Five steps to creating your elevator statementArticle added by Katherine Vessenes on April 2, 2009
Katherine Vessenes

Katherine Vessenes

Chanhassen, MN

Joined: August 21, 2010

My Company

Have you ever had someone ask, "What do you do?" and you find yourself mumbling, "I'm a stockbroker" or "I'm a financial advisor"? Not very enticing, right? No surprise when your listener smiles, walks away and you lose the chance to turn this person into a successful, profitable client. You just missed a great, no-cost marketing opportunity.

Never again. The next time someone asks, "What do you do?" you can have a well-prepared description of your firm that motivates the listener to do business with you.

So, what is an elevator statement, anyway?

Just in case you missed Advertising 101, in marketing lingo, an elevator statement is a short, punchy description of your firm that answers the question, "What do you do?" Your mini-commercial is so short you could spit out the answer between floors on an elevator.

Unfortunately, many people miss the key purpose of the elevator statement: Effective ones are carefully crafted to be so compelling, the listener is bound to ask for more information. You will know you are on the right track when you get a response that goes something like this: "Wow, that sounds really interesting. Do you help people who are trying to put their kids through college?" If most people just smile and change the subject, your elevator statement needs work.

Well-crafted elevator statements are even more crucial when working with boomers. The reason is clear: We have seen and heard it all. If you are going to appeal to us, you have to capture our attention early and let us know that you understand us and can solve our problems.

On a good day, working quickly with three experienced marketing people, this process can take an entire day; however, we've had a couple of experiences where we completed it in half a day.

There is an important message here: don't rush the process -- you will get lousy results. This can take some time. Also, most people need outside help and we are no exception. When we finally got serious about creating a compelling story for our firm, we had to hire an outside PR consultant to help us. We were so close to our own story, we couldn't see the forest for the trees. Once we had outside help, we were able to crank it out in less than a day.

Here are the steps you can take to create your own red-hot elevator statement.

1) Put yourself in the client's shoes

To be frank, I am not a marketing genius. Sorry to disappoint you, but you aren't either. Who is the marketing genius? Your client. For an elevator statement to be effective, it must be written from the client's perspective. It must deal with their problems and concerns. Ideally it paints a picture of their ideal future; a picture that includes you helping them reach their goals.

Pull your office staff, your spouse and some good friends together for a brain storming session. Using flip charts that have glue on the back of the sheets, list every single reason you can think of that answers this question: Why do our best clients like working with us? Note that we have our best clients in mind. Why? Who wants to clone the problem children? We want more of our best clients, not more problems.

Once you get a page filled, pull it off and paste it to the wall. Move on to the next page. You might get three or four pages of reasons. Vote on the top three to five key words or phrases that describe what motivates your clients to work with you. To help you out, I've included a list of motivating factors that I have heard baby boomers use when choosing a financial advisor. I am sure you can think of others, just use this list to spur your thinking.

This table lists some of the most common reasons boomers work with financial advisors, from the boomer's perspective. Go through the list and circle the top three to five reasons your clients want to work with you.
Puts me in good deals Disinterested adviceTrustworthy
Simplifies my life Manages the details for meGives me a sense of peace
I like them Responsive to my needsReduces my taxes
Speaks my language Gives me clarity about my futureUnderstands me
Spends a lot of time with me Aren't sales peopleBetter returns on my money than doing it myself
Brings me a sense of security/safety Provides good valueTreats me like family
They listen to me Close to my houseThey are friends or relatives
They know what they are talking about Reduce my fearsFlexible
Reasonably priced Go out of their way to solve my problemsEasy to track assets on the Internet
Use tested techniques to manage my money Provide a team of expertsSpecialize in people like me
They maximize my business' valuation Use state of the art software/techniquesUse leading edge products
Access to important information that is hard to find Help me avoid running out of money in retirementHelp me live the life of my dreams

Let me digress here to emphasize something important. The question is not what are we providing that is important to our clients. Neither is it what are we doing for our clients that other firms aren't doing. The question is: Why do our clients like to work with us?

My point is that in order for this process to work, it must be approached from the client's perspective, which is a lot harder than it looks. A year ago, we were working with a large broker/dealer to completely change their sales process to make it client-focused. This was a huge change for the firm, as it went against their old mindset. It included an entirely new sales strategy, a new marketing campaign and even new software.

To roll the program out, we had to choose a couple of top offices to be the first stage. Part of my job was to help select the right offices for the rollout. I would start my presentation in each office talking about doing things that were important to the client and setting up our new systems to be client-friendly, emphasizing that this was a key factor in increasing sales. Frankly, they didn't get it, even though I was talking about a subject near to their hearts: more money. Even their top managers had been thinking about brokers for so long; they didn't consider the needs of the most important person in the process: the investor.

Finally, to try to get my point across, I asked five of the leaders to join me in the parking lot. I asked them to pretend for a moment that they were a new prospect, coming to the office for the first time. I asked them to take a good look at the building, the parking lot, the signage and give me a score on a scale of 1 to 10.

This was a huge eye-opener for this group. For the first time, they could walk in the client's shoes and realize the things I saw when I first got there: the parking was terrible -- across the alley in an unmarked lot; and there was no signage until you got to an underground parking ramp, where the sign read: Reserved parking for the Broker of the month for XYZ Broker/dealer. I gave them 2 out of 10.

Now they could finally see what I had been trying to explain. When you think of your business model from the client's perspective, it becomes clear that it should be the clients, not the reps, who get the warm, well-labeled, close-in parking.

Once you have the top three to five reasons, test them out by running them by people who were not at your brainstorming session. If possible, get feedback from your best clients and a few centers of influence.

For our example:
  • A team of experts
  • Help me avoid running out of money in retirement
  • Reduces my taxes
2) Identify your target market

No successful business can be all things to all people. It is especially important to identify your target audience before crafting your elevator statement because it helps the listener decide if they fit into your target group.

Try to include your target market in your statement. Here are some samples: school teachers, chiropractors, builders, realtors, those who have inherited wealth, and, of course, our favorite target market: baby boomers approaching retirement.

One of the original and most powerful elevator statements was created by Volvo: "For safety-conscious car buyers, Volvo is the automobile provider that keeps you and your family safe."

Part of the reason this statement is so powerful is it quickly identifies its target audience: safety conscious car buyers. If you are concerned about safety when you drive, your ears will perk up because you won't want to miss key information that pertains to you. Also note how the elevator statement painted a picture of their future: a safe family.

I couldn't resist reworking this statement to fit a financial services version: "For the safety-conscious investor, we are the planning firm that keeps you and your family safe." Admittedly, some compliance departments will have a problem with this, but you might get lucky -- give it a try.

For our sample, let's choose boomers approaching retirement.

3) Create your statement using a template like this:

Using your top factors, fill in the blanks as a starting point to create your own elevator statement. "We provide ______________, ________________, and ________________, for ________________, so they can __________________." Here is what it would look like if you could diagram this: "We provide benefit, benefit, benefit for our target market so they can satisfy their deepest desires."

Using our three factors and the target, this is what it would look like before we started refining them:

"We have a team of experts who help boomers reduce their taxes, so they don't run out of money in retirement."

After refining it, a better version could be: Most of our clients are boomers and pre-retirees who are concerned about running out of money in retirement. Because this area is so complicated, we use a team of experts to work with them, helping them reduce their taxes so their money is working harder and they can retire with confidence. For the gusto, add the following: "So tell me, is running out of money in retirement something you have thought about?"

4. Memorize it

Everyone in your firm needs to memorize your elevator statement. They are all ambassadors for your business and need to be able to have this statement naturally fall off their lips. Never miss the opportunity for a zero-cost advertisement for your firm.

5. Test it out on your key stakeholders and your best clients. Let them tell you if it is compelling and motivates them to want to do business with you.

Test and score these sample statements:
  • I am a financial planner (stock broker, insurance agent). I give this a 2. It is all about you, and nothing about the client. It is not compelling and it is downright boring!

  • I help my clients feel secure about their financial future. This is a little better and it is about the client. However, there is not enough meat here. I give it a 4.

  • I help my clients make smart decisions about their money. I hear this a lot, but it is also ho-hum. It is about the client, so I'll give it a 3.

  • We provide high-touch financial management for teachers and other professionals who are too busy to handle this important area of their lives. I like that it identifies the target market and paints a picture, but doesn't say much about what you really do. I give it a 6.

  • We reduce the stress of managing a complex portfolio by providing high touch financial management so our clients, teachers and other professionals have more time to live their lives. I like this a lot. It identifies the target market, says what they do and paints a picture. I give it an 8.

  • I help families protect and manage the things that are dearest to them. So let me ask you this: If you had an emergency and needed someone to watch out for your family and dearest possessions, do you have a plan in place or someone to call? I like the target audience and I like the emphasis on protecting what is dearest. I think the question could cut two ways. They may be thinking of their brother in law and say "Yes, I have a person to call." This would eliminate the possibility of taking the next step with them. I give it a 7.
Final tip: Think like Tony Robbins or Richard Simmons. If you ran in to Tony or Richard in an elevator and asked them "What do you do?" you would get an enthusiastic and positive answer to your question. Learn a lesson from these pros: be enthusiastic. If you are not excited about what you do, how is anyone else going to be motivated to work with you?

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