Over the last two weeks we have laid out some techniques for developing a Wow statement for your company. This week we offer some additional tips to help you improve the effectiveness of your Wow statement and many of your other communications.
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, etc.
There is no simple, fixed template for crafting your Wow statement and longer pitches, but having crafted many pitches ourselves as entrepreneurs, and after hearing thousands of pitches as investors, we have developed lists of what to do, and what not to do, if you want to be successful.
Here are some lessons learned that apply to crafting your Wow statement, and to many other similar communications involving pitching and persuasion:
1. Keep it simple.
Simple is always better than complex. While it is certainly true that some great innovations are extremely complex, the value or benefit of a great innovation is obvious – at least after the fact. You need to bring the obviousness of that value to the front.
2. Be engaging.
What’s the difference between being interesting and being engaging? Interesting is an intellectual response; engaging is an emotional response. Emotional responses are always more compelling.
3. Avoid negatives.
Create positive energy. Don’t disparage the shortcomings of your competition. Show how you can create a better future. You want your audience to feel enchanted, not battered.
4. It’s not about you.
Make sure your value proposition is customer focused, not technology centric. Your solution may be five times faster, and you may be a genius, but how does that translate into customer value?
5. Anticipate the obvious objections and preempt them.
The most common investor reaction to a short pitch is, “Haven’t I heard this before?” You may need to simply explain how this is different, or why the time and the opportunity are different. You might preempt by posing and answering the question yourself: “Why have all previous attempts to build a fusion reactor failed? Because they didn’t [whatever you are doing]...”
6. Avoid purple farts.
Don’t use adjectives or phrases that sound pretty but are really just so much gas. Our favorites: Proprietary, disruptive, next-generation, synergistic, 2.0, world-class, 3.0 and “60 years of combined experience.” Avoid sweeping generalizations. And never say “nobody can” or “we conservatively project.” Even if what you say is true, you will lose credibility.
7. Use one or two numbers.
Use numbers, if you can, to provide the magnitude of your benefit, but don’t jam bunches of numbers in. And don’t make your listener do the math (“We project our market share will be 18 percent of the $235 million market in three years”).
8. Maybe it is about you.
Your Wow statement may be something about your team that convinces us that you are the only company on the planet that can pull off what you intend: “My co-founders and I built PayPal from $0 to $100 million.”
9. Is the problem clear?
You might be able to best frame your statement in terms of the problem you are solving, rather than the technology you have invented. Frequently, the problem is obvious and doesn’t have to be clarified, but often the entrepreneur thinks the problem is obvious, when in fact it isn’t to the listener. You might need to say: “Vibration can reduce the performance of hard drives by 75 percent.”
10. Don’t lie.
You would think this goes without saying, but in their enthusiasm for their creations, entrepreneurs tend to slip across the line all too often. Please do not interpret the need to sell as a license to hype, exaggerate, misrepresent, spin or lie. The best salespeople are credible and trustworthy. It is more important that investors trust you than that they understand every detail of your business.
Your Wow statement is the front end of your effort to persuade others. Keep it simple, crisp, easy to read, and easy to say. It should fit nicely into your email introductions, your executive summary, your pitch, your website, and other communications. But you need to follow it up with all the other elements that make for successful communications in the venture world.
Also, be aware that your Wow statement is going to change over time. What makes your company so compelling will evolve as you grow and succeed, and as the market changes. What made Cisco compelling when it launched is not what makes it compelling today. Accordingly, each company’s Wow statement needs to be revisited regularly.
For more resources to help you launch your venture, see Resources for Entrepreneurs: Getting Started.)
If you’ve got additional recommendations for entrepreneurs working on their Wow statements, please share them with us!
Thanks to John Hall for the inspiration behind the phrase “Wow! Statement.” And thanks to Ron Weissman, Marc Burch, Bob Rees, Ho Nam, and Nat Baker for their help shaping this guide through their participation at entrepreneur workshops on this topic, and to Jack Gottsman and Joyce Chung for their editorial suggestions. If there are any mistakes or ill-conceived suggestions in the above, however, they are entirely the fault of Bill Reichert. If you have any comments, questions, good examples, or bad examples, please contact Bill Reichert at email@example.com.