in your product or service unless a) they know precisely what’s “in it for them” right from the beginning, and b) why that’s in it for them. The only credible way to answer the “why” part is to give truthful, straight facts. The selling skill isn’t in making up a plausible sounding story. The skill lies in showing readers how the facts will benefit them.

Let’s use a consumer example, although the same theory applies to the business-to-business variety. This is the launch of a new window cleaning service. First, the wrong way…

Dear Sir
(First mistake. Many householders are women. It’s also a bit too formal for this audience, and this service.)

We are proud to announce the new See-Through window cleaning service in the XXXtown area.
(Wrong again. You may be proud to announce it, but to say so sounds old-fashioned, pompous and affected. The reader doesn’t care about you or whether you’re proud or not.)

Our 20-strong team of cleaners has been fully trained to ensure an efficient and thorough service to householders …
(How many cleaners does it take to do the windows of the average home, unless you’re talking the White House, Buckingham Palace, or the Sydney Opera House? One? Two maybe? You may be impressed by your 20 star performers, but they’ll make your readers think they’re in for a large expense.)

… at very attractive, cost-effective rates.
(Nonsense, says the reader. Cost-effective is what businesses say when they try to justify high prices. I only react to facts. Like how much would it cost for an average three-bedroomed townhouse?)

We also offer discounts to groups of ten or more households wishing to have their windows cleaned at the same time.
(Where? Zimbabwe? Alaska? Halfway up the Andes? What about me and my neighbors?)

Further details of this discount facility are available on request.
(You’ll tell me about prices if I ask you nicely. Nuts to that. I want to know now.)

If you would like more information on the new See-Through window cleaning service, please contact our office.
(Well, at least you finally remembered who you were writing to. But why should I contact your office? And who? The canteen manager? And where? One of those funny little phone numbers at the bottom of the letterhead in 6 point type? If you want me to buy from you, make it easy.)

Yours faithfully
(oh come on … you’re not writing to a tax inspector!)

I Glass
Chairman
(Gosh, a real chairman. I wonder how much he knows about how I like my windows cleaned. Haven’t you got someone a bit more in touch with me and my needs?)

OK. Let’s try again with a more appropriate style and approach, using headings to break up the text and emphasize key benefits. We also need to give far more in the way of facts.

Dear Householder,

A CLEAN, CLEAR VIEW FROM YOUR WINDOWS AT A COST THAT CLEARLY MAKES SENSE

Window cleaning can be a time-consuming chore for you … messy, dirty and even dangerous. Paying someone else to do it can help. But can you always rely on them to turn up regularly?

Now, though, you can leave the problem of window cleaning to us. See-Through window cleaners have just set up a new professional service in your area … to clean your windows as often as you want, on a regular basis. All you have to do is tell us how often you want us – biweekly, monthly, three-monthly or whatever suits you best – and one of our fully trained cleaners will be there every time, on time.

And you don’t pay more because we’re professional. An average three-bedroomed townhouse costs around YY.00. That’s less than many independent casual window cleaners charge.

GET TOGETHER WITH YOUR NEIGHBORS AND BRING THE COST DOWN EVEN MORE

For ten or more homes on a regular basis, we’ll give you a discount of 20%. That brings the cost of an average three-bedroomed townhouse down to just XX.00. And twenty homes or more get a massive 50% off.

LET US GIVE YOU A FREE QUOTATION

Just mark and post the enclose reply-paid card, or email us here: clarity@seethrough.com.uk

We’ll get in touch right away to make an appointment for one of our specialists to visit your home and give you a free, no-quibbles quote.

And if your windows need attention urgently, call us now on our Hotline – 0123 456789. We’ll get one of our team over to you within 72 hours, at no extra charge.

Let See-Through give you a cleaner, clearer view from your windows – at a cost that clearly makes sense.

Warm regards

CLARITY GLASS
Customer Services Manager

Sizzle on with these:

“Business Writing Made Easy”…everything you need to know about writing for business in English

“Banana Skin Words and how not to slip on them”…over 1,500 spelling and grammar tips to perfect your written English

“English to English: the A to Z of British-American translations”…more than 2,000 business and social terms from the USA, the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand

Write right for Twitter and your book or eBook can sell bigtime

Once in a while it’s encouraging to see a straight, old-fashioned sales success story about promoting your book or books, and here is my latest contribution – using Twitter.

Back in the early 00s I wrote a book called “The Horse Lover’s Joke Book. It took me all of about 3 months in total and I enjoyed every minute of it. The book was published by one of the specialist equestrian imprints in the UK and the USA and since then it has sold out several times and been reprinted as many times again.

Needless to say its success is due largely to it being an affordable horsey gift, which is why it’s nearly always in the top 20 “horses” category on Amazon and regularly hits the number 1 spot there in the run-up to Christmas. It also sells hand over fist in bricks-and-mortar equestrian retail outlets, and does pretty well online from specialist equestrian websites, as a gift for Mother’s Day, birthdays, anniversaries and more.

All the same a while back, with one eye on maintaining its sales and the other eye on establishing the groundwork for its sequel which was being published soon afterwards, I decided to try Twitter to promote it.

We’re talking very basic advertising strategy here

Via Tweetdeck I set up searches for various incarnations of horsey and other phrases, but settled on the most obvious ones … #horses and #gifts. I was quite surprised to see how vast the horse-related Twitter membership is, especially in the USA, but with what seemed like thousands in the UK as well. When my search was on “horses” and my PC’s speakers were turned up, the Tweetdeck pinger would be going off like a pesky burglar alarm.

I wrote and sent every tweet manually and changed things around a bit as I went along, but my basic tweet would be something like:

Want the perfect stocking filler for a friend who loves horses? “The Horse Lover’s Joke Book” http://amzn.to/cWt3xR #horses #gifts

I started tweeting these at the beginning of November and continued at the rate of about 8-10 per day up until Amazon’s Christmas delivery deadline.

I then received the final figures from my publishers:

The sales total of “The Horse Lover’s Joke Book” on Amazon UK just in November and December 2010, was 25 percent more than all the book’s sales in the whole 12 months of 2009. (Sales figures for the same period 12 months later were almost identical after a similar promotional push in November and December 2011, and I’m currently running the same again for 2012.)  

And it wasn’t doing badly back in 2009 before I started using Twitter for business, either. So if this isn’t proof that promoting and selling niche nonfiction books work well on Twitter, I don’t know what is. So get Tweeting – and sell your books and eBooks!

More help for you on Twitter and beyond:

“How To Write About Yourself”…how to make the most of yourself, whatever you need to write

“Business Writing Made Easy…everything you need to know about writing for business in English

“Banana Skin Words and how not to slip on them”…over 1,500 spelling and grammar tips to perfect your written English

Marketing writing: why features smell and benefits sell

Time and time again I look through all my posts here on HTWB and see references to the old “features and benefits” issue in marketing and commercial business writing. But still, people ask me what I mean, how it works, why it matters, etc.

A long time ago in one of my earlier books, articles, blog posts et al about marketing writing (and in subsequent ones) I came up with this rather clumsy phrase which despite it containing a rhyme – surprisingly – many people have taken up with a smile and much gusto:

FEATURES SMELL. BENEFITS SELL

Why is this so relevant when it comes to writing for marketing or even other, less sales-focused business writing?

Because it’s true (OK, metaphorically.)

In many ways I feel guilty even posting about this topic on here when the “features versus benefits” issue has been wallowing around in marketing and advertising circles for not only years, not only decades, not only generations, but probably not short of centuries now, too.

But still, there are some people who don’t understand the difference. And many of these are people who are trying to market products and services into an increasingly complex and, indeed, overworked marketplace in which folks are so bloody tired of hearing about features, they just want to scream. Why?

FEATURES ARE WHAT A PRODUCT OR SERVICE IS.

BENEFITS ARE WHAT IT DOES FOR YOU, THE PURCHASER.

BENEFITS SELL IT. FEATURES ON THEIR OWN DO NOT.

Easy. Yet why are so many marketing exercises blighted by the features virus, when it ain’t so hard to turn a feature into a benefit which actually does stand a cat’s chance in hell of selling your product or service fairly and squarely?

Here’s how to do it

I’ll go back to a pretty basic example, once again extracted from one of my earlier books (I don’t do complicated, OK?) Here we’re talking about a garden chair:

Feature: AL-alloy metal frame with HK-147 PVC compound, polyurethane seat and back rest

Benefit: You can relax in comfort knowing that its sturdy frame and durable seat back are not only comfortable, but also that they’ll last for many years

Feature: Fade-proof coating withstands sun and heat up to 35°C constant for 72 hours. Factory tested for efficacy

Benefit: Looks good for years to come even in strong sun and sizzling summer temperatures, thanks to fade-proof, factory-tested coating

Feature: Delivered in flat pack with full assembly instructions. Pack suitable for long-term storage prior to assembly.

Benefit: Arrives in convenient pack for you to store for the winter… then assemble in minutes, ready for spring!

But what if features are objectives, not nuts and bolts?

No problem. You simply apply the same criteria to the objectives as if they were nuts and bolts: what’s in it for the recipient? Some examples…

If you want to inform people (feature), their benefit is that they increase their own knowledge resource.

If you want to train people (feature), their benefit is that is improves their skills and abilities to do their jobs better and gain skills which will be useful for them in their future.

If you need to rebuke people (feature), their benefit is to understand that no-one’s perfect but you can learn to overcome a problem and so be better at your job.

If you want to entertain people (feature), their benefit is to feel appreciated and valued.

If you want to energize/motivate people (feature), their benefit is to see why it’s worth their while to go the extra mile and be recognized for it.

And how does this fit in with current 21st century “marketing think?”

Answer: it fits right in there so tight it can’t even squeak. Just as it always has where marketing and – let’s face – a great deal more in the way of business communication is concerned. No matter how much old advertising and branding strategies have been dissolved by the here, now, up-your-nose (and very welcome) nature of online marketing in particular, the old features versus benefits issue hasn’t changed one tiny jot.

So if you need to write for marketing or even more general purposes, remember my clumsy little mnemonic

FEATURES SMELL. BENEFITS SELL.

Make sure your marketing writing sells, not smells:

“Super Speeches”…how to write and deliver them well

“How To Write About Yourself”…how to make the most of yourself, whatever you need to write

“Business Writing Made Easy”…everything you need to know about writing for business in English

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