Lewis Black is one of my favorite comedians. Not only are his routines hilarious, I love his “angry guy” delivery. It’s good catharsis and good laughs at the same time. Now, Lewis isn’t known for giving business advice, but he gave some great advice back when Enron collapsed.
He said, “I have a way to prevent future Enrons. If you have a company, and you can’t explain in one sentence what it does, it’s illegal!” It’s good for laughs, but there’s more than that. In my years as the Sales Navigator, I’ve encountered many companies whose messaging wasn’t geared around a quick explanation of what the company actually DOES for money. If yours is one of those companies, here are some guidelines to implementing what I call the Lewis Black Rule:
- Avoid acronyms: One of the biggest mistakes I see in company
messaging is the incorporation of acronyms.
The problem is that not everyone knows what the acronym means – and if
your potential client doesn’t, they are no longer your potential client. One big example I see is in the copier and
reprographics industry, where “Managed Print Services” is currently a big
deal. I’ve seen a number of companies
that simply represent themselves as “MPS Specialists.” If you don’t know what “MPS” stands for, you’ve
lost the customer.
- Connote value: In crafting a quality one-sentence message,
you need to explain what VALUE you provide to your customers. It’s not enough to say that you are a
distributor of X; how do you solve your customer’s problems if they need X?
- Avoid price or price synonyms: Your Lewis Black sentence is going to be the
customer’s first impression of you. If
you include price, or terms such as “cost effective,” or the like, your customer
automatically positions you as a low-price provider, even if you’re not. Setting expectations up front is important.
- Explain what you actually DO: Euphemism is as bad as acronyms. Today’s customer demands simple, up front
communication. You don’t have to give
away your process, but you do need to allow the customer to mentally slot you
in to fit his/her needs. Explaining your
business function is the best way to do that.
“We are a multi-functional communications platform,” for instance, doesn’t
really say what you do.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for outside help. Full disclosure – I used to have a similar
problem to #4 with my own business. And
I’ll give a shout-out; Jesyca Hope of Hope Communications Consulting partnered
with me and helped me figure it out.
Asking for help was difficult – but the results have been more than
worth it, and they will be to you too.
- Consistency is key: Once you have your Lewis Black sentence, align the rest of your messaging behind it. Then, push it out across all your communication platforms – Sales, Marketing, Social Media, etc. If your salespeople are giving a different story than your website, you have a problem.
Lewis, of course, didn’t get his law passed – but the idea is a great one for simple, straightforward business communication. Take a good look at your own messaging and see how it fits together.