Elevator Speeches That Elevate

First impressions can last forever. That’s why they hold such importance. “Elevator speeches” or their equivalent are often part of that first impression. It’s your way of giving someone else a quick and memorable depiction of who you are and what you do.

So why are so many people’s elevator speeches so…underwhelming? Probably because the people giving them consider the way people absorb information.


In the situation of meeting someone who doesn’t know you, the person may have no connection to you other than you are competing for the same oxygen in the room. He may well be thinking about his own speech and impatiently waiting his turn.

So start by introducing yourself by name and without another word about yourself, asking who he is. Then ask him what HE does, using his name. “Bob, what do YOU do?” Then actively listen to the answer.

The very first impression is now that you cared enough to ask what he does. When you finally give YOUR intro, he isn’t distracted thinking about his speech. And YOU get the benefit of being able to spontaneously use his background to create a tie to who you are.

That tie might be a spontaneous introductory sentence, something like “What a coincidence, Bob. I’ve worked with a lot of people in the engineering industry. I’m….”

You accomplished all of this by inviting someone else to speak first.


The structure of your elevator speech is important. Even if someone is fully engaged, you can still quickly lose them in your words. One reason is because spoken communications is linear. They can’t skip forward in time…they are forced to listen to the words in order as they are spoken. If they get too much information at once or are confused by the way something is presented, there’s a bottleneck. They either throw away the confusing information or spend extra time processing the previous words.

In either case, you’ve continued speaking and your current words are often lost. Unless your speech consists of single-sentence unrelated ideas, you’ve lost them. The lasting impression you created is that you were confusing or that person who did something or other with sales or whatever.


Your audience has an existing structure in which they categorize and file information in their heads. For most people, it starts with broad categories or “buckets.” Once they place it into the broader category, they can append more detail. But the broad category is still the easy, fast AND FIRST reference point.

So start your description of yourself with your general business category. “I’m a lawyer… or “I’m a writer…” followed by the detail of your specialty. It seems nit-picky to say you shouldn’t place the specialty first, because the time difference is all of a few seconds. But following this order helps people understand better and faster.

The next element is critical and the key element missed by many elevator speeches: the benefit people receive from what you do. That’s the thing that transforms it from a boring monologue on you, by you to a memorable and relevant conversation with your skills as the subject.

I like to start this part by stating it this way:

“Entrepreneurs and businesses come to me for achieve three core objectives:

  • Improve the profitability on existing customers
  • Identify and target the most profitable prospects, converting them to customers; and
  • Speed up their sales cycle”

Presented in this way, I’ve given the listener a concise summary of who I am but stated it from the recipient’s viewpoint. “Entrepreneurs and businesses come to me” places right up front who I work with, allowing my audience to identify with them. I’ve also said “come to me” which implies I am in demand. By following that with stating “three core objectives”, the listener understands and prepares to accept three short benefit descriptions they will receive. I keep them short to ensure they can be understood easily.

And as a bonus, use of the word ‘I’ is minimized throughout the speech. Yes, the elevator speech is still about me, but stated in a way that I don’t sound like an egomaniac.

Now that they understand who I am and the benefits I offer, the best finish is to offer some of the specific ways I do it:

“I accomplish this through creating strategic marketing plans and managing the tactical implementations. That includes web sites, advertising in all media including online advertising, copy writing and other marketing tactics.”

If I placed that at the beginning, they might call me ‘web guy’. By placing that information at the end, I am branded quite differently in their eyes.

Okay, let’s look at the elevator speech as a whole now:

“Hi, I’m Gary Zenker. I am a marketing strategy expert and implementor.

Entrepreneurs and businesses come to me for achieve three core objectives:

  • Improve the profitability on existing customers
  • Identify and target the most profitable prospects, converting them to customers; and
  • Speed up their sales cycle

I accomplish this through creating strategic marketing plans and managing the tactical implementations. That includes web sites, advertising in all media including online advertising, copy writing and other marketing tactics

It’s just enough that if any element there interests the other person, we can speak further. If not, they have a good idea of what I do and even better, understand the value proposition I offer. Then we can talk about anything that really ties us together.

Gary Zenker is a marketing and communications expert with over 25 years of experience. He annoyingly attempts to apply marketing to nearly everything in his life…and yours. Check out some of his work at www.ZenkerMarketing.com or his other blog posts at www.TheBigAha.wordpress.com.

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So I’ve been listening to presentations by people who are teaching others to do social media. My favorite (spoken with heavy sarcasm) is the guy who, for $79, sells you a system using  4 –  45 minute videos describing how everyone can get 100,000 likes to their Facebook page in 6 months.

You can imagine the reasons why businesses would like to have that many likes:

·         A massive number of likes appears to be social proof that the page, its content and its messages are valuable

·         More people opting in to hear your messages (a percentage of the people who ‘liked’ you)

·         The pass-through effect where new people who haven’t liked your business will see/hear your message through wall posts of those that did.

And all of that is great if your end goal was LIKES. But real marketers know that is hardly the goal. Real marketers want to make sales in the most cost effective way possible. And real marketers understand that LIKES from people with low propensity to buy aren’t nearly as valuable as LIKES from people with high propensities to buy.


There are many ways to boost up your LIKES with numbers. Follow this guy’s program or go to FIVERR.com and see the hundreds of people offering you anywhere from 20 – 1000 LIKES for your FACEBOOK and YOUTUBE content for…yeah, five bucks.

The LIKES make a nice show…as long as you view them for what they are: a bunch of artificial, low interest and inactive likes to make your page look more impressive than it should. And at his estimated cost of $4500 ($30 a day for 30 days for six months from video guy, a bit more or less using FIVERR) that may be well worth it.

But me? I like the idea of engaging people who have an honest interest in the value proposition for the product or service I am offering. That way, I know who my real audience is and feel like there’s actually a chance at a sale.



The marketing concept of target marketing operates on the premise that focusing your efforts on those with higher buying propensities will generally outperform shotgun approaches. That’s because by segmenting the market, you can focus the marketing message and the value proposition to those who value it most. You can even have multiple value propositions, each focused on the people that value it most.

That translates to higher conversion rates. Because (surprise) sometimes it takes more than one exposure to get people to trust your message, understand your value proposition and finally take action. It isn’t just about using up resources to send one message to the wrong audience…it’s the aggregate waste of resources with multiple messages. And even if they ARE the right audience to buy, your wrong message falls on deaf ears. Your competition that sent them the correct value proposition made the sale in the meantime.

Worry less about the getting LIKES at all costs to impress your boss or to seemingly justify your social media efforts. Desperation usually results in bad decisions, especially in marketing. Focus those same efforts and resources on finding qualified buyers.

MARKETING LESSON: There are lots of shortcuts in life and in business. Beware that many of them don’t really take you to your desired end destination. Everyone knew the phrase “Where’s the Beef” back in the 70s. The ads won a bunch of awards but Wendy’s profits took a nose-dive just two years after the campaign began, declaring a $4.9 million loss despite adding serious menu extensions to boost sales. Hmmm. Makes you think, doesn’t it? If it doesn’t I have some Facebook LIKES and some magic beans to sell you.


Gary Zenker is a marketing professional who has accumulated 25 years of experience, a shelf full of awards and profitable sales for his employers and clients. You can view a bit of his profit-generating work at http://www.ZenkerMarketing.com. View more marketing thoughts at http://www.theBigAha.wordpress.com.

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Writing more effective copy for the web

Adjust your writing style and structure for better results

Words are a critical part of your web communications. But reading from the web is a different experience that from paper, and comes with its own set of rules for effectiveness. Consider just three of the differences

• Your average reading distance from a piece of paper may be 10”; a monitor  distance may be triple that.

• The content you can see at one time on paper may up to three times what you see on a monitor.

• Moving between columns on a piece of paper is easy because it is all in view at once; on a monitor, that type of reading is disruptive.

So here are a set of guidelines that can help you get more from your web copy

WRITING LEVEL: Make it accessible. Unless you are writing on a highly technical topic, write at a level that makes it understandable to the widest audience possible. Studies place the average adult reading level at the ninth grade. Most popular novels are written at the 7th grade reading level. Don’t think of it as “writing down”…think of it as “audiencing up.” The Flesch–Kincaid formula is one of the most popular and heavily tested used for evaluating reading levels.

STRUCTURE: Use sub-heads throughout. Sub-heads summarize the topic or content in the paragraph that follows. They allow the reader to quickly see the important points in the piece. It also allows them to advance to the topics that interest them most and avoid those that are of minimal interest.

STRUCTURE: Use shorter sentences and paragraphs. Reading on the web is different for many reasons. The lighted screen is harsher than a white paper background. In a printed piece, all of the elements are fixed. Web site viewing is less fixed: the reader often has the ability to change the size of the type and sometimes the column width. The size of the screen being used also affects the presentation of the text. It results in reduced text legibility.

As a writer, you can take back some of the legibility control. Shorter sentence structures prevent single sentences spanning entire paragraphs. Shorter paragraphs (5 lines or less) help avoid eye confusion in following long passages. It also allows for more frequent entry points marked by sub-heads.

CONTENT: Stop writing for your boss. Your boss isn’t buying your product or service. He or she probably knows too much about the product to begin with. Focus on the information potential buyers needs from their perspective. Your reader doesn’t care high highly you think about your product or service. They are focused on trading their money for solutions to their own problems.

STYLE: Use less of these words: I, Our and The Company’s. Despite what you might initially think, your copy shouldn’t be about you. If someone convinced you that is branding, they didn’t know what they were talking about. Your copy is about your potential buyer and the benefits they will receive from buying and using your product or service. You fill that need and your copy will explain that…without ignoring the user role in your monologue.

And while you are at it, stop using your company mission statement in public communications. For most companies, a mission statement is a string of words focusing on the company and what they want others to believe about them, sometimes with no real bearing on reality. There’s nothing more self-serving than a Mission Statement. If you want to make a statement, create a Customer Pledge. The first words should be You, Company Name clients or something similar. Ironically, Our Customers places too much emphasis on the company.

WORD CHOICE: Don’t sacrifice engagement for SEO. Your web content has simultaneous goals: to communicate clearly and drive action, and to offer SEO (Search Engine Optimization) value. Sites that are designed specifically for SEO alone may never achieve the goal of driving sales. Likewise, it’s not that hard to structure your text to include some SEO keywords and key phrases that are critical for indexing.

While this list is far from comprehensive, these six key items are a good start to the focus for writing better web copy, whatever your content needs to be.

Gary Zenker is a Marketing Pro and Copywriter with over 25 years experience and a shelf full of awards collecting dust. You can see samples of his marketing work at www.ZenkerMarketing.com or write him at GaryZenker@gmail.com.

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7 Important SEO TIPS

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) plays a key role in marketing. But if you’re not an SEO expert, it can be frustrating to figure out how to make your web site score better in search engine organic listings. Here are some fast tips on MUST DO’s to be included in your efforts and the no-frills explanation of why you should be doing them:

1) NAME GRAPHIC FILES USING DESCRIPTIONS. Sure, it’s easier to use number or letter combinations for image files but short descriptions are an indexing friend. If you are a digital camera dealer selling the Canon D-60, using that product description adds to the indexing of your site. Using “42.jpg “does nothing to help you or your site index better. Set up a naming convention that includes a brief description of the item and use it for every graphic on your site.

2) INCLUDE ALT TEXT FOR EVERY SITE ILLUSTRATION. Another opportunity to get additional key phrases and words associated with your site. Take advantage of it every time.

3) KEYWORD PHRASES ARE ESSENTIAL. 58% of queries are 3 words or longer. Using keyword phrases ups the chance of matching their searches with your keywords. To find the optimal keyword phrases, use an application like Alexa to find the keyword phrases that drive traffic to your competitors’ sites.

4) USE HEADLINES AND SUBHEADS. Carefully worded headlines and sub-heading (using those tags)make it easier for the reader to navigate text content. They ALSO provide great input for search engine indexing.

5) SUMMARIZE YOUR PAGE CONTENT IN THE FIRST PARAGRAPH OF PAGE TEXT. By now, we all know that content is a driving factor. So use the lesson we all learned about writing in grade school. Begin your text by telling people what you are going to tell them. Content at the beginning is weighed more heavily in the algorhythms used to index sites. It also, not surprisingly, makes for great readable copy.

6) LIST YOUR BRAND IN THE TITLE TAG OF YOUR PAGE. Yeah it sounds like a big duh, but it’s also a frequent miss. Don’t let it be YOUR miss.

7) INCLUDE COMMON MISSPELLINGS IN KEYWORDS. People mistype things all of the time. The most common misspellings may offer an opportunity for you to capture a web surfer before they correct themselves.

This is, of course, far from an exhaustive list. But it does give those attempting to do a bit of their own SEO a starting point to improve their site’s placement in search engine results.

Gary Zenker is a marketing professional with over 20 years experience and success across a variety of industries and all media types. His blog, http://www.TheBigAha.WordPress.com offers topical strategic thinking and immediately useable information and techniques for people who want actionable marketing content.


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Public Policies and the Public

On a recent (and infrequent) stop through a local McDonalds, I took notice of the posted SAUCE POLICY. Foreign politics needs a policy. Nuclear waste management needs a policy. Both of them probably need to be made public. But a policy for the distribution of dipping sauces? I have to say that posting it at the drive-through is one of the most customer-negative things I have seen. It’s just ridiculous.

In a world where we teach people to biggie size everything, McDonalds believes that posting a policy will make you understand the reasoning behind a one sauce limit. What it is really is a way for the franchise owners to reduce their costs and attempt to avoid confrontation by hiding behind a series of words written on the wall.

Yeah, some people waste sauce or get sauces they will never use, just like they do with napkins. Chinese restaurants have solved the same problem with duck sauce by…giving us a bunch of them. I still have them hanging out in a drawer six months later. But you know what? I never once thought to myself “the restaurant is cheap and doesn’t give me what I need to enjoy my meal.”

McDonald’s business persons, solve your expense problem this way: raise the cost of the chicken nuggets or strips or whatever you are selling a couple of pennies. That way, you can make cover the costs of those customers taking extra sauce AND make money on those that don’t take the extras. The customers probably aren’t really that price sensitive.

Me? I’m off to Chik-Fil-A for their more expensive chicken strips and the freedom to ask for three sauce packages and have them handed to me with a smile.

YOUR MARKETING LESSON: Your business policy is a consistent set of rules on how you make business decisions so that everyone in your company can be consistent. That’s all about your company and you. As a consumer, I experience the aftermath of it. But I really don’t care that “you have a policy” or how you justify how you treat me. I only remember that I am spending my money on your service and can’t get what I really want to enjoy my experience. That I will remember for a long, long time.

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Marketers and Re-posters
It’s incredible the number of people who consider themselves “marketers.” Put up a blog, write a few comments and you give yourself license to call yourself a marketer or a social media expert. Hmmm.
And then I’ve noticed that a lot of people have decided the way to join the social media onslaught is to continually post links to other people’s articles and thoughts. They end up with a “high influencer” indicator on LinkedIn or other services. On the surface, they APPEAR to be content experts.
But I stopped following those people. The articles were sometimes interesting, but I also found a number of them to be badly written. So did the person sharing them ever read them? Or did they believe it was a decent piece? Neither answer bodes well. It seems to be the age-old question of quality vs quantity. In the end, I drew the conclusion that these folks are just gaming the system.
And while they are welcome to do whatever they want, I’m not obliged to read what they posted. In fact, they have branded themselves, for me at least…as being less then relevant to the real discussions and education in which I want to participate.
So posting an article by someone else may show me that the someone else has some credibility…maybe. But if you want to build your own credibility, show me where YOU fall in on the topic. Agree? Disagree? Tell me why? Make me think. Engage me.
YOUR MARKETING LESSON: If you think that riding the wave is just about playing on the periphery and sending out stuff for others to read, good luck to you! Pushing other people’s articles may get you a high “influence” rating but it doesn’t mean that you’ll be recognized as anyone who adds anything except regurgitating other people’s work. And that isn’t any indication of the kinds of talent and knowledge most serious people are seeking. Ignore the “top influencer” ratings and make your own judgements based on what people really contribute to the conversations.
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