So, What is it You Do Again? Defining Your Elevator Pitch

This is the question I dread and can always count on being asked. Whether at family functions, church picnics, school events, or other social gatherings, people want to be able to figure you out and give you an easily categorized label. I don’t mean that in a negative way – it’s just human nature.

If you put a gun to my mother’s head, I really do not believe she’d be able to answer that question about me. My son, then seven years old, summed it up relatively well last year when I overhead him commenting to a friend “she used to work for a credit union, now she sells things to credit unions.” That’s sort of true.

After over four-years of trying out different answers to see what would make sense to my audience (many of whom still have no idea what a credit union is before I explain it), I’ve come up with this short answer:

“I’m the outsourced marketing person for half a dozen different companies.”

Doesn’t seem like it would take me four years to come up with that answer after starting my own consulting business, does it? I used to start off with my history (it sounded more legit than “I’m a consultant”) and when you lead with “I’m a marketing consultant” that just opens a whole new can of worms.

My simpler response still typically leads to follow-up questions and that’s when I get into the credit union industry angle. I work primarily with CUSOs (although I have to break myself of using that term with a general audience so might just say companies that provide services to credit unions) and smaller credit unions that don’t have, or need, a full-time marketing person.

People aren’t just curious about other individual’s professions though, they also want to be able to categorize companies in their mind. I would often get very similar questions about what it was I did (or what my company did) when I worked for the credit union.

And over the years I have given many answers – some very compelling and some not so much. Often I think we try to cram too much into our responses and end up losing our audience. Instead of the history of how and why credit unions are different, maybe the initial answer is a lot simpler.

Personally, I’ve found individuals respond well to “it’s like a bank, but with lower fees and better rates” or even just the simple statement of “it’s better than a bank.” After your audience is interested, you can always expand. The not-for-profit aspect, member-owners, and the volunteer board of directors are all good points that will help win people over. Just don’t overwhelm them– believe me I’ve seen the eyes glaze over many, many times when I try to go into too much detail.

So next time you are at that cocktail party or backyard BBQ, take a minute and pause before you answer that dreaded: what do you do?  Giving a simple response may do you (and your credit union) a world of good!

Sharon Simpson

Sharon Simpson

Sharon is a national consultant who specializes in developing strategic marketing plans for CUSOs and credit unions. She has over fifteen years of marketing experience in the financial services industry. ... Web: Details