Imagine you’ve just found out about the business promotion opportunity of a lifetime.
Guest posting on a massive blog that fits your target audience perfectly. Speaking at a top conference. Reaching a journalist with a story. Your business could double overnight!
The next, very simple step is to communicate the value you can provide as clearly and persuasively as possible.
Easy, right? Just describe the wealth of your knowledge in a few short sentences and hope they get it. Which means…
… they don’t think you sound like everyone else.
… they don’t think it’s common knowledge.
…and you don’t have to type up a massive pitch full of redundant examples to make your point.
You know what you know. You understand it fully. But that doesn’t mean anyone reading your pitch will get it the same way you do. A lot can go wrong when you think you’re being clear.
While it’s easy to laugh at a sushi restaurant that sounds like a Mexican place, the same mistakes are made all the time with pitches.
I’ve seen this firsthand — after evaluating hundreds of TEDx speaker applications (and seeing my students’ failed attempts to pitch their message), I’ve realized that many try to be clever or coin unique terms in an effort to stand out, but they often sound confusing. Ensuring their pitch is crystal clear is one of the most important first steps to a successful pitch. Clarity is the prerequisite to persuasion.
Many people assume their pitch is clear, but don’t validate this assumption. Just like validating a product idea for demand before you launch, you can validate a pitch before you send it.
How to validate clarity — The Echo Test
The best way to validate a product is to get real people to put down money (rather than asking your friends if a product is “good”). Similarly, the best way to test for clarity isn’t to ask “does this make sense” or get your friends or team to tell you it’s wonderful — the best way is to get your target market to show they understand it.
This way, you can diagnose and fix any misunderstandings and you’ll get unbiased data.
Here’s how to do it:
1 – Summarize your pitch
After you determine a great topic for the blog/podcast/speaking opportunity you want, shrink it down to one sentence (<20 words).
Add more detail or examples only when your testing tells you you need it. You don’t want to get turned down because your pitch is over-explained.
2 – Identify your target audience
Many of my readers ask for feedback from their speaker coach, their colleagues/team, or their *existing* audience and are surprised when (after getting great feedback), they *still* get rejected. This is partly due to the “Curse of knowledge” (your inner circle already has too much background knowledge, so can’t see your pitch the same way a cold audience would), and partly because your inner circle likes you and doesn’t want to sound mean.
Instead, identify the type of person you wish to reach with your message/pitch — the clarity feedback from them will be more accurate.
3 – Ask them to “echo” their understanding
Find your target audience (friends on social media are a great way to practice).
Rather than asking whether they think your pitch/product is good or how to improve it, you’ll ask them for their judgment-free “echo” of how they understand it.
Try this script either in person or over chat (e.g., Facebook Messenger):
You: Hey, can I get your thoughts on something?
You (pick one or more):
- How would you put this in your own words? [insert your pitch/product name]
- What kind of people do you think would benefit from this most? [to test whether your target audience is clear]
- [Another question that asks *not* for a value judgment (do they think your pitch/product idea/business name is “good”), but rather what their understanding of it is]
Be as brief as possible — the goal isn’t to give them all the background information you can, but rather, find the most concise yet clear explanation.
4 – Tweak and try it again
Some variations will work better than others. Test out different phrases/words/examples to see if you can get your audience to echo a more accurate understanding of what you have to offer.
You can use the Echo Test to test book or blog titles (e.g., “If there was a book about X, what do you think some of the chapters/sections would be?”), product names (e.g., “If there was an app called X, what do you think it would do?”), or just about anything else where clarity matters.
I used this process when researching “daily reviews” for an app idea or online business (I wasn’t sure at the time). I wanted to know not *whether* people would want to start one (which is another important question), but how they understood the phrase.
I posted this in a Facebook group that represented my target market to see how they understood my phrasing:
The responses told me that the phrase “review” often got people thinking about tasks and productivity systems (which wasn’t what I intended):
Next, I tried other ideas in individual chat windows (with new people):
It turns out “Journal of Awesome” is already a book (oops), so I settled on “Daily Whoop” as a name, which caused people to guess it was an app you used daily (correct!) and something for tracking wins (also correct!).
I also learned that people think “review” means “productivity,” so when pitching GrowthLab for a related guest post, I made sure to clarify that this wasn’t a productivity system:
I suspect if the GrowthLab team thought I was suggesting yet another productivity system, I would have sounded just like everyone else, but because I knew this before, I was able to send a better pitch (and write a better article).
Have you got a product name you’re considering? A pitch to land a guest post or a topic idea for a high-status speaking gig?
Try the Echo Test in a comment below and see if other GrowthLab readers can “echo” their understanding of what you offer.
I’ll start in the comments 😉