How to Explain Your Business Offering Succinctly

Kelly Masson August 1, 2023

Picture this: You’ve been working on building your business for the past six months and are now looking to raise some money to scale your operations. Or maybe you’re just looking to make some connections.  

Suddenly, you find yourself in a situation where someone might be able to help you. Maybe you’re at a conference, or having an implausible run-in with a deep-pocketed investor in an elevator (has that ever actually happened?). 

They say: “Tell me about your business.” 

Now what? 

Do you freeze and stumble through your pitch? Or do you knock their socks off with a tight description of your value proposition? Hopefully the latter, right? But not everyone knows how to do that. In this blog post I’m going to dig into how to explain your business offering succinctly. 

First up, why it’s important to keep it short

There is a saying: Brevity is the soul of wit. Well, it’s not just the soul of wit, it’s also the soul of getting someone to understand your business. 

If you can’t explain your business offering succinctly, you’re likely to lose the attention of your audience. You need to be able to grab their attention and demonstrate why you deserve a few more minutes of their time to provide the full picture. Your pitch of a few sentences is kind of like the appetizer. If the appetizer isn’t very good, you probably won’t be asked to bring the main course. 

There are two common reasons why business owners struggle to get to the point:

  • You’re in the weeds. You’ve been working in all aspects of your business for months or years, and when you think about the business, you’re flooded with the many different nuances and details that only you can see. Remember, the person you’re describing your business to doesn’t have that same lens, so you need to put yourself in their shoes. 

You’re excited about all the potential opportunities. As a result, you try to describe them all instead of confidently laying out a path forward that is easy to understand.

What to include when explaining your business offering succinctly

Here are the core things that you should cover when explaining your business.

What problem are you solving?

At the heart of any succinct business description is problem identification. If you’re not solving a problem for someone, you probably don’t have a sustainable business idea. The problem fix doesn’t have to be anything that will change the world, but it does have to be a problem for enough people that you will have a suitable target market. 

You want to make sure that you’re describing the benefits of your product or service, not the features.  Also try to make sure your description is not too abstract or flowery.  

Take this fictional problem statement for a gift basket company called Sally’s Green Gifting:

“We curate collections of the highest-quality locally, artisanally produced organic food and personal care goods that provide an elevated gifting outcome.”

Look carefully—do you see a problem in there? Now, how about this version: 

“We make responsible gift giving easy.”

Which statement is better at describing the problem that’s being solved? Hopefully it’s obvious that it’s the second one! 

Another great way at looking at problem identification is through the lens of jobs to be done. This is a theory out of Harvard Business school that suggests that customers hire businesses to do a job—whether it’s a product or service. Looked at this way, even a gift basket is doing a job. So what job are your customers hiring you to do?

Who is it a problem for?

Now you know what problem you’re solving, but who are you solving the problem for?  If you’ve already gone through the exercise of identifying your target market, you should know who you’re solving problems for. This part is important, because it helps people understand who is going to purchase your product, and what motivates them to buy.  

Using the example of Sally’s Green Gifting, maybe your target market is administrative staff at large professional services firms (such as lawyers and accountants), who regularly purchase gift baskets as a thank you for their clients.

Why is your solution special?

Next, you need to succinctly describe what makes your business better suited to solving your customer’s problems than your competitors. 

In other words, what makes you special? 

To understand what makes your product or service special, it’s a good idea to first understand your competitors by doing a competitive analysis. After all, you need to know what the competition is good at to understand how you compare. 

A great tool to help with this is a competitive analysis table or competitive matrix. This is a table that compares your business to your competition using some common attributes. Here is an example for Sally’s Green Gifting using a scale of 1-5 (5 being high).

Sample competitive matrix

From the table, we can see that Sally’s Green Gifting offers the highest product quality and sustainability, so this is her competitive advantage.

Why are you the best person to be running this business?

To finish off your succinct business description, it’s often a good idea to help bring things back to you personally. 

Whoever you’re talking to might agree that you have a good value proposition and that you have a competitive advantage in some areas, but they also need to know that you are the best person to be driving the ship.  

Adding a personal touch can also help you bring the idea alive, which will make it more memorable and impactful. 

In the case of Sally’s Green Gifting, Sally might highlight her experience working as an administrative assistant at a law firm, where she would often be asked to order a gift basket at the last minute for an important client. The firm had made a commitment to sustainable procurement, so she had to make sure the gifts they purchased met certain criteria. 

Now, let’s bring it all together

You now have the building blocks you need to describe your business offering succinctly. Now you just have to put it together. How might Sally’s Green Gifting describe her business to someone using this approach?

“We make responsible corporate gift giving easy. I used to be in charge of corporate gifting for a law firm, and I struggled with finding gift baskets that were sustainable and high quality. We really wanted our gifts to make a good impression. I saw a gap in the market and started Sally’s Green Gifting. We’re now the leading sustainable gift basket company in British Columbia and are starting our expansion across Canada.”

Avoid these pitfalls

Before you get started, here are a few common pitfalls to avoid:

  • Using too much technical jargon – Keep the language simple, unless you know the person has a good understanding of the industry and will appreciate you using specific terminology.
  • Focusing on features instead of benefits – Remember, you’re trying to describe the job your product or service provides. Don’t put too much emphasis on the features of your product right out of the gate. 
  • Keeping it too abstract – Find a way to bring your idea to life with a real life example if you can.
  • Not knowing your audience – Whoever you’re talking to, try to put yourself in their shoes. If you were them, what information would be most valuable? 
About Kelly Masson

Kelly Masson is a WeBC Business Advisor (BA) based out of Nanaimo. She understands the impact small businesses can make on individuals, families, and communities and is thrilled to work with entrepreneurs as they pursue their unique missions. As a BA for WeBC, Kelly’s favourite question to ask clients is, “is the juice worth the squeeze?” In other words: do you know if your efforts are getting results? If you don’t know, she will help you find out!

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