Grow Your Business

This is a GrowthLab blog post about being clear.

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.

Ahh-Riba sushi restaurant

“Ahh-Riba” sounds like a Mexican place, right? Nope — sushi. (Side note: The restaurant is in Belgrade … “riba” is the Serbian word for “fish” … an easy way to confuse tourists.)

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?

Them: Sure.

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.

An example

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:

Weekly Review fb post Echo Test

The responses told me that the phrase “review” often got people thinking about tasks and productivity systems (which wasn’t what I intended):

Weekly review fb post Echo Test responses

Next, I tried other ideas in individual chat windows (with new people):

Test an app name

How to test an app name for clarity

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:

Email guest pitch

How I applied my Echo Test learnings to a guest post pitch — I differentiated from “productivity” in several ways

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 😉

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Let’s try this out real-time.

If there was an online course called “Your Irresistible Message”…

-what do you think it would help you do?
-who would it be for? (eg: Who would be too beginner for it? Who’d be too advanced for it?)

I’m reminded of a particular H&M ad that could have benefited from the Echo Test. Could’ve saved a lot of heartache and pain.

But let’s see…“Your Irresistible Message”…

…would be an online course that helps me to craft a message that makes my audience want to whip out their debit cards and pay me for whatever it is I’m offering—whether I have a product available or not.

…would be for people who already have something to say, whether it’s to sell a product or service (i.e business or freelancer) or persuade someone to take action (i.e. a non-profit)

It’d be too advanced for people who are still figuring out their message or are brainstorming or validating an initial idea.

I really enjoyed this post. Clarity is something I’ve been working on a great deal lately, having just finished reading Thanks For The Feedback (GREAT book for improving ability to ask for and receive feedback.)
This approach dovetails nicely with that. I love this open-ended way of sharing a succinct idea and simply having someone reflect understanding back.

Love the concept but not the “daily whoop” example which to my mind is wildly ambiguous – perhaps I am not your target market

Thanks for this Shelly! You’ll never get 100% of people understanding what you mean, but this exercise can get you close.

Let me ask you — what do you *think* an app called “Daily Whoop” would do, and who do you think it’d be for? If there are multiple ideas in your head I’d love to hear them

I didn’t get this either. I originally thought that it was something like “Daily Whoops”… a humorous collection of mistakes you made / lessons you learned today.

Sharp and crystal clear.
Thanks Ryan.
So, “Your Irresistible Message” is a course that helps anyone that writes or talks to an audience ensure their content, message and pitch are crystal clear. (…because clarity is the prerequisite to persuasion (mmmm who wrote that? :-)))

Great article, and I’m going to use these ideas as a I restructure my business… so for an echo test:

What do you think ‘Enigmatic Events’ offers as a service?

Gretchen Williams

Face to face raves and parties, DJ, no host bar, lots of drugs and lighting effects, hundreds of gorgeous people dancing and ducking out in the alley. Everything disappears at dawn.

I wasn’t really familiar with the term “enigmatic”. Actually had to look it up.

But according to Google it means “difficult to understand, mysterious”.

Murder mystery parties?

“Enigmatic Events” – Murder mystery parties and puzzle/trap rooms come to mind for me.

“Your Irresistable Message” – feels like a lesson in either writing sales pitches, starting a public speaking business, or writing self-help books.

Hey! I’ll give it a go as well:

If there was an e-book called “Find That Perfect Gift!”…

-what do you think it would help you do?
-and more importantly, who would it be for?

Thanks!

Thank you Ryan for the good read. It was a refreshing change to read a shorter blog post, without losing anything either.

Your Irresistible Message” could be about writing pitches, blogging, dating profile, life purpose. It doesn’t give me enough info to know if it was for me. The lack of clarity and the word ‘irresistible’ mean I probably wouldn’t click through to find out more.

Hi Lia,
Help me find a present
Not sure who it would be for, I’d guess everyone (different sections).

Here’s my Q – an online course called ‘Ready for Departure’ – what would that help you do? And who would it be for?

Thanks
Sonna

Sonna, “Ready for Departure” would make me think travel, but no specific kind of destination, trip, or traveler. I might expect packing lists and checklists for things like stopping the mail that are easy to forget, but I’m not sure what else.

I’d say it would be for people searching for a gift for a loved one (eg: spouse, parent etc), and they wanted to know how to figure out what the perfect gift would be for them.

Lia, “Find that Perfect Gift!” – I used to work as a corporate concierge and we’d often do gift suggestions, so it makes me think it’s for people who don’t care or know enough about the recipient to know what they’d like. But I think that’s more about my baggage than the title, so who knows…

To clarify it, maybe try to show who your target audience are, and why they have trouble finding “perfect” gifts?

Dear Sonna,

Thank you for your reply. That’s true. The book does have a subtitle, “Easy Steps to Quickly Find a Gift for Every Occasion”, so it’s written for busy people, but somehow I feel the targeted audience is too broad maybe.
Related to your Q, I guess an online course called “Ready for Departure”, would prepare me for a trip or journey so it would be travel related. It would be for travel enthusiasts, for people who also like to be organized.
I did not comment on Ryan’s query as I think D’Angelo covered it pretty good. Cheers, Lia

Hi!
If there was coaching program called “COACHDEVS: Make a living from your expertise”…
– what do you think it would help you do?
– who would it be for?

If there was a book for sale on Amazon called a “FocusBook Coloring Journal,” who would you think it was for?

If it was “FocusBook Coloring Notebook,” would it feel like a different audience to you?

Your Irresistible Message – out of context – how to write or respond to an online dating ad. In context: any writing that engages the targeted readers, a funnel and especially a call to action.

Ready For Departure – out of context – advance preparation for your funeral. In context – travel first, either DIY or travel agent.

Enigmatic Events – enigmatic is highbrow, so puzzles or mystery pre-planned. I’d at least A/B it with Mysterious Events, if that also fits your target.

Hi Lia, Anthea and Thomas,

Thank you for the helpful feedback.
Ready For Departure is a prep for travel course, the subtitle is ‘Be prepared to travel anywhere’.

Hi Thomas,
I chuckled when I read ‘advance preparation for your funeral’, however that isn’t the message I’m trying to convey. I think I have to use the subtitle to quantify it further.

Best wishes
Sonna

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