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Where have you been all my life?

Over the next few weeks, I plan to present the branding process in a way that’s not terribly boring and doesn’t use one catchphrase or chart. I’m sure that will be a relief to some. Instead, I’ll relate it to dating, something I was never able to take seriously or do very well. This should make these weeks a thrill for all of us.

First, could someone please explain to me why we will dress up in our finest clothes, wear our finest cologne, only to go out to clubs that are pitch dark, smell like an ashtray full of pee and are too loud to hear anything insightful come from any of the suitors that, try as they may, only seem to blow beer breath in your face? Maybe I’m looking at this the wrong way, but this just doesn’t seem to be an ideal mating ground. In fact, it reminds me a lot of how brands present themselves to consumers.

Think about how your brand makes its first impression. You get a sharp logo, a stack of the finest business cards and set off to a networking event, business conference, parking garage – whatever –  to find your soul mate. Then, from across the room, you meet eyes and exchange furtive glances. You get anxious as you courageously cross the room to make that first move. After a handshake and an exchange of names, you deliver the most sterile and forgettable elevator speech that you could devise in the mere eight seconds you devoted to it while the person standing across from you was explaining what they do. Didn’t catch what that was? I’m not surprised.

“My company helps you achieve your business goals and grow your ROI. We think out of the box and deliver on time, on budget and would love to set up a time when we can go over our full portfolio.”

Even if your captive audience still has a pulse and is not expressly offended that you just wasted that much of their life, you should not expect a call from that ambiguous line of nothing. Ever. Unprepared and uncreative, the same as in a stinky, loud bar, you fade back into the crowd as if the encounter never happened.

How do we fix this? Simple. First, have your elevator speech ready before you go to the event. I mean days before. Develop, in less than 30 words, the “who, why, where, what, when” statement. Practice it endlessly; because, just like in picking up a date at the bar, the listener can tell when you’re just reciting lines. Once you have that ironed out and are reciting it in your sleep, you can then tuck it away in your mind until the moment you need it.

Let’s re-visit that encounter. Eyes meet, blah blah blah, and you deliver the line. Awesome, but they didn’t swoon or leap into your arms yet. What do you do now? If your elevator speech is effective, there’s not much more that you’ll need to say to paint the picture in their mind. Instead, you ask questions about them. Show a sincere interest in what they do and make sure that their memory of you is one of pure and genuine interest. Let them talk; ask open-ended questions to encourage them do so. After a few minutes, ask if you can give them a call the next day. Set up a lunch and continue to do the same. The opportunities to talk about you will naturally present themselves in relevant context, so don’t force it. Before you know it, you’re on your way to a beautiful relationship with a new client, or baby daddy and buying a Graco FastActionFoldClickConnect stroller, whichever you’re in the market for.

Patrick King

Patrick is the Founder of Imagine and advisor to places on brand strategy and creative. His insights have been published in Inc. Magazine, SmartCEO, Washington Business Journal, The Washington Post, and Chief Marketer, among other publications, and shared at conferences throughout the US. He also has an amazing sock collection.


  • Arrieb says:

    Once again Patrick, you have me rolling in the aisles! I harken back to some of my own poorly designed and delivered elevator speeches and the glazed-over look in the recipients eyes.

    It was no way to get a “date for the prom”…I wholeheartedly concur with you. Practice, deliver, and listen with sincere interest.

  • nopweignfrepe says:

    Just want to say what a great blog you got here!
    I’ve been around for quite a lot of time, but finally decided to show my appreciation of your work!

    Thumbs up, and keep it going!


  • This is my first time i visit here. I found so many interesting stuff in your blog especially its discussion. From the tons of comments on your articles, I guess I am not the only one having all the enjoyment here keep up the good work.

  • Robert says:

    Nice to read such articles.

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