The Grandmother Pitch: What Do Others Say about You?

03 Aug 2018

I go to lots of startup events, investor meetings, and so on. Often, there are events with ten startups and 30-40 angels and investors; the startups have three minutes for their elevator pitch and the dog-and-pony. You can tell when the founders do the elevator pitch; their eyes lose focus and they turn into robots as they state their mission in a flat voice, e.g., "Plooky enables emerging AI multi-modal technologies to monetize verticals by leveraging dynamic cloud-based solutions".

Like, whatever... It just lacks a few acronyms (CRM, ERP, DBMS, SaaS).

All of you know your elevator pitch. Well, most of you know it. You write it. You memorize it. And eventually, you can deliver it with plausible enthusiasm.

But you will never get your influencers and advocates to repeat it. They're not going to memorize  your elevator pitch.

Why? Because it doesn't make any sense. It's just a string of buzzwords.

Why does it matter what your friends, influencers, and advocates say about you? Because they're the ones who will convince others to buy your products and services. Those personal referrals have a very high chance of creating investors, clients, and customers. Personal connections really work. I co-founded a marketing agency in 2005. We tracked our leads and sales and found that cold calls converted at 5-10%, whereas warm leads (people referred to us by our advocates) converted at 75%.

So what will your advocate tell a good friend about your startup? Your advocate generally won't be in your industry. Your advocate probably won't know your technical buzzwords.

  • She's going to shorten it to just a few words
  • She's going to personalize it (she'll say "Andreas does __________")
  • She's going to focus on the benefit for the listener ("He can help YOU with _____________")
  • She'll use words everyone understands

How to Discover Your Grandmother Pitch

Thinking about this and talking with friends about this, I came up with the idea of the "The Grandmother Pitch". What would your grandmother tell another grandmother about you or your project?

Two grandmothers talking together don't know about technical stuff. They'll just say it straight.

What did Steve Jobs' grandmother say about him?

  • (Grandmother Betty): "What's little Stevie doing now?"
  • (Grandmother Wilma): "Stevie is selling phones."

So, what about me?

First, here is what I thought I did. Here was my elevator pitch, "Global expert in content marketing."

Why did I say that? My book on content marketing was an Amazon Best Seller. It was published in Europe, North America, and South America. No other author in content marketing was published in a second country. So that was my UVP (Unique Value Proposition) and POD (Point of Differentiation): Global content marketing.

That was great, no? Nobody else could make that claim.

But... was anyone saying that about me?

I found two ways to see what others thought I did.

First, there is LinkedIn's endorsements. Every time you visit LinkedIn, it asks you to endorse your friends for various skills. Does Jennifer know about branding? Endorse her! Here's a list of endorsements for me at LinkedIn: Web Analytics = 294; SEM = 176; Social Media Marketing = 139; SEO = 126; Google Analytics = 126; Email Marketing = 106; PPC 112; Startups = 84; Social Media = 78; Strategy = 71; Marketing = 69; Google Adwords = 64; Content Marketing = 54; Web Marketing = 40; Total = 1,529

This was a voting system. What did my professional contacts think I did? I had 1,529 votes. You can see my surprise: I thought I did content marketing... but it had only 54 votes (3.5%).

This meant if I built my elevator pitch on content marketing, 97% of my contacts wouldn't present me to others as a content marketer. Even though I was the author of an Amazon Best Seller on content marketing, they didn't think of me that way. My LinkedIn friends saw me as someone who does SEO and Digital Marketing.

(Time for a Tip: I suspect LinkedIn uses these votes when determining which profiles to show. My LinkedIn profile had 47 categories for endorsement. Most of these have very few votes. Go to your profile and edit your list of endorsement categories. By deleting minor and duplicate categories, you can focus the votes on your top categories.)

I wondered if there was another way to find what my friends thought I did. So I set up a survey page. I sent a short email to 100 people in my professional/business contacts. I asked them to fill out a short sentence in plain English" and assured them the results would be anonymous. "When you tell a friend what Andreas does, you say "Andreas does _______________." (fill in the blank)." Here are the results:

  • SEO and other digital marketing for large and small companies.
  • Web traffic development support services.
  • He is an author.
  • Andreas identifies new marketing approaches.
  • Digital visionary.
  • Content and digital marketing expert.
  • Marketing, Author, Advisor, Entrepreneur.
  • Explain difficult topics in everyday language.
  • Write books.
  • He writes books and tries to figure out and share how to survive the search engines---particularly Google.
  • He is a content marketing expert... his Linkedin tagline says so :-) he used to be an SEO expert and may be an influence marketing expert very soon :-)
  • Andreas helps companies "talk to the market place" based on measurable input. Andreas also helps companies use social media as a platform to create traction and create social media strategies. Again... in a measurable way. Andreas know the dirty secrets about available data and how to utilize it.
  • Andreas helps companies accelerate sales.
  • Teaches others what he learns.
  • Online marketing / advertising.
  • Business and marketing consulting.
  • Helps clients market online effectively.
  • Digital marketing and analytics.
  • Andreas is an expert at getting web traffic.
  • SEO strategist, Author.
  • Creates researches measures strategizes.
  • SEO, creates marketing solutions via technology, writes.
  • Andreas reinvents the world one business at a time.
  • Andreas is search engine marketing evangelist.
  • Consulting on SEO and content strategy.
  • Andreas teaches companies how to increase their revenues/profits by optimizing their online marketing strategies.
  • Advises about online marketing.
  • Advise business about marketing.
  • Translate leading edge digital marketing technology into useful marketing media capabilities.
  • Author. Expert on SEO.
  • Andreas shares marketing insight.
  • Consulting, writing books, entrepreneurship.
  • Manage online marketing by creating content.
  • Author speaker SEO.
  • Digital Customer Centricity Expert.
  • Writer, visionary, practical tipster

I got 36 replies (36%). I went through the list, highlighted the key concepts, and counted them:

  • 19 Digital marketing (53%)
  • 9 SEO (25%)
  • 9 Author (25%)
  • 4 Content marketing (11%)
  • 3 Visionary (8%)
  • 2 Entrepreneur  (5%)

(There's overlap because several people used multiple categories.)

How to Use This: Make It Easy for Others to Talk about You

Okay, how to use this? The goal is to create effective brand messaging for your startup and yourself. If you write a wonderful brand message but others won't use it, it's a waste of time. You must write a message that others understand and they will repeat to their close friends.

  • Three or four words
  • In plain language that your grandmother would use
  • Focus on the benefit to others (what it does for them, not you)
  • Make it personal (e.g., "He helps you get more traffic with SEO.")

So what did I come up with? I combined the phrases and put it in simple words. Digital marketing had 53%, but that's a vague topic. SEO and author each have 25%. So, I wrote "Andreas has written fourteen books on SEO." That's unique, clear, and what people want for their websites: an SEO expert. When I'm at parties, events, whatever, people introduce me to their friends by saying, "Here's Andreas. He's written fourteen books on SEO." And they immediately start asking questions.

I'll repeat this to make the point very clear. If you're a professory of osteology at Stanford Medical School and you say that, most people will stare at you and then change the topic. Too big, not clear. But if you say "I teach bone doctors at Stanford", everyone will ask you about that ache they have in their bones.

I used my new slogan everywhere: my website, LinkedIn profile, Facebook, Twitter, Powerpoint introducdion slides, and more. Create a clear concept and repeat it everywhere.

Next Steps for You

You can do this for your personal branding or your startup's branding:

  • Go to LinkedIn and review your endorsement categories. Delete the categories that you don't want.
  • Use a survey tool and ask your friends what they would say about you. I used (free). There are dozens of these tools.
  • Rewrite your message. Make it easy for your advocates to tell others what you do.
  • Add your message to your website and your profiles at Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook,etc.