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30 Seconds-Go!

In the world of small business marketing, there is this thing known as the 30 second commercial.

I shudder at the very name.

Really, the name is a problem. If you think about it as a commercial you’re going into it with the wrong approach. You want to think about it as your Brief Introduction.

You can’t sell me in 30 seconds, so please don’t try. Most people are trying to cram their entire business profile into those 30 seconds. It’s full of jargon, carefully constructed (can you say convoluted?) intricate sentences and it is obviously rehearsed, because no one talks that way.

Much like a commercial. Usually, your 30 seconds sounds just as fake as the woman who loves mopping the floor.

Those 30 seconds shouldn’t be your sales pitch. They should be a teaser that makes me say “I really need to talk to her when we break.” Use that time to interest me, to engage me, to show me what a fun person you’d be to work with, and give me enough information to generate some questions. If I need what you do and I think you’re fun and interesting, I’ll hunt you down. So lets rebuild your introduction.

Shortly after I went into business for myself I learned that whatever it is that we’re selling, what we’re really selling is “I’ll take care of that for you.” So what will you take care of? What problem are you fixing? What pain will you take away? But then turn it into something unexpected. Instead of “I write blogs.” I like to start with “I want to tell your story.” Make me wonder where you’re going with that so I’m still paying attention when you get to the end.

Then make sure people can relate by sounding conversational. I could say “I offer developmental editing services to business professionals looking to increase their credibility by becoming published authors.” Sometimes I do say that. More often in a networking setting I’ll say “I work with professionals to get that half finished book off your laptop and out into the world where it can make a difference.” Give me an example. If I need your service, make me see myself in your description.

Once you’ve gotten my attention, then give me a few more details about the kinds of things you do. What makes you different? Why should I pick you?

Choose wording that comes naturally to you. This may get me blacklisted from the editors guild, but don’t worry so much about complete sentences and grammar. In conversation, some times an incomplete sentence, or something humorously grammatically incorrect, stands out in a good way for emphasis. Speak the way you normally would, but at your best and most eloquent. You have time to practice after all.

Do practice, and then practice some more. The only way to sound natural is to rehearse. Just think about some great speakers, or how about great performers? Have you ever heard a comedian do a stand up routine? They sound as if every word is just made up on the spot. If you attend their show again tomorrow, it will be the same laughs and stories, and it will still sound completely natural. That brilliant, easy assurance comes with practice. Once you’re really good at one version, mix it up a little, choose a different point to highlight. Then practice again. Like a politician, have your sound bytes ready for every opportunity.

When it’s your turn to stand up, smile and watch your body posture. When you smile and relax, the people you’re addressing will also relax. If you can get them smiling, you’re on your way to building a relationship, and that’s where the sales happen.

So if you’re me, your brief introduction looks something like this:

My name is Pamela Potter and I want to tell your story. You know that half finished manuscript on your laptop that you’ve stopped looking at? I work with professionals like you to get those manuscripts finished and out where they make you look good. You know those blog posts that you don’t write because you don’t know what to say? I write those so you don’t have to. Speeches, articles, all those ways you could be getting your message out to the world, but don’t? Well, not everyone gets to be good with words. I do, so lets work together to get your story out where it can make a difference. I’m a ghostwriter and editor and I want to help you change the world.

No list of services. No details about my methods. Just telling my story of how I’m going to fix something that you don’t like. If I touch on a pain that you feel, you’ll make a note. If I intrigue you, you’ll ask for more information. If I don’t resonate, then you aren’t my client and we’re good. Listing the details of everything I can possibly do isn’t going to change your gut reaction.

Most people buy with the heart, not the mind. So reach out to them there. Ditch the details.


  1. Hey Pamela,
    You’ve stated the “issue” for us small business entrepreneurs very succinctly. Bravo. You deserve some great clients!!!

    The way you’re good with words – I’m good with brains! Website coming very soon :)

  2. Thanks for the comment Ruth! I’m glad you found the article useful.
    I think the problem starts when we write our introduction down. We start treating it as copy instead of conversation and it goes off the rails.

  3. Love this, Pamela! Such good advice. I do programs for networking groups about doing a better “elevator speech” – you and I are definitely on the same page. Thanks for sharing. And — Hell Yeah!

  4. Great article!! I’ve always had an issue with these “elevator speech”, “personal commercial”, or whatever they’ll be called next week. It’s one thing for me to stand up in front of a group and introduce myself with an introduction.. Benefits and all. But for some reason it just never works when I run into someone and they ask me what I do. You’ve given me the permission to feel ok about what always ends up coming out of my mouth: “I work with people who are having some kind of a health issue… Could be high blood pressure or cholesterol or they just survived a heart attack.” When I say that it opens up the conversation… That’s really all I need right?

    • Exactly. All you want to do is give them enough information to spark interest and open the conversation for them to ask for more information. You might think about a way to expand on ‘work with’. Do you counsel? Train? Talk to your friends for brainstorming ideas. But don’t stress it. If you are intriguing people and they’re engaging you, that’s exactly what you’re looking for.

  5. A huge THANK YOU For this article!! I find myself zoning out through many “elevator pitch” introductions. I don’t want to feel “pitched”, I want to understand what you do and then decide if it is for me. People who open with a pitch aren’t going to get much information out of me. I feel it’s merely an opportunity for them to find key words or phrases to attempt to “uniquely identify” their product/service with me. Yuck!! If you love what you do and who you serve, let that shine through.

    • “If you love what you do and who you serve, let that shine through.”

      Yes! Always start with your why. If you have to rely on twisted, stilted descriptions to tell me what you do, without actually telling me what you do, then we aren’t making a connection and I probably won’t want to learn more.

  6. Great article! Thank you so much! I’ve been struggling with this for a very long time, but I feel a bit more clear after reading your article. I think I’ve been trying TOO HARD. 😉 So far I’ve got this: “I help women who are experts at meeting everyone’s needs (except their own) kick their self-defeating patterns of behavior to the curb.” I’ll start with this and expand. It’s tough to explain what you do when it’s all about archetypes. 😉 Thanks, again, for the helpful article!

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