I came across a great blog post at the Unintentional Entrepreneur titled “Do you know your customers’ elevator rant”.  In it, Bob London of London, Ink makes the case that before you can construct a clear elevator pitch (a description of what you do that’s succinct enough to convey over the course of an elevator ride) you need to clearly understand the “Customers’ Elevator Rant”.  I would add that this is helpful for creating Value Propositions in general and not just elevator pitches.  From the post:

The Customer Elevator Rant (CER) is what your ideal prospect says on
the elevator ride with his/her boss when you are not around. The CER is
your prospect’s candid, specific and sometimes emotional articulation
of his/her pain in trying to get some part of his/her job done
correctly–perhaps something your product or service can address.

I love this concept for a couple of reasons.  Firstly I think it’s very important, especially for startups, to be able to clearly articulate the business problem that they are solving in order to provide context for a value proposition.  Secondly, I like the change in perspective from company to customer that goes along with this thinking.  It makes a lot of sense to start with the customer pain and then describe what you do to solve it, rather than starting with your great “features” and then trying to tie those to customer “benefits”.

In fact, I like it so much I’m going to propose a structure for an Elevator Rant (with a hat tip to the value proposition format from Crossing the Chasm):

{Who} are really mad because whenever they {The Activity}, they end up with {The Poo}.

Who – The specific ranting customer.

The Activity – The specific activity the customer is engaging in when the problem arises.

The Poo – The measurable undesired result of The Activity according to the customer.

Here are some examples related to products I’ve worked on:

Customer service reps are really mad because whenever a customer calls in they have to spend 3 minutes verifying the customer identity and bringing up the customer record.

Enterprise conference call participants are really mad because whenever they get on a call they spend the first 10 minutes verifying who is on the call.

Marketing executives are mad because whenever they want campaign response data they need to make a specific request to IT who often takes a day to respond.

One of the things I like about this exercise is that it gives you some of the basics you need to develop a value proposition (namely the bulls-eye customer, the key purchase insight and a view to what your key benefits should be) while forcing you to think from the customer’s point of view instead of a product or company centric view.

If you are working on an elevator pitch for potential investors (as I happen to be at the moment, can you tell?), Don Dodge has a great post called An elevator pitch in 5 minutes – TechCrunsh50 tips. Notice that the first step is defining the problem you are solving.  A great quote from the post  is here:

“…too many entrepreneurs start by talking about their solution and whiz
bang technology. How they do it versus the problem they solve. If the
investor is not interested in the problem…there is no way they will be
interested in your solution. Once they are nodding their head about the
problem, move on to the solution.”

Having a short clear description of the business problem you are solving will go a long way toward giving your solution and its value some context.

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