Create a Clear One-Liner For Your Business

It’s your first impression. Your one chance to introduce yourself. You’ve got them curious. Someone finally asked, “So what do you do?”

Now what?

It’s in this moment that we all know: The way you talk about your business really matters.

When most of us get this question the answer often goes one of three ways. 

  1. Some form of “well it’s complicated” or “it’s kind of hard to explain” that never gives the question-asker a clear picture of what you do.
  2. The elevator pitch that summarizes your whole business model and, after 2 minutes of explaining, leaves your ex-prospect nodding and smiling while they secretly daydream. OR
  3. The Miss Congeniality of the bunch is your super-catchy tagline that probably only makes sense to your internal team.

So… how do you effectively answer the most famous networking question without confusing or losing the person you’re engaging with? We think the best solution is a one-liner. Here’s why:

Let’s Break This Down

Think about pitching yourself sort of like asking a prospect to go on a date (but not in a “call HR” kinda way).

When you start off your answer with a version of “it’s hard to explain”, you’re straight-up telling the listener they won’t understand. Now the person on the receiving end is less invested in your answer from the start. Another unfortunate side effect here is that it also conveys a lack of confidence in whatever you say thereafter.

You may have good intentions and start your answer off this way to prep your listener, and what you do may very well be complicated. But no matter how complex your role or how niche your business is, the goal is to make it sound easy to work with you. If you bump into a stranger at a party and want to see if there’s chemistry there, you don’t get into all of your baggage when they ask “are you single?” right? (If you do, this is your sign to stop 😅.)

On the other hand, going straight into your standard elevator pitch can feel so formal. By design, an elevator pitch is a 30-60 second business pitch — about the length of an elevator ride — to convince someone to do business with you. A full elevator pitch is more or less a summary of your background and a highlight of your qualifications and experience. This is most effective when pitching to investors or when a prospective partner asks for more information. But on that first ask? Not so much.

Let’s go back to the dating analogy…

This is only your first time meeting that cutie at the party. Sure you can give them a minute-long answer about why you’re the best potential partner, that you graduated top of your class, and that you’ve already gotten 2 others to ask for your number that night. But they’ll probably get overwhelmed and the song they wanted to dance to has ended by the time you finished. Now it’s turned into one of those dates where the other person only talks about themselves and doesn’t care what you’re interested in…yikes.

Now, the tagline option has you sounding James Dean smooth. But it only really works in situations where your company is fairly well-known. Think about the taglines we all know:

McDonald’s – “I’m lovin’ it”

Nike – “Just do it”

Disneyland – “The happiest place on Earth”

You’d be hard-pressed to find anybody who doesn’t already know what these companies provide. With a name as big as McDonald’s, anybody who hears “I’m lovin’ it” is suddenly picturing those famous golden fries.

But as a small business without that instant recognition, a tagline likely only makes sense to you and your team. That’s not to say it isn’t good to have in your back pocket, but a tagline is a part of your branding (who you are). In terms of actually marketing yourself (what you do), there’s just not enough information there to lock in a first date.

So let’s move on to that sweet spot: A One Liner.

How To Build Your One-Liner

A great one-liner for your business serves the same purpose as an elevator pitch but it’s short, sweet, and to the point. It makes you that observant, cool-to-talk-to, slightly mysterious stranger at the party that your prospect can’t wait to see again. What makes it so different from the elevator pitch? Your one-liner should summarize what you do in 3 concise steps:

  1. Start with the problem you solve
  2. Tell your audience how you create a solution
  3. Tell what the result of working with you looks like

The key here is that although you’re talking about your business, your prospect’s interests are at the forefront.

Starting with the problem you solve is all about putting yourself in the prospect’s shoes. Think about how your target audience feels or what situation they may be in when they need you. Thinking about that party-goer who caught your eye, this is the equivalent of “It’s always too loud at these things to have a real conversation.” Find the common thread that agitates most of your clients.

Are they first-time home buyers who struggle to find financing? Working parents who don’t have the bandwidth to transport their kids to after-school activities during work hours? Car owners who’d rather go to someone they know than pay big dealership prices for simple repairs? One of our favorite tips from Business Made Simple is to get really specific here.

Next, tell your audience how you create a solution to that problem. Just remember to put it into terms they’ll understand and relate to. We all get used to our own inside language and lingo at times. But Kevin over there by the punch bowl doesn’t have a clue what your insurance jargon means, he works in accounting.

Remember, you want it to sound easy to work with you. Or in this case, fun to go out on that date with you. This is the part in our story where smooth-talking you tries something like “I know the restaurant across the street has the best cocktail hour…”.

Lastly, it’s time to cast a vision of what success with you looks like and seal the deal! What does going on a date — or working with you — look like? Think about what your prospects aspire to be or have. How will they feel after buying from you? What will they finally have more time for after you’ve taken the load off their plate? If you’re trying to convince that person to say yes, success might look like, “so I could buy you dinner and we could laugh about Bob’s dance moves without all this noise.”

Sounds like the start of a beautiful relationship.

Time To Put It All Together

Now that we’ve laid out all the pieces, it’s time to see what you’ve got. When you come up with the one-liner for your business keep it simple, make your solution clear, and keep your prospect at the forefront. Just like that, you’re only 3 steps away from a one-liner that makes prospects say “sign me up!” 

We even used this framework to develop our own one-liner: “For many businesses owners, marketing feels like this shape-shifting beast that they cannot tame. At Source Brand Solutions, we create custom marketing partnerships and turn marketing from your enemy to an asset.”

Once you nail a quick pitch that works:

  • Teach it to your team
  • Use it on your website
  • Include it on business cards, handouts, etc.

And give your new one-liner a whirl next time you’re asked, “So what do you do?”.

Need help perfecting your one-liner or have other marketing questions? Schedule a meeting with our team by clicking here!