Side Note: I’m not exaggerating when I say that this exact scenario above actually happened to Sarah and I a few months ago. It was incredibly awkward.
So you’ve spent months researching, planning, coding, and testing your web app…only to describe it to other people as the “Facebook for Teachers” or the “Craigslist for Athletes”.
Your product is YOURS. Describing your product by comparing to other products or companies, even if they aren’t direct competitors, causes a shift of focus from your product to both your product and the company you mentioned.
If someone is giving you an opportunity to tell them about your product, whether by asking for your elevator pitch in person or visiting your landing page and skimming down the screen, you absolutely need to pitch it perfectly and concisely. Given the fact that a pitch garners very short attention spans anyways, you can’t risk mentioning other products or companies in your pitch for fear of shifting your listener’s focus away from your product to an established product.
You might be thinking, “But comparing my product to an existing product makes it easy for people to understand what it is!”
This isn’t a good excuse.
The products you’re comparing to don’t use your product in their own descriptions. Facebook isn’t a “Myspace but better”, it is a site where you can keep in touch with friends. Craigslist isn’t an “Amazon for local purchases”, it is a site where you can list things to be bought or sold really easily online.
Additionally, if you can’t properly describe your product without having to mention some other product you don’t own, you have bigger positioning and marketing issues to deal with. ALL products can be described without having to reference any other specific products or companies.
The Psychology Behind This
The underlying psychological problem you’re creating here is people have trouble focusing on more than one subject at a time. By bringing up another product, you’re introducing another concrete thing that they now have to hold in their minds, which means you have less of their attention than when you started. And When you’re trying to pitch someone a product in the interest of landing them as a new customer, you can’t afford to lose any of their attention.
Here’s another way this can blow up in your face: What if they haven’t heard of your example product?
Sure, everyone’s heard of Facebook and Craigslist, but what if you’re talking to a florist and you describe yourself as the “Basecamp for Florists”…and she just stares at you blankly, making it obvious that she has no idea what Basecamp is. Now you’ve introduced another subject for her to focus on, and she doesn’t even know what it actually is! I can’t think of a better way to shoot yourself in the foot.
So, how do you properly modify your pitch to be entirely focused on your own product? Let’s take the Basecamp for Florists example. You could describe it to a prospective customer as “An online system to manage your floral arrangement orders that also allows dead simple communication with your clients by putting all messages and notes in a single location.”
See? That describes exactly what your product does, and it keeps the focus entirely on your product. Any question your prospective customer could ask you will be focused on your product – there will be no split of focus between your product and an example you’re referencing.
This gives you a lot of advantages when pitching to prospective customers:
- They won’t be asking “Oh, well, does it have to-do list templates like Basecamp?”
- They won’t be asking why your pricing is different than Basecamp.
- Most importantly, they won’t start thinking about Basecamp and realizing that they can probably just get by with what Basecamp has to offer and just ignore your product.
In addition to the risk of losing your listener’s focus, you can also possibly get yourself into a spot where you need to justify why your product is actually a better option than the well established example you used in your pitch. You NEVER want to be in a position where you need to justify your product’s pricing or features (or lack thereof) in comparison to some other product, because you’ve now given the upper hand to that other option.
What you want is to justify your product’s value in and of itself. That way, you can position yourself as the premium option and can justify higher prices because there isn’t an alternative to compare to at the time of the pitch.
Why isn’t there an alternative?
Because you never introduced one in the first place.
The Real Goal
The real goal is to grow your brand to the point where other people mention your product to describe their OWN product. If you can become a reference point, you’ve generally hit critical mass and are on the minds of all of your competitors. This is a good thing. Strive for it.