Front Doors, The Yellow Pages, Huh?, and How to Pitch Your Business
It’s absurdly ironic.
One of the greatest challenges for any business is pitching your business. Why is articulating the thing we started or founded or DO 40+ hours a week, week after week, so dang hard?
Why do we fumble when asked, “What do you do?”
Why do we stammer and stumble? Stutter and mutter?
I’m saying ‘we’…but I really mean ‘me’…and I’m hoping you’re with me on this! I’d bet an overpriced ballpark hot dog you are.
I don’t want to take a deep dive into all the reasons why in this article. Instead, I’ll just mention WHY so many of us struggle here.
But I’m more interested in a couple of hacks to help get over the hump. To help you do a better job of pitching anything regarding your business. From what your entire business does, to what a particular product or service of your brand does.
The Briefest of Primers on Why We Throw “Wild, Unpredictable Pitches”
You’ve seen one of the embarrassing videos of some celebrity throwing out the first pitch at a baseball game. The one where it goes terribly wrong.
You’ve got a few varieties…
- The pitch lands way short.
- The pitch hits an onlooking member of the media…usually a male…usually where a male would never want to get hit by anything, celebrity or not. (Whether or not you ‘catch’ the pun in the first clause of this bullet point is up to you…but it’s there.)
- The pitch goes flying in a direction where fans wonder, “Has he or she ever seen a baseball game before?”
So why do you and I throw wild pitches when asked, “What do you do?”
The Knows/Nose Problem
I call it the knows/nose problem.
Briefly stated, you know too much and your nose is buried in it.
The problem with the pitch isn’t ignorance.
The problem is your expertise. Like an elite Ivy League Bio-Genetic research professor, normal folk can’t begin to follow.
And to top it off, you’re way down in the weeds all day every day. Because it’s what you do and love. Makes sense—only to you.
So there you have it.
Now that the Primer is out of the way…
Three Hacks to Throwing Better Pitches for Your Business
I’m not a huge baseball fan. But I do listen to the occasional sports radio.
One thing I hear discussed during MLB spring training every year is the strike zone. How do we define it, make it fair, and make it predictable? And what role should modern technology play? Can a robot or AI call an unbiased strike better than an umpire?
Confession: I don’t really care. I only mention it to say, strikes matter to baseball fans!
So to keep the metaphor going…how do you throw strikes—in a good way—when pitching your business?
Strike 1: Front Doors
Believe it or not, I picked this strike up from my background in church ministry.
When you get a church staff together from a church serious about serving and reaching the community, you get this discussion…
Is that a front door for people?
Let me decode that for you. Because it’s a great hack to throwing strikes when pitching your business.
Many churches have distinctives, particularly church plants. (Church plants are often started because of those distinctives.)
Where I was on staff, we had some ‘hot sports opinions’ about things like:
- small groups vs missional communities
- attractional vs missional
- discipleship in the every day vs linear discipleship programs
Ok. You get the idea.
But, our context was the religious South.
Bottom line: No One from our community knowingly checked out our church because of those distinctives.
No one ‘leaned in’—(more cool insider jargon to impress your church staff friends)—because of our hot sports opinions about those distinctives.
In the South, the Sunday Morning Worship Gathering is one of THE front doors.
That’s where the curious or searching would show up. They want to know, “What time does Sunday Service start and where it it?”
Another front door was children’s programming and youth activities.
Once they come through those big, obvious ‘front doors’, then we can explore the distinctives in relationship. Relationships are a far better context for distinctives.
But you gotta get ’em through the door first!
Try it out for your business. First, ask:
- Who exactly is your audience or customer?
- What is your context or setting?
Once you’ve asked that, then ask:
- What is the most obvious “front door” they’d be looking for?
Imagine if you started a lawn care business committed to organic lawn care maintenance. You firmly believe removing toxic chemicals from lawn treatment is better for families and pets.
But, you’re in a smaller market where ‘organic’ hasn’t widely taken root yet. (Sorry, puns are sprouting up like weeds.)
The ideal, obvious front door your customer is looking for might be…
- “Dang. I spent all this money on a dream house and my yard is a mess. I’m busy, but I want it to look good. Who can I trust to help with that?”
So your customer is looking for some trustworthy help to get rid of the weeds and get the yard looking good again.
Don’t set up a hidden, side door around “100% Organic, Environmentally Friendly Lawn Treatments.”
Setup a Front Door: Get Your Dream Lawn. (Making dream lawns come true since 2004.)
Set up your pitch like the front door your customer is looking for. When they bust down your door, the little umpire in your head will yell “Strike!”
Strike 2: The Yellow Pages
This hack is so powerful…and easy.
Thud! That was the sound of the new, 2-volume Yellow Pages being delivered to the house in Dallas when I was a kid.
Back then, when you lived in the big city and you needed something, you’d turn to the Yellow Pages. In a metroplex the size of Dallas/Fort Worth, you’d get it in 2-volumes.
Guess how big they were?
(You say, “How big were they?”)
They were so big, an entire industry of traveling strong-man evangelists would try to tear them in half in front of crowds of teenagers. Then they’d give an altar call and…well, I’ll stop there and keep the soapbox in the garage.
The Yellow-Pages is the perfect analogy to help you pitch your business.
It may be way better than trying to pitch based on the purpose of your business!
Let me illustrate real quick…
The purpose of my brand and business is: To help leaders build life-giving brands.
But, no one has ever reached out to me looking for a “life-giving brand strategist.”
So I never throw that pitch initially.
Instead, I use the Yellow Pages hack. You can too. Here’s how…
Before you pitch, ask yourself the Yellow-Pages Question:
- What would my ideal customer lookup in the Yellow Pages to solve his or her problem?
Then throw that pitch to get ’em swinging for the fences!
Think of the Yellow Pages hack like a fun game…because it was.
- As a business, you had to pick the right Yellow Pages category to list your business or buy your add.
- As a customer, you had to pick the right Yellow Pages category to find a business that could solve your problem.
In my case, no one would ever pick up a Yellow Pages and head towards “L” for “Life-Giving Brand Strategists.” So I don’t lead with that pitch.
Strike 3: Huh?
This may be the easiest, ‘duh’ hack of them all.
When you’re around existing customers, ask “Huh?”
No, you don’t have to use the lazy, oft-offensive “Huh?” like an aloof teenager.
The point is, ask and listen to how your customer talks about you, what you do, and how you help.
Be diligent. Ask customers questions like…
- What was going on in your life that brought you here today?
- What did you ‘Google’ or search for on Amazon when you started looking for help?
Listen intently. Listen humbly. Resist the temptation to correct or suggest. (cf the Knows/Nose problem above). Don’t get angry when they fail to mention your “core distinctive” or hot button.
Then in your next pitch, just say what they say.
Pitch These 3 Strikes the Next Time You Pitch Your Business
Try these out and let me know how it goes!
- Pitch the obvious Front Door your customers are looking to enter.
- Pitch the Yellow Pages problem your customer would look to for help.
- Pitch the pitch your customers say made them swing.