Last week we outlined the usefulness of developing a Wow statement, and the general principles for creating one. This week we offer a more detailed framework for building an effective Wow statement.
Again, the purpose of a Wow statement is to have a short, clear, credible and compelling pitch that communicates what makes your company so exciting. It is the front end of your effort to engage others in your venture – investors, employees, customers, advisors, partners.
Here’s a simple four-step framework to help you pull it together:
- Step One: Context. State what it is that you do better than anyone else in simple, easy to understand words:
“SuperCo has developed a low-cost technology that reduces the vibration caused by hard drives and cooling fans in data centers.”
- Step Two: Benefit. Clarify your unique benefit or advantage. One trick to help you phrase this sentence is to begin with, “The big idea behind SuperCo is…” Getting this clear benefit right is the core to your success in communicating your value proposition. What is the central big idea? And for whom is this a big benefit?
“Because vibration reduces the performance of hard drives, our technology increases performance by up to 2.5x, as we’ve shown with three beta customers.”
- Step Three: Differentiation. Clarify how you are different from the competition and the alternatives. One way to help you phrase this sentence is to begin with, “Unlike other companies that offer...” Do not say that you have no competition, or that no one else can do what you can do (Entrepreneur Lie #5). Instead, state your key point of differentiation and compelling advantage over the next best solution to the problem:
“Because we use [unique approach], unlike alternative solutions that require [standard approach], we can save our customers 40 percent of their total costs.”
- Close: Put a bow on it. Give your listener the sound bite he or she can remember walking away. This might be your “mantra” or your tagline:
“Bottom line, SuperCo saves money and increases performance for data center operators.”
Or, depending on your audience, it might be a call to engage:
“Do you think increasing data center performance is an interesting opportunity?”
Don’t take this as a rigid template. There is no fixed recipe; no example fits all businesses or all circumstances. These are guidelines to help you focus on what is most important. You might emphasize something that could be even more compelling or enticing, such as a major recent accomplishment – a Nobel laureate just joined your board, or Cisco just decided to standardize on your platform. This may be the most effective way to establish your differentiation (Step Three above).
Or you might take a different approach altogether. Another way to create your Wow statement might be to tell a story or paint a picture:
“Imagine a product that enables you to synchronize all your contacts from all your different social and professional networks and databases. Imagine that this product categorizes all these contacts automatically. And then imagine that you can send out personalized communications to each of these contacts, according to their category. This product could save you hours every month, and thousands of dollars a year. We have developed such a product, and we already have forty-five small businesses using it.”
This is not likely to work as a voicemail message, but it might work at the beginning of a pitch, or in an email introduction. Another approach is to help the listener understand what you are doing by offering a useful analogy:
“We’re the TV Guide for internet video.”
One of the best Wow statements I’ve ever heard condensed the framework above into something very simple, and yet very compelling:
“We offer a suite of software tools for producing animated graphics. Last year we won an Academy Award for special effects.”
The CEO went on to describe the company and its products in much greater detail, but afterwards I told her, “You had me at Academy Award.”
This all seems pretty simple and straightforward, but it is amazing how often we forget the need to be clear and credible, as well as compelling. Too often we think, our idea is so novel, so powerful, so incredibly disruptive that we can’t possibly distill it down to such a simple format. But unless you do, you may never get anywhere with it.
Once you craft your Wow statement, try it out, and continuously improve it. The great thing about a Wow statement is that it should be effective with almost anyone you know. Start with your spouse and your business colleagues from other businesses. In particular, you should seek out people you know who have good BS detectors and will be honest with you. Then once you have nailed it, make sure everyone in your organization has fully internalized it and can repeat it in emails, at trade shows, on voicemails, in press releases, at cocktail parties – and in elevators.
Next week we’ll offer our Top 10 Tips for crafting your Wow statement and, more generally, for pitching your company.