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How to describe complex products in a sentence: the micropitch

A micropitch is like these four: small but mighty.

A micropitch is like these four: small but mighty.

You’re an entrepreneur with a killer new idea, and now you need to sell it to someone who doesn’t understand your market as well as you – an investor perhaps, or a potential employee, or a business you want to partner with. That’s not always as easy as it might first seem.

At Big Revolution, we’re often brought in as an outside pair of eyes to help a company so deeply involved with developing its product that the people there can only see it in extreme close-up. That makes describing it to the outside world a real challenge.

Sure, they can talk about their product, but they often focus on things that won't matter to other people. They describe it in a language they can understand without considering the needs of different audiences.

This is understandable, and completely normal. But unless you know how to frame your product properly, your PR and marketing will be off the mark, your partners won’t understand exactly who they’re working with, and your employees might not do their best work as they’re never truly, deeply sure what it is your company really does.

Nailing your micropitch

We help solve this through a process that can involve an in-depth afternoon of face-to-face conversation, or a collaborative, multi-week process of back-and-forth, examining different parts of the offering.

But you can start to define your product with a simple exercise, the micropitch: come up with a one-sentence description for your product that you can reel off whenever anyone asks what you do.

It’s surprising how many companies don’t have this nailed early on. Sometimes it’s difficult, but it’s worth doing. A micro-pitch is useful for any business, but it's especially important for tech companies, where complicated products meet a variety of possible business models and brand new concepts in a market that rarely stands still.

Small and impactful. Credit:    Hello I'm Nik    on Unsplash

Small and impactful. Credit: Hello I'm Nik on Unsplash

A 30-second 'elevator pitch' is fine, but you also need a short, universal sentence that sums up what you do to anyone who asks; wherever, whenever.

I once visited the office of a startup and found the team there writing a list of one-sentence phrases up on their wall as they tried to figure out their ‘micropitch.’ It turned out their CEO had been on the radio that morning, and the presenter had ended the interview by admonishing him to the nation for taking too long to clearly describe what the company did. That would be enough to push anyone into same-day action!

Describing Facebook

So how do you describe what you do in a sentence so people ‘get it’ straight away?

Let’s look at how Facebook might describe itself if it was starting out today, with its current product…

Trying to be concise, Mark Zuckerberg might say something like:

“Facebook is a website and app that gives you a feed showing what your friends, coworkers, and favorite brands are doing through features like photo and video sharing, private messaging, location check-ins, and Groups that help you expand your network and learn new things.”

That would be an accurate, if incomplete, list of Facebook features, but it’s also… just a list of features. It doesn’t capture Facebook’s mission – it doesn’t inspire or excite.

An alternative to that could be:

“Facebook connects you to your friends and brings the world together.”

And that’s quite close to what you’ll find on the Facebook.com homepage today:

“Facebook helps you connect and share with the people in your life.”

 
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Yes, there’s a lot missing here – the features, the business model, the privacy scandals.. but they’ve boiled it all down, and what’s left captures the essence of the company. It has something for everyone:

  • A prospective user immediately understands the value proposition.

  • A prospective advertiser understands the kind of platform they’d be working with

  • A prospective investor understands the core mission of the company

And you don’t need to know anything about technology to understand Facebook when it’s described like this. That's increasingly important as the company looks to the developing world and internet newcomers for growth.

All these groups above would require more information to truly understand Facebook, but that one sentence would be enough for Zuckerberg to smoothly kick off any conversation about his business.

When I worked at Tech North, we didn’t have an official 'micropitch,' but I composed my own that I kept ready to trip off my tongue at any time, as a way of describing what we did:

“Tech North is an organization that helps develop and promote the tech sector in the North of England.”

It didn’t mention any of the initiatives we operated, or the events we organized, the communities we helped nurture, the fact we were largely government funded, or anything else I might then follow up with. But it captured the mission, and the essence, of what we did. Regardless of who was asking, I had a simple, well-rehearsed and natural way of answering any opening question about where I worked.

And yes, I used it in a few radio interviews as well.

If you need help framing what your company does, drop us a line.

A version of this post first appeared on LinkedIn. Featured image credit: freestocks.org on Unsplash

AdviceMartin Bryant