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How To Respond to the Question: “What Do You Do?”

Imagine that you’re standing in line at Super 1 and you strike up a conversation with a stranger. In the course of the conversation, they ask what you do for a living when they ask, “What do you do?” There’s not very many elevators here in the Bitterroot Valley, but here’s your chance to give them your “elevator pitch” … that is, a quick and simple explanation of your business. What do you say? 

Your answer is important! Will it strike a chord with this new acquaintance? Or will they just shrug and think to themselves “Whatever. No interest.” 

You can come up with the ideal answer answer to “what do you do” through two different exercises or approaches. One is called your “Value Articulator Statement” created by Mel Abraham. The other is the One-Liner approach by business leader Donald Miller. I’ll explain the basics to each below along with sources where you can learn more. 

The Value Articulator Statement

In the research by Mel Abraham, he discovered that there were three (3) types of questions or statements:

  1. The elevator pitch … talks about what you do and for whom
  2. The unique selling proposition … what makes your business unique, what sets you apart. The distinction.
  3. The value proposition … the value you bring to the table

He came up with a formula that allows you to combine all three (3) into one simple statement that could then be used on your website, your business card or even the next time someone at Super 1 asks you what you do. 🙂
It goes like this: 

I help (x) …
Do (y) …
So that (z) …
Unlike (a) …
Because of (b) …

X: Who do you help
Y: What do you help with
Z: What result do you help get
A: Customer alternatives
B: Your distinction

I help [x] experts [y] position themselves as influencers so that [z] they have more impact, income and freedom unlike [a]
many focused on marketing only [b] we build it through the depth of their knowledge and content.
Source and more information:

As I thought about this for my own business of web design, I found that my value articulator statement might sound like this: 

I create professional websites for small business owners so they don’t have to spend the time doing it themselves like they would with Wix or Squarespace because their time is valuable and so is their professional image. 

The One-Liner

The other approach is a little easier. Donald Miller uses what he calls his “One-Liner.” 
With his approach, you simply think of three (3) things:

  1. What is the pain point that you help your customers resolve? (The Problem)
  2. What’s your unique solution to that pain point? (The Solution)
  3. How does your customer’s life look after their pain is resolved? (The Reward or Success)

Pretty simple right? Let’s see an example. Here’s what Donald MIller’s one-liner looks like for his business: 

Most business leaders have trouble explaining what they offer. They’re too close to it and they fumble their words. So we have a seven-part framework that helps business leaders clarify their message. When they do, customers engage. It’s the fastest way to grow your business.

As I thought about my business, my one-liner might sound something like this: 

Most small business websites are passive with nothing more than information. I create websites that are designed with a marketing strategy in mind that inspires viewers to take action. A professionally designed website turns an expense into an investment with new leads & new customers. 

Here are some suggestions from Donald Miller on what do you can do with your One Liner:

First, practice it. Ask some brutally honest friends or strangers at the coffee shop to listen to your one-liner and tell you if it is clear what you do and who you help.

  • Second, memorize it. Yes – like actually memorize it. Do you have a team? Have them memorize it, too.
  • Put it on your website. This statement should be the first chunk of copy on your website.
  • Use it. Next time someone asks what you do, give them your one-liner and see what happens.
  • Add it to marketing materials. Business cards, email signature, LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, Google, Twitter.


BONUS: A 3rd Option

There’s one more formula you can use to create the optimal headline for your website. It goes like this:

How to (X) without (Y) so you can (Z).

Like the ones before, this one shows the benefit to the prospective customer or client by showing them the benefit of buying your product or services. An example might be “How to lose weight without exercise so you can fit into your skinny jeans.” Who wouldn’t be interested, right? For my business it might sound something like:

A professional website without investing your time so you can stay focused on what you do best.

Give it a try. It’ll take some thought but if you know your business, it shouldn’t take too long. If you need some help or would like to run your statements and one-liners by me, I’d be more than happy to hear what you’ve got. 

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