Looking for a no-cost marketing tool? Develop your 'elevator speech'

By Elizabeth Jolliffe, Esq.

Your Benchmark Coach

An elevator speech, a 30-second introduction, or a 20-second commercial.

The problem: marketing people say you need one but what is it and why do you need one?

The short answer:

* It is a concise, memorable description of what you do and for whom.

* It is a no-cost marketing tool.

You should have this description ready for any time you meet someone new and they ask what you do. You also use it when you introduce yourself in front of a group. These are no cost marketing moments. These are chances to make a great first impression.

For example, last fall at the State Bar annual meeting in Grand Rapids, I listened to 40 lawyers briefly introduce themselves at a section lunch meeting.

At least 15 spoke too softly or too quickly to be heard. Most introductions were nondescript. One man's introduction was in rhyme. Perhaps only five met the description suggested above.

The rest lost a great marketing opportunity with lawyers from around the state. They lost a quick way to make a really good impression on potential referral sources. They lost a chance to stand out and start new relationships just by saying a few words about what they do and for whom.

Wouldn't you like to stand out professionally in a crowd and one on one? A self-introduction doesn't cost you anything other than a little practice time -- and practicing while driving is still legal.

Focus on the benefits you provide:

To generate interest, focus on the benefits or results you provide and for whom.

For example, when asked what you do, you could say ''I am a tax lawyer."

A more meaningful and illustrative answer might be ''I help family-owned partnerships and businesses manage and reduce their taxes to become more profitable.''

Admittedly, criminal defense lawyers have all sorts of intriguing things they can say, as do family lawyers. Transactional and business litigation lawyers may have to dig a little deeper.

Connect with your audience:

To be more memorable, take your listeners into account. If possible, adapt your description to them.

For example, ''I help businesses like yours reduce taxes through planning and become more profitable.''

An estate planning lawyer might say to a new parent ''I am an estate planning lawyer. I help a lot of new parents have peace of mind by putting plans in place."

Of course, the description you give in front of a group of lawyers may be slightly different than one given to potential clients or referral sources.

Incorporate energy:

If you are bored with your words, your audience will be too.

If you don't believe in what you do, your audience won't either. If you feel like you sound cheesy, pay attention to your instincts.

Keeping your description brief helps your energy and prevents you from trailing off, something that afflicts many people.

So find the words that work for you, practice them in your car or with other people, and start using them. Even if you keep changing what you say to find what works, I guarantee you won't hear yourself rambling anymore.

Helpful Hints:

To find your energy and the words that work best for you, consider what you like most about what you do for your clients.

You probably become more animated when you talk about something you really like to do and you will connect better with your listeners.

Also, don't get stuck on the order of your sentences or having something really clever or catchy to say.

The keys are keeping your answer or introduction short, simple and descriptive - the benefits of what you do and for whom.

Last, and above all, speak up with confidence and make eye contact. Make the most of your chance to make a great first impression.

One of my clients took on an elevator speech as part of her homework recently.

She admitted she struggles with talking about what she does as a lawyer. She wants to be coherent and interesting whenever people ask her.

Another client is refining what he says in order to be more interesting without feeling "salesy."

Frankly, I keep working on what I say as well.

By the way, you can practice using your self-introduction in a safe environment such as the beginning of a bar association lunch and learn or at a section happy hour.

I look forward to hearing you!

Elizabeth Jolliffe is a certified career management and business development coach for lawyers.

She practiced for 19 years as a business litigator and partner at Clark Hill PLC.

She is president-elect of the Detroit Metropolitan Bar Association and active with the Women Lawyers Association of Michigan, the Washtenaw County Bar Association and the State Bar's Law Practice Management and Legal Administrators' Section.

She can be reached at (734) 663-7905 or Elizabeth@YourBenchmarkCoach.com.

Published: Mon, Feb 14, 2011

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