Thursday, November 18, 2010

Talking About Your Business

After extolling the virtues of networking last week and knowing that the holiday season brings lots of events, work related and otherwise, I thought I’d share some tips on how to get more comfortable talking about your business. I don’t mean selling it, I mean simply telling people what you do, creating connections. After all when you run a small business, especially an art-based business what you do is closely tied to who you are.

Unfortunately, there is no magic formula to suddenly make you feel totally at ease with telling people what you do. I still struggle with it almost everyday. I can’t always find the right words or feel like I’m talking too much and still not getting my point across. If they’re not asking questions I worry that they don’t get it or are bored. I want to sound witty and at ease, but instead feel like I sound unsure and confused.

Even given all that, I am getting better. I’m getting better because I make myself do it, because I understand how important it is to my success. Who better to extol the virtues of my business than me? Honestly, if I can’t talk about it why would anyone else?

Here are a few tips I’ve picked up along the way. They’ve not only made me more comfortable talking about Lightbox SF, they’ve even allowed me to pick up a new client or two.

1) Have an elevator pitch

This is a whole post in itself so I’m just going to touch on it and will come back to it in depth next week. You’ve probably heard of the elevator pitch, that 30-second summary of what your business is. It may sound gimmicky, but it’s very important. If you can’t sum up sum up what you do in 30-60 seconds it most likely means you’re trying to do too much or you’ve lost your focus. Think of this as your opening sentence to spark a conversation or the movie trailer for your business.

A few things to keep in mind:

· Tell people what’s unique about what you do

· Make it exciting, passionate or catchy

· Remember to keep it simple and short

· Remember you don’t have to say everything

· Test it out on others and refine

2) Remember why you started doing what you do in the first place

This is a surefire way to give you plenty to talk about. Remember that moment of inception, the day you thought everything was possible and you set out to create this business you now run. If you can remember that passion and carry it through to your words, whoever you’re talking to will listen simply because you’re so excited.

Remembering why you started may also help you with that elevator pitch or help bring you back to focus if you’re feeling a little muddied or directionless.

3) Have catch phrases and examples ready to go

It’s ok to plot out what you want to say to people before hand. You’ve taken the time to craft an elevator pitch (or are at least working on one); now think about your 1-2 minute introduction. What’s most important for you to share? Do you often wear examples of your work? How you would describe one of your favorite or most popular pieces?

Also think of common questions that people might ask, how will you answer them? Is there an easy way to describe how you make your patterns or the types of fabric you use? You might even talk about your target market and why they love your product so much. “I make diaper bags for busy career women, they love them because there’s enough room for everything they need, but they look like a sleek trendy purse.”

4) Practice...

It does make perfect. Practice on a friend or spouse. Get them to pretend not to know anything about your business and have them ask any questions that come to mind. Once you’ve exhausted all your loved ones, you can say it to yourself in the mirror or even talk to people you don’t care about impressing, like your dry cleaner or someone behind you in line at the grocery store.

Then when you’re at that next networking event and you get the chance to talk to the woman who owns that gallery you’d kill to be in, it will all just roll off your calm, confident tongue.

What are the hardest parts of your business to talk about? Is there always one question that makes you stumble? Share you experiences in the comments below.

I encourage comments directly to this post, but also feel free to email me directly with questions, reactions, struggles, etc.

If you're an Etsy seller in the San Francisco Bay Area, contact Jen from Mama's Magic Studio about joining SFEtsy!


Jen (Mama's Magic Studio) said...

This is exactly the advice I needed to hear today -- thank you! I find it especially challenging to talk about Mama's Magic Studio because it is such a part-time endeavor for me at the moment. I have elaborate plans for where I hope it will go eventually, but right now it's so small that it's a challenge for me not to automatically fall into devaluing what I do when I talk about it. I most often find myself brushing off compliments with a comment like, "Oh, it's what I do to keep sane while I'm home with the kids!" Which, while true, doesn't do justice to how passionate I am about the things I make. I'll look forward to hearing more from you about the elevator pitch -- I really need to work on mine!

Lightbox SF said...

Jen, you brought up something I didn't really touch on, but we all need to be reminded of... Don't ever devalue what you do!

It's an easy trap to fall into, especially when things aren't as busy as you'd like them, but don't let it take over.

Remember what you're mother used to tell you, "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all." The same goes for your business.

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