It’s a loaded question. It can mean anything from the straightforward, “What product or service do you sell to make money?” to the more existential, “Why are you here?” And so many companies and the people who work for them, especially in the service industry, don’t have answers that provide much clarity. We often answer to satisfy ourselves, not the needs of our target audiences.
Don’t say anything, but don’t say everything.
When “answering” the question, the first thing to remember is, you don’t need to say everything. The question – and its rejoinder – is the start of a conversation, complete with opportunities for more questions and an exchange of deeper information (and understanding). Some other tips …
One description for all audiences.
Imagine you’re speaking to a key target audience member when describing what your company does, but you don’t know who. It could be a job seeker, media member, shareholder or client prospect. The general company description needs to be the same, and convey meaning to all important stakeholders.
Benchmark yourself, and then stop benchmarking.
Know how competitors talk about themselves, and don’t mimic their language. Ultimately, however, you need to look inward to answer who you are, what you do and why.
Ask the following questions to evaluate your description:
There is no secret sauce, but my own preference is for descriptions to be simple, single-minded, and jargon-free. You get it. It’s not difficult for people in your firm to speak it and those outside your firm to understand it. Why is this important? A person can always learn more with follow up, but if you don’t give them enough to sense what it is they want to know more about — you might just lose them right there.