Ready, Launch, Brand Startup

If You Build It, Will They Buy?

As author Seth Godin said, “In a crowded marketplace, fitting in is a failure. In a busy marketplace, not standing out is the same as being invisible.”

“If you build it, they will come.” Most of us are familiar with the line made famous by the movie “Field of Dreams”. But customers are not nostalgic baseball fans who will drive for days to watch the ghosts of baseball legends play a game. Once you’ve launched your startup, it doesn’t automatically mean that your customers will buy.

After all, you’ve got a lot of competition. More than 500,000 new businesses launch in the U.S. every month. Worldwide, nearly 137,000 businesses launch every day. The pandemic inspired millions of people to start their own companies. In 2020, 4.4 million new business applications were filed. In 2021, that number was 5.4 million, a new record. The odds of startup success are more sobering. Nearly 20 percent will fail within the first year and nearly 50 percent by year five.

Another distinction is that, unlike a field of dreams, your startup is not standing alone in a cornfield in Iowa. As I explained in my article, “You Talkin’ To Me? If You’re Talking to Everyone, You’re Talking to No One,” launching a new business is more akin to standing in the middle of Times Square. You’re competing with thousands of messages vying for the attention of your ideal customers. It’s a crowded marketplace and just “building it” will not have them beating a path to your door. You need to help your customers find you, and most importantly, understand why they need you.

Why startups fail

It turns out that the number one reason that startups fail is no market need. The second reason is that they run out of cash. If you haven’t identified your target market, you can spend a lot of money trying to convince the wrong people to buy something they don’t need. The third reason? They build the wrong team. It’s a lot easier to attract the people who are aligned with your vision if you fully understand it and are clear on the company culture you want to build.

Since identifying your target market is critical to your startup’s success, make sure you have the right message for the right customer. Invest the time in conducting your own market research. Interview your early adopters to find out what truly matters to them. Stay open to the possibility that you may have to tweak your concept or even pivot altogether. Get clear on what’s keeping your ideal customers up at night and make sure that you’re providing the solution to that problem.

Next, focus on one point of difference. Remember that your potential customers are overwhelmed by thousands of daily marketing messages. The average American adult now has an attention span of roughly six seconds. In 2000, that number was 12 seconds. No one will take the time to figure out what you do and whether you can help them with their problem. The more succinct you are with your messaging, the easier it will be for your ideal customer to find you, buy you and refer you. Focus on the why, not the what or the how. Potential customers don’t care about what you do or how you do it. They want to know why you’re the right solution for them. That’s where the elevator pitch comes in.

We have all experienced an elevator pitch disguised as a sales pitch. It assumes that someone is already interested in what you’re selling. A true elevator pitch should tell me how you solve my unique problem—in 30 seconds.

Three steps to building the perfect elevator pitch

1. Make me curious

The most effective way to start your pitch is with statistics related to the customer problem you’ve identified. That’s because you need to establish context before your pitch. For example, I start with the statistic that we receive messages at a rate of more than four million messages per year. Then, I ask the question: are you cutting through the noise?

2. State your customer’s problem

My ideal customer understands that their messaging isn’t cutting through the noise, and they don’t know how to fix it. They don’t know how to connect what they do with what matters to their ideal customers. They are so afraid of leaving someone out that they come up with generic messaging that speaks to no one. In a crowded digital space, if I can’t figure out who you are, what you do and why it matters to me, I don’t see you. You become invisible.

3. Be the solution

If you’ve stated a problem, I assume you have the solution. My solution? I make fuzzy clear. I turn generic messaging into clear and concise marketing messages that help companies cut through the noise and scale fast. It turns out that most startups struggle with that same problem.

The goal of every good elevator pitch is to have someone say “tell me more”. If you don’t hear that, you’re not talking to your ideal customer. An elevator pitch not only helps your ideal customer connect with your solution, but it helps you identify when you’re talking to the wrong person. If someone doesn’t relate to the problem you’ve identified, they won’t care about the solution you’ve created. That’s the best part—they’ve just saved you months of chasing after the wrong customer.

Will they really buy?

Pitches need to tie back to the problem that only you can solve for your customer. The more specific you can be, the easier it will be to build an elevator pitch that speaks to the person who needs your solution. Don’t forget to end with a result, the transformation they can expect when they work with you.

The right elevator pitch is critical to your marketing strategy. When done right, it helps you build key messages that will help you cut through the noise. It’s the first step to building a homepage that makes visitors want to click and learn more. When your homepage delivers targeted content that shows you get my pain and have a solution for it, I’ll want to learn what you do and how you do it.

When you connect your solution to your customers’ why, they will buy.

About the author

Orly Zeewy

Orly Zeewy, Brand Architect, builds the DNA of startup brands and helps founders develop messaging that connects with their ideal customers so they can scale in months, not years. Prior to starting her consulting practice, Zeewy ran the award-winning Zeewy Design and Marketing Communications firm for 14 years and has lectured at Wharton and taught in The Close School of Entrepreneurship at Drexel University, the Fox School of Business & Management at Temple University and the University of Pennsylvania. She has been featured in Medium and has contributed articles in Comcast Business, Small Business Trends, Marketing Journal and Smart Hustle. Her book, “Ready, Launch, Brand: The Lean Marketing Guide for Startups” was released in May 2021 and was the #1 new business book release in April 2021.

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