To the point
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To be successful, be succinct

By Tim Denning

Another day, another pitch from an entrepreneur. The ones who go somewhere all have one thing in common: They get to the point.

If you can’t explain your business in a few minutes, then you’re probably going to struggle. The success hack that works is to get to the point!
Life is precious, and so is our time. We don’t have two hours to listen to your long-winded pitch and see 56 Powerpoint slides with size 12 Times New Roman font. Get to the point, squire! Here’s how to get to the point and tell me succinctly what your business does.

What is the problem you solve?

Given that business is nothing more than problem-solving, what problem do you solve? Describe it to me using all of my senses. Make me give a damn about what you do even if it’s not my passion or expertise. Look me in the eye when you’re describing the pain I should be feeling caused by this problem.

Don’t tell me the entire history of your problem. Instead, give me three (just three) key points to illustrate in beautiful images the problem your business solves. Take me on a journey with this story about your problem. Stories sell. Make it real. Make it authentic. Make me care!

How big is that problem? 

If the problem you solve is tiny compared to the rest of my problems, then you’ll have a hard time convincing me. Make this problem real for me but choose problems that are big and worth solving. Big problems have big rewards.

If your problem is a “nice one to have,” you’ll struggle to get momentum.

Why should I care about the problem you solve?

There are lots of problems but how does your problem affect me personally? Answer this question, and you’ll make me care. Once I care, you can take me through the solution and have my attention. My attention is the only thing you should want in the beginning. Social media has made attention the most valuable resource of the modern era.

I won’t understand what your business does unless I care. Without caring, I will be biased towards not understanding your business. The mind likes to focus on things it cares about. Again, make me care. Make me feel an emotional connection to your businesses.

Otherwise, it’s nothing more than a price play. “Your business is rubbish, but it’s cheaper so I’ll try it” becomes the default human response to your business.

Who are the people you serve?

A business doesn’t exist without a customer to serve. That customer is a living, breathing, human being (until robots arrive and become customers) and they have to be central to the story you’re presenting. If you don’t know your customer, then you don’t know their problem.

Many businesses have a great vision, but no practical customer to sell it too. Know your customer and get into their heads. Spend a day in their life and see if your solution really does something tangible for them. Being too broad with your business and targeting everybody never works.

Every business starts with a niche and then expands from there. Capital in the startup phase is limited, so you have to be hyper-focused on your customer base and the problem you solve.

What traction have you had?

If your business has this great idea, but it’s never been used by a customer, then I’m not interested. Don’t give me excuses. Go out there and try your product or service with people on the street if you have to. Test it.

Traction has the following characteristics: You’ve successfully solved a problem for a prospective customer; that customer has given you their feedback; someone or something has come into contact with your product or service; and more than three people have been customers of your business, excluding your dog, mother and significant other.

Are you someone I like or do you make me think differently? 

Part of getting to the point is making me like you. If you have the world’s best solution and I dislike you like I dislike Hitler, then you’re probably going to have a hard time convincing me to buy in. If you fail the likability exercise, but make me think differently, then you still may have me as a supporter.

No one wants to have an army of suck-ups saying yes to everything they do. But, we all want to be challenged to think differently and to feel new experiences, as much as we pretend we don’t.

The challenge as I see it is that entrepreneurs are trying to say too much. It’s not about what you say, but often about what you don’t say. It’s the silence between the ideas that you present which help communicate what your business does.

If your business is not simple and can’t be spoken about that way, then you’re going to get lost in the cesspool that is the startup ecosystem. You’re going to find yourself going to too many meetups. You’re going to see low engagement on your social media posts. You’re going to get tired and burnout from the lack of people listening to what you have to say.

So, tell your story; get to the point; use emotion; and make me care.