Canadian Manufacturing

‘I don’t care what your cleantech does’

We assume that our features equate with our customer’s needs. Nothing could be further from the truth.


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VICTORIA—I created a company to help entrepreneurs do effective pitches, so I’ve seen a lot of pitches—95 per cent of them are exactly the same. Cue the slide show:

• Here’s what our technology does
• Here’s what else it does
• By the way, it does this brilliantly
• And we’re working on ways to make it do this, that, and the other thing.
• Want some?

“No.”

It’s a very human, but fatal mistake we all make. We assume that our features equate with our customer’s needs. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Care about what I care about
Let’s pretend we’re at a cocktail party.

Someone walks up to you and says “Hi, I’m Fred. I run a cleantech company, I golf, I play guitar, I have a wife and two kids, I went to Central High, graduated with a…” You missed the last bit of what Fred said because you’ve run screaming to the bar.

At the bar, a second person walks up to you and says “Hi, I’m Bob. What do you think of this party? (pause to listen for answer). What do you do? (Pause for answer) Really? I’m in cleantech. (Pause to gauge response) You’re kidding, you’re looking for tech that keeps your lights on without costing you a bundle? (Pause to listen for pain points). Well, we do something that makes that pain go away. Want to hear about it?”

So far, the only thing you know about Bob is that you like him. Because he’s done nothing but listen to you and gauge what you care about. Unbeknownst to you (because he’s let you own the conversation) Bob has discreetly been lining up what his cleantech does with the pain points you’re feeling. He’s thinking about how his product can benefit you. He actually cares about what you care about.

Step back. What real need are you fulfilling?
When you started your company, it wasn’t because you envisioned a product with lots of neat features. Instead, it was because you’d heard lots of folks complaining about something they didn’t have a solution for.

What followed was the long process of developing a solution to their need.

As you developed your solution, though, something funny happened. You slipped inside the jar of your company. The world looked the same to you, but you could only regard the world from your inside-the-jar perspective.

Slowly, your talk about real, human benefits morphed into exciting pitches about features. In fact, you were so excited about the way things were developing that you rarely noticed how your pitch seemed to kill conversation.

How do you solve this problem? Step outside the jar.

This is easy to say and devilishly hard to do. In truth, it usually involves bringing an outsider in to give you feedback on what your tech actually does for real people. Prepare for a surprise. And listen hard.

How to know you’ve nailed a benefit?
Your outsider friend will probably tell you something that sounds ridiculous, like “Your tech makes me feel like a dad taking good care of his kids”.

Suppress your urge to laugh. Instead, try out exactly that line on your next prospect. Don’t tell them what your tech does. Tell them other folks have said it makes them feel they’re doing the right thing, like a dad taking care of his kids.

If their eyes light up, they smile and say they’d like to feel like that, you’ve nailed a benefit.

Congratulations. You have the start of a pitch that’s better than 99% of the ones I’ve heard.

Marc Stoiber is a marketing/brand consultant, entrepreneur, university prof and writer. He helps clients in tech, healthcare and sustainability create simple, powerful brand propositions and stories. He can be reached at marc[email protected].


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