The very first thing you need to do on the very first day you open your business, is create your one-liner. The sentence (or sentences) that you use to explain to customers very clearly what it is that you do, and how it helps them.
Most business leaders lose the sale the second they start talking about their business. When somebody asks what we do and we answer by rolling our eyes and saying, “Well, it’s complicated” or “Well, my grandfather started the company . . .” we’ve lost the customer’s interest immediately.
A one-liner is a new and improved way to answer the question “What do you do?” It’s more than a slogan or tagline; it’s a single statement that helps people realize why they need your products or services. It may seem surprising, but the overwhelming majority of businesses do not have an effective one-liner. Instead they try and talk about their differentiators, or uniqueness, or try and be clever or funny during that very short space of attention they have.
So why do so many businesses neglect this very simple trick?
- Firstly, over time it is easy to get bored of the same sentence. Business owners think they need to be new and innovative. Stand out from the crowd. But in reality, the people who see your one-liner are complete strangers. If you don’t explain to them what you do or how it helps them, they will just go and find someone else.
- Secondly, a one-liner can be hard to create especially if you have many products and services and help people in so many different ways. Trust me when I tell you that saying one thing clearly and simply will be enough to bring someone in closer so that they can learn the rest.
- Lastly, business owners often think that being simple means simplistic. But it is quite the opposite. If you set out to explain your company in a simple way, it never means you are doing injustice to the superiority and complexities that go into making your product great.
The reality is, that having a clear and simple one-liner all over every piece of marketing you put out increases recollection, enables you to be known for something, creates consistency and helps you break through the noise.
The king of marketing message simplicity is Donald Miller. In his book Building a StoryBrand, he helps you break down your company message into a very simple statement that satisfies his hypothesis that consumers only have a certain amount of brain calories they are willing to sacrifice each time they come into contact with a new business. If they use them up before getting to the point, they become bored and move onto the next thing. Consumers want to quickly be able to evaluate whether this company solves their problem. If it does, they will investigate further.
Imagine your car broke down and you needed to hitchhike your way to the closest petrol station. And let’s pretend its 1985 and you don’t have a mobile phone on you.
A car pulls up along side you and you ask “Where are you heading?”
The driver begins to tell you that his car has air-conditioning. And a great tape player. And he is a really good quality conversationalist. Who has had many years experience driving.
You just want to know whether he is going in the direction of the closest petrol station.
The same applies to your customers. Somehow, they land on your company website. All they want to know is what you do and how it solves their problem.
If you spend the whole time talking to them about your years of experience, your staff members, your innovative processes, your values and commitment to service, eventually they will get tired of trying to find out what exactly it is that you do and they’ll go somewhere else.
The task of coming up with your one-liner is a really important one, and you need to commit to using it everywhere. It will sell your business more than anything else.
So how do you do it?
There are 3 really great ingredients in your one-liner.
- the problem
- the product
- the result
With your team, brainstorm a list of problems that your ideal customer is experiencing before they come to you. The only reason customers will buy from you is because the problem you solve is frustrating them in some way. If we can identify that frustration, put it into words and offer to resolve it, something special happens and we bond with the customer.
For example, a company that sells smoke alarms is selling smoke alarms to customers that need to be alerted of a fire to protect their family before it is too late. Identifying your customers’ true problems and articulating them clearly in your marketing message encourages customers to investigate and purchase because they believe you understand them intimately.
The product is the main product you sell. Eg. Smoke Alarms are the product that this company sells.
The result is the part that customers are really buying. It is what happens after they purchase your product or service. Brainstorm a list of successes a customer will experience after using your products and services. Will they save money? Will they go faster? Grow taller? Be happier?
An example of this brainstorm for the smoke alarm company would be:
- I need to be alerted if there is a fire.
- I need to protect my family from danger.
- I want the best chance of survival if there is a fire.
- I do not have peace of mind at the moment.
- High-quality smoke alarms
- Reliable smoke alarms
- Family safety is achieved.
- Peace of mind is secured.
The company’s marketing message using the above example could be, ‘We sell reliable smoke alarms so that you and your family always have peace of mind’. The marketing message should be very short, to avoid using too many customer brain calories, but it doesn’t always have to be part of the same sentence.
Some other examples of effective one liners are:
- VEEM Gyro’s stop your boat from rocking so that you and your guests enjoy every minute on board
- We provide busy moms with a short, meaningful workout they can use to stay healthy and have renewed energy.
- Most businesses would fall apart without the owner holding it all together. The ADAPT Framework transforms your business to be less reliant on you, giving you the time to work on what matters.
- We partner with you to deliver quality, innovative and reliable construction and maintenance services.
- Trusted financial, tax and legal solutions for individuals and small businesses.
After you come up with your draft one-liner, you will want to test it by:
- calling a few lifetime customers to get their feedback
- introducing it to the whole organisation for feedback
- showing it to strangers or family and friends.
Ask them whether you think you have clearly connected with the problems of your customers, explained how you solve customers’ problems and articulated success.
Once you are happy with it you need to commit to it for a long enough period of time to be certain of its success. The trick here is to remember that the only people reading it (who really matter) are complete strangers. People who already know you, know what you do. So it is the strangers you need to connect with.
Put this sentence everywhere. Including:
- Your website (the first thing people read)
- Your LinkedIn bio and profile
- Signage in your office
- Signage everywhere else (on your cars etc.)
- On your email signature