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The Marketing One-Liner

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The Marketing One-Liner
Creating an understandable and compelling message.

I’ve recently become a big fan of Donald Miller’s book Building a StoryBrand. In that book, as well in live presentations, Donald talks about the importance of having a “marketing one-liner.” This is a short sentence that simply and succinctly answers one of the most common questions we all get asked: “What do you do?”

Donald says, “If you confuse, you lose!” Our temptation when asked this simple question is to say something like, “Well, it’s complicated. I do a lot of things…” and then start to ramble with a bunch of insider language about managing DRP relationships and working with adjusters and writing estimates and supplements that involve LKQ parts and R&I. Re-read that last sentence and imagine that, like 99 percent of the population, you know nothing about cars or the auto body repair industry. It simply makes no sense.

But the opposite danger also exists. It is possible to make it too simple. We might say something like, “I fix wrecked cars.” While that is true, it is also not very compelling.

Here are three principles lifted from a short presentation I heard from Donald Miller that can make your one-liner both understandable and compelling.

First, start with a problem. What is the problem you solve? You might even start with a question like, “Have you ever been in a car accident?” Or perhaps you could start with, “You know how after a car accident it can be confusing to know what to do next? There’s insurance to deal with and rental cars to manage. It can be overwhelming!” The main idea here is to help the listener get in touch with a pain point or something they can instantly relate to as a challenge or problem.

Next, you want to explain your plan to help them and the trick is to make this feel like a new idea and also something that differentiates you from your competitors. So, here you might consider something like, “We make the process of getting your car safely back on the road easy” or, “We do all the legwork so after you make a claim you don’t have to worry about anything from start to finish.”

Lastly, describe a successful ending to their story. Notice I said "their" story. It has to be about them. Not how good you are and not how cool it is that you are a third-generation shop owner and certainly not how much better you are than your competitors. No, it needs to be about how you will guide them to a solution for a real challenge they are facing. They are the hero of this one-line story. The ending might be something like, “Your car will look and function like new again so you can get back to your life.”

So the next time someone asks what do you do, will you be ready with an understandable and compelling response? Doing this simple, three-step exercise could have you well on your way.

Once you have established this sentence, now it’s time to take it for a spin. See how it works on family and friends and if you’re bold enough you could even try it on a stranger. Just tell people what you’re doing: “I’m working on a marketing message for my business. Would you mind if I ran it by you and got some feedback?”

Finally, after honing it, now it’s time to use it. Teach it to your team. Put it on your website. Connect it to your email signature. And best of all, next time you’re at a grill-out or party and someone asks you what you do, let it rip.  

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