When you’re marketing your business, the first question you need to be able to answer effectively is “What do you do?”

Your answer to this question is your marketing message, also known as your elevator pitch.

Most people answer this question based on what they do. Seems logical enough, since that’s exactly what the question seems to be asking. But if you do that, you’re probably shooting yourself in the foot.

The big problem with focusing on what you do is that your prospect does not care. It sounds harsh, but it’s true. Your prospect only cares about what your product or service is going to do for them. This is the difference between a feature (what the thing is) and a benefit (what the thing does).

So, you should always try to focus on the benefits rather than the features, and you’ll be more likely to attract your prospect’s attention and interest.

Let’s start with an offline marketing example, because I think everybody can relate to this type of situation.

For this example, you’re an entrepreneur that owns an online shopping cart company, and you’re at a networking event.

Someone comes up to you and asks, “What do you do?”

You say, “I own an online shopping cart company.”

When you give an answer like this, there’s a chance the other person will have no idea what you’re talking about. Or, if they do know what you’re talking about, they’ll probably say something “Ok, cool” or “Which one?” Not terrible, but maybe not the best way to start the conversation.

If, on the other hand, you might say, “I help people to sell their products online.” If you use this type of response, there’s a 99% chance that person will understand what you do.

This type of answer may also help start a conversation. They may reply by saying “How do you do that?” From there, you can gain some information about their business, and perhaps there’s a fit between you two.

Also, the person’s initial focus will now be on the benefit that you provide. They may start automatically thinking about someone they know who is trying to sell products online (who may be a potential customer for you).

In addition, you’ll probably get more referrals when you describe what you do by focusing on the benefits of your products or services. Why is that? Your customers and contacts will already know how to explain what you do to their friends, because they’ll simply pass on the marketing message you already gave them.

All of these principles also apply when you’re marketing your business online. You want to lead with your big benefit. Put that big benefit in your ads, on your home page, and communicate it regularly in your emails with your prospects and customers.

However, there is one big difference about marketing your business online versus giving your elevator pitch offline.
When marketing online, the real question you need to answer is not “What do you do” but really “How can you help me?”

When a prospect lands on your website, you typically only have a few seconds to capture her attention and reassure her that she’s making the right choice by staying on your website. For that reason, your answer to this question needs to be dead simple.

Extra tip: If you have different segments of customers, you should consider creating different sections of your website and different sets of ads to communicate with each segment individually, rather than trying to hit everybody with one message.

Tips to Get You Started

Offline: You can also pay attention to reactions when you tell people what you do. Try using different phases. See what phrases start conversations and which phases are conversation-killers.

Online: The best way to test your marketing message online with is pay per click advertising. Test different ads to see which get the best clicks, and test different headlines and benefit statements on your landing pages to see which improve conversions.

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How do you typically answer the question “What do you do?”

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