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Don't Try to Pitch Your Business Without One of These

If I described this article as the "Red Bull of blog posts," what would you expect to read? If you're familiar with the buzz that comes from downing the taurine-laced energy drink, you'd expect this post to give you a quick blast of energy.

In a world where angel investors evaluate thousands of ideas a year and where consumers are bombarded with hundreds of thousands of competing marketing messages each month, you need a fast and effective way to communicate what your business does and why it matters.

A strategic metaphor gives people a cheat sheet for understanding what you do.

For example, a friend of mine is starting a business that will offer customers a variety of alternative medicine practitioners (e.g., chiropractors, massage therapists, acupuncturists) on a deal-of-the-day basis. He described it to me as "the Groupon of alternative medicine." Immediately, with the use of an analogy, he made a complex business idea make sense to me.

Describe your car dealership as "the Ritz-Carlton of Ford dealers" to your newly hired car jockey, and he will know what you expect of him when he's dropping off your customers.

If you describe your product as "the Victoria's Secret of cycling apparel," prospects will know you offer gear designed to make women feel attractive (and men drool) while logging a century ride.

Explain to an investor that you want to make "the Mercedes-Benz of office furniture," and she will know what you are setting out to accomplish.

To come up with an analogy that describes your business, start by figuring out what you want your company to stand for in the mind of customers. Then use Interbrand's list of the top 100 global brands to find a well-known company that represents your aspiration. For example:

  • If your goal is to be the most reliable provider in your market, you may want to describe your business as "the FedEx of the such-and-such market."
  • If you want to be the first in your industry to offer a speedy service model, perhaps you might describe yourself as the McDonald's of your industry.
  • If you want to set up an online marketplace, consider characterizing your idea as "the eBay of..."
  • If you want to be known as the most intellectually rigorous service provider, consider describing yourself as "the McKinsey of such-and-such companies."
  • If you want your product to be a status symbol for the rich and wannabe rich, describe it as "the Rolex of the such-and-such product category."
Figure out your analogy, because the faster you can describe your business to new customers, investors, and employees, the better your chance of holding their attention long enough for them to buy what you're selling.

Just curious -- do you use an analogy to describe your business? Let me know in the comments section below. I'll send out a copy of my new book for the best example.

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John Warrillow is the author of Built To Sell: Creating a Business That Can Thrive Without You.
Follow him on Twitter @JohnWarrillow
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photo courtesy of Flickr/ Leeds Museums and Galleries
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