Wednesday, November 26, 2014
Why is this even important?
Well here is a case where a strong elevator pitch can be valuable. At the start of nearly every Board of Advisory event at the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce the host would send a microphone around the entire room giving everyone an opportunity to stand up and state your name, your company name and "what it is you do". There are several ways the moderator would keep this from consuming the entire time allocated for the event itself. One way was to restrict the person to saying this in three breaths (three sentences). Another was to limit it to 10 seconds. In other words, an opportunity to give your elevator pitch but to an audience of 50 to 100 local business leaders. This kind of scenario is not uncommon. Are you prepared for it?
I use the following elevator scenario with my clients to hone their ability to clearly articulate what it is they do.
"You just walked into the 3rd floor elevator at a shopping mall and just before the door closes an important business acquaintance you haven't seen in a long while squeezes in the door at the last second. He/she recognizes you and says, "Mike! Good to see you again. What are you up to nowadays?" He presses the first floor button. The elevator starts to move. How will you reply?"
A typical elevator will cover two floors in 10 - 16 seconds. To allow for a response I suggest your pitch should last no more than 10 seconds.
So now that we know how long it should be, what are the ingredients to a good elevator pitch? When stating what you do it should be, (1) clear enough for your grandmother to understand, (2) be stated in a manner that clearly sets you apart from others in your sector, and (3) is intriguing enough to warrant the following sincere (versus the brush off) reply, "Wow, that's interesting. I'd like to hear more. Let's get together for coffee." Of course, if the person is not in the market for your services another good response could be, “Interesting, I might know someone who could use your services.”
The bottom line is be clear, be different, and be brief.
Here is how the elevator ride would be for me.
We see each other in the elevator and the business owner says, "Mike! Good to see you again. What are you up to nowadays?" He presses the first floor button. The elevator starts to move.
I reply, “Good to see you Tom. I’m with Allegro Consulting, a 12 year old firm working exclusively with private companies on matters related to growing a sound business like strategy and process definition."
In this 10 seconds I emphasized a key differentiator for my company, longevity, that we’ve been around longer than almost everyone of my competitors. I made it clear who I specialize in working with, “private(ly) (held) companies”. And, I gave two concrete examples of what I do for my clients. You noticed I didn’t say something vague like, “I help companies go to the next level.” even though this is the most common phrase I hear from potential new clients. The reason is this phrase can mean different things to different people. There is no doubt what strategy means and implied in that is, I help companies who are ready to grow based on a strategy.
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Want to sharpen the elevator pitch for your metro Atlanta business? Let's talk about it over a cup of coffee. Contact me here.
About the author. Mike Gomez is President of Allegro Consulting, a growth specialty firm helping businesses plan and execute aggressive growth strategies. He grew his very first client’s business from $8M to $35M in just two years. Mike is a growth strategy, and sales process evangelist, prolific speaker, writer, three-time marathoner, a former military officer and pilot of both aircraft and helicopters. www.allegroconsultant.com
Friday, November 21, 2014
This was one of my earlier and more popular blogs. I thought it would be appropriate to dust it off and republish it because it is invariably this time of year when business owners begin to reflect on the past year and the new one just around the corner. I hear these quotes most often: "Maybe we should do things differently next year." or "I'd sure like to feel like I am in more control of our growth." or "I am ready to take it to the next level." Maybe this article will add additional motivation to change. Enjoy.
I was speaking to a large gathering of business owners and was asked whether there was an inherent conflict between planning for growth and the more free spirited entrepreneurial-like approach - where you stay agile and react to opportunities as they arise (i.e., operate without a plan). This was a great question as it addresses a big misconception about planning - that it somehow hand-cuffs a business.
To answer the question I asked the audience to imagine themselves accidentally walking onto the set of a movie production. Then imagine grabbing the megaphone and asking everyone on the set to freeze for a moment and to please hold up their script for the day. In this case, none of us would be too surprised to see that the cameraman, the director, the soundman, the actors, and even the caterers will all be able to produce a script for that specific day. The cameraman will know which cameras he has to have ready and where they should be staged. Because of the script, the actors will know the lines and the scenes they are expected to be ready for. And the script will reveal to the caterers how many meals they have to prepare for and where they will be served that day. You see, a movie will never come together without a script.
Now take that same megaphone into your own business and ask your leadership team and employees to produce their script for the day. How will they react to this request? I suspect most will give you that “deer in the headlights” look.
There is not a producer in the world or investor that would pursue a movie production without a well written script. The idea is simply preposterous. Yet most of us will run our businesses without one.
The script for your company is a plan - a simple concise document which aligns your team around a common objective or end-state that is consistent with your vision and market conditions. And, like the script for a movie, there are portions written specifically for specialized roles. Sales, operations, finance, human resources, marketing should each have a script which defines the specific tasks they must complete (and when) to keep your “movie” progressing.
The script governing the day-to-day operations are process documents which describes how a product or service is produced and delivered within your company.
You will find that businesses that grow consistently year after year operate to a well vetted long-term (3 yr.) and short-term (1 yr.) plan. It is the plan they refer to BEFORE making a hiring decision, investing in capital equipment, or spending precious cash on marketing campaigns and website improvements. It is also the plan that will guide them when building and executing a sales strategy.
These same growing companies also recognize that the process by which they produce a product or service can impact competitiveness. By documenting critical processes they eliminate the risk of being dependent on any one person’s memory or contribution. It also gives them a foundation from which to explore innovative changes that will improve efficiency and thus increase profitability.
Now I hope I have convinced you that, like a movie, your business too requires scripting. Can you imagine actors, cameramen, and set designers coming to a specific location and then left to their own to interpret the verbal instructions of the producer’s vision for a movie. It would be chaotic at best with numerous costly ventures down one frustrating dead-end after another. Entrepreneurial or not, is this the atmosphere for a growing thriving business? No.
So, where is the script for your business? It is worthwhile to note that since 1980 over 70% of the winners of the Academy Award for best picture also received the Oscar for best screenplay – the script.
Want help to build your "script"? Let's talk over coffee about where you want to take your metro Atlanta business. Contact me here.
About the author. Mike Gomez is President of Allegro Consulting, a growth specialty firm helping businesses plan and execute aggressive growth strategies. He grew his very first client’s business from $8M to $35M in just two years. Mike is a sales process evangelist, prolific speaker, writer, three-time marathoner, a former military officer and pilot of both aircraft and helicopters. www.allegroconsultant.com
Monday, November 10, 2014
It was after this presentation that a question was posed, “How do I decide who to target?”
Bingo! That is exactly the question I wanted these business owners to ponder.
I’m sorry to say that you won’t find the answer here in this blog. Why? Because the process to decide this requires an extensive internal company assessment and external market analysis.
I can, however, give you one step in that process. Answer this question, "How are you different from competitors in your industry or sector?" Figuring out what’s different about your business will then lead to identifying companies who value that difference - and thus whom you should consider targeting.
Unfortunately, most of us are in “commodity” businesses. In other words, within our industry sector we are simply an orange sitting on a stack of oranges. Unless you've intentionally done something to separate yourself, this is likely true whether you are a marketing firm, lawyer, dentist, any broker, web designer, staffing company, accounting firm, bank, dry cleaners, insurance company, real estate agent, etc ... Are you getting the picture? Even a company like Boeing is an orange. The difference for them is the stack of competing oranges is rather small (only four commercial aircraft builders in the world). If we could all be so lucky to compete against just four rivals.
The challenge for every business owner is to decide (1) do I simply compete as an orange - knowing I will have to out-market (advertise, SEO, etc...) all the other oranges in my sector and accept that price will drive most decisions or (2) narrow the competing field by specializing - become unique - a blood orange, naval orange, or clementine for example. There is no right or wrong answer here. The downfall comes by being unaware, in denial, or worse yet, think you have something unique when in fact you don't.
Here is a quick example. Cordell and Cordell is a law firm. I think we all know how many law firms there are in this world (that stack of oranges is a mile high). Recognizing this, Cordell and Cordell chose to specialize - they became a domestic litigation firm further specializing in men’s divorce - a blood orange (no pun). In doing so, they reduced the size of the competition significantly. And by fully embracing this strategy they know clearly who they want to serve (target) as a customer. They have even gone so far as to own and manage the content of mensdivorce.com and mensrights.com. Brilliant!
I have a friend who once defined his firm as a marketing company. He eventually recognized he was in a very crowded market (lots of oranges (marketing firms) here in Atlanta). Every engagement became a competitive race to the bottom in price. He decided to change course, to specialize in just one aspect of the marketing spectrum - marketing communications, even further specializing in presentations. He created a brand called Presentation Tune-ups and is now much clearer about who specifically he is targeting for his specialized service. And much like the lawyer example above his relationships, first built around presentations, eventually encompasses other marketing related services.
So ask yourself, are you an orange competing against other oranges? If so, how will your customer choose your orange from the rest on the stack? What does your dartboard look like? Or, have you made yourself a unique enough orange to warrant being placed in a different bin, with the ability to command a higher price, and a much clearer understanding of the bullseye your marketing and sales force are aiming at.
Tired of being an orange among all the other oranges? Let's talk over a cup of coffee how we can define a way to make your metro Atlanta business unique. Contact me here.
About the author. Mike Gomez is President of Allegro Consulting, a growth specialty firm helping Georgia business owners take their company "to the next level". He grew his very first client’s business from $8M to $35M in just two years. Mike is a sales process evangelist, prolific speaker, writer, three-time marathoner, a former military officer and pilot of both aircraft and helicopters. www.allegroconsultant.com