By Andy Lopata

Getting your message across to your network effectively is a major challenge for many businesses. How do you communicate effectively what you do in a way that other people understand and can respond to?

Many companies spend a lot of time and effort putting together their 'elevator pitch'. The intention is to have a confident, concise response whenever anyone asks them 'what do you do?'

I’m not a fan of elevator pitches. Among the many common mistakes made by businesses putting together their short presentation is not putting themselves in the shoes of the person they are speaking to.

Of course, as soon as you put together a general statement for use whenever someone asks what you do, you will struggle to engage with individuals. A good response to any question about your business is tailored to the knowledge, expertise and relevance of the person asking. A standard response cannot achieve that.

Planned elevator pitches often come from the perspective of the business giving the pitch, rather than looking from outside. As a result they can contain a lot of jargon and assume knowledge others simply don't have.

Earlier this year one of my clients showed me the results of their Board's marketing brainstorm the evening before. They had decided to work on a single statement about what they do, their elevator pitch. After much discussion they came up with the following:

"What we do?

Full stack systems integration for the UK mid-market delivering rapid business change using advanced technology."

How would you react if you asked someone what they do at a networking event and this was their response? Interestingly, this only represents one part of their business, yet they came up with this summary of their activity as a whole. It is overloaded with jargon, with their own perspective and assumes a high level of understanding.

I have a problem with terms like 'mid-market', 'business-change' and even with 'networking'. They all assume a certain level of understanding. Yet if people aren't involved in your business they may have a different perspective on or understanding of those terms. It's so important to explain your business in simple language, so that a child can understand it, if you want others outside your business or your industry to help you.

Another hurdle at which many businesses fall when communicating to their network is the temptation to market themselves as generalists. After all, the more ways in which you can help prospective customers, the better chance there will be they will want to employ you. Isn't that right?

Perhaps not. I have talked elsewhere about how having a clearly defined niche can help you network more effectively. That was illustrated to me earlier this year.

I received an email with information about a company who were looking for trainers to work with large companies on a range of topics, including networking. I sent off an email outlining what I could offer and received an email soon after asking me what a 90 minute session to a group of employees would look like.

Five minutes after my subsequent reply the company called me and we had a very positive twenty minute conversation that has resulted in ongoing work and a flourishing partnership.

During the conversation I found out that they had received over 100 responses to their request for trainers.

"That's fantastic!" I said.

"Not really," came the response. "I haven't got the time to call 100 people and find out if they're suitable. Your email stood out from the crowd."

Naturally I wanted to know what made my email stand out. After all, if I'm doing something well, I want to make sure I keep on doing it.

"I’m a strong believer that you can’t be good at everything," said my contact. "I like working with people who have a ‘speciality’ in something and you clearly do in networking. Many trainers emailed me and said they could deliver on ‘anything’ and I wasn’t so keen on that. Many people might not agree with me but that is what I prefer — hence I made contact!"

While it may be tempting to put yourself out as the cure to all evils and jack of all trades, be aware that you may be seen as a master of none. Find your speciality, settle into a niche and market yourself around that.

It might mean saying 'no' to some work and missing out on others. But you'll stand out from the crowd when it really counts.

To find out more about how to pick the right networks, implement a successful networking strategy or how to generate more referrals, please visit our website www.lopata.co.uk or contact us at harvey@lopata.co.uk 01992 450488.

Join us on