Lifting elevators

I had an interesting chat this week with a couple of nice chaps who run a digital agency. They've been honing the way they talk about their company in advance of a couple of upcoming events, and asked for my thoughts on how they might structure a quick verbal introduction—the good ol' elevator pitch.

They pride themselves on doing the best work possible for their clients and by all accounts are very good at it, boasting a portfolio of impressive projects for a raft of big brands. They see this passion and credibility as the obvious starting point for their pitch: "We love what we do. We're the best at it and we've worked for well-known company x, y and z."

I wrote last month about building credibility in your pitch rather than simply stating it. I felt that advice massively applied here; even if their audience believes every word they say this approach does nothing to differentiate them from the long line of other agencies in the same field professing equally strong credentials.

They need to start with something more—a big mission, vision or purpose—which sets them apart, something which can be discussed in the abstract before getting down to the nitty-gritty of what they do and how they do it. (Simon Sinek's 'Start With Why' again.)

But they've already been successful without articulating a greater purpose, by simply doing good work, retaining clients and having new business referred their way. So why bother bolting something on retrospectively?

I think this raises an important point of clarity on what I wrote previously:

  • When someone approaches you because they've heard good things about you, you're in a dominant position and only have to work hard at living up to expectations. By far this is the best way to win new customers (and, for that matter, investment).
  • However, when you approach someone cold to peddle your wares and want to make a good first impression, you're on the weakest side of the equation and have to be much more clever about how you introduce yourself.

The people I spoke with this week have enjoyed lots of the former but are about to start trying more of the latter. To do that, I think they need to stick to the tried-and-tested approach of highlighting a big problem / challenge / mission, outlining their (unique) solution / approach and backing their ability to deliver with some sterling credentials.

I'm not sure I fully convinced them. But have I you? Feel free to disagree...