Do you cringe when someone asks “What do you do?”

Or maybe you see people’s eyes glaze over when you deliver your carefully rehearsed “I help people to … ”

We asked J Laurence Sarno of Cambridge Gurus to help our members construct the three essential statements we need to talk about our businesses in an interesting and engaging way!

Laurence has had full responsibility for strategic communications for seven corporate launches and upward of 40 product launches. He has shepherded all of his start-ups to merger, acquisition or Initial Public Offering.

This is a transcript of the Ask the Expert Q&A in the Drive the Network Facebook Group

J Laurence Sarno Here is the secret of marketing communications: To catch the interest of any audience, all you need is three statements.

Read more about how Cambridge Gurus help their clients create these statements in the post Messaging for all your audiences 

You can create these statements by answering these questions:

  1. Who is our customer and what is their need?
  2. What does our product/service do that fulfils our customer’s need?
  3. How does it work?

Stopping the yawn

Emma James What approach do you suggest for a subject that has most people either switching off or running for the hills? I stay away from industry jargon where I can, but it can be tricky to keep people’s interest once they hear what I do. I’m a bookkeeper/accountant, so to most people this means I’m in league with the devil (well, his representatives on Earth…HMRC) and that I’m going to make them do maths. If I can get them listening to me it’s all good, but overcoming the initial barrier can be quite hard.

J Laurence Sarno Start with the customer’s need, then go on to say how you solve it. Never start with what you do.

So if you’re a bookkeeper/accountant, and as with you, your ideal client is in the creative industries, you start with “Creative businesses need to feel confident that their finances and taxes are in order.”

Starement 2 is “I provide that confidence.”

Now we can move onto the third statement: How it works. This could be something like:

“I give businesses easy ways to enter their income and expenses as they happen so they don’t have to collect receipts or spend their weekends doing their books…”  (or whatever is your secret sauce)

How does this work when you offer different services?

Anne-Marie Miller Is it ok to have separate sets of statements for different audiences and different services AND if we also have one set of statements for the whole business, how do we avoid that being confusing?

J Laurence Sarno Great question. You can have one set of statements for Carbon Orange as a whole and one set for each distinct service, but they should all agree with each other.

Who is your target customer and (related to what you provide), what is their greatest need?

Anne-Marie Miller On the graphic design side, the client could be a start-up with some investment behind them who is needing to get their visual brand in shape to take them to the next level.

For the visual notes side, it’s someone putting on an event who needs to engage their audience and give them material to share, learn from as well as assets they can repurpose.

J Laurence Sarno An overall first statement for Carbon Orange could be, “Businesses need powerful graphics that demonstrate who they are visually”

For your start-up clients the first statement could be:

“Start-ups need a visual brand that will make them memorable.”

For Visual Notes, statement 1 could be something like:

“Events need to engage their audiences with visuals that can serve as powerful assets (or takeaways)”

Fewer words are better!

Your secret sauce can be your personality, your deep experience in a particular field, the tools you employ…

For example, a number of local consultancies can provide product marketing and strategic communications, but the Cambridge Gurus secret sauce is that Prue and I come from VERY technical backgrounds.

Saying it out loud

Anne-Marie Miller Do you have any advice for speaking your statements out loud, vs writing them down? I feel ok writing things, but I feel like when I meet someone face to face, those statements might sound cheesy and I’ll end up saying ‘We do graphic design, illustration, and visual notes’ while even my own eyes glaze over…

J Laurence Sarno My experience shows that focusing on who is asking the question makes the embarrassment of talking about your business disappear.

For example, When someone asks “What do you do?” resist the urge to tell them and instead ask, “Do you have a small business?” Or, “Are you working with a start-up?”

Have that conversation and when you understand their need you’ll find it much easier to make your first statement.

When someone asks me what Cambridge Gurus do, my response always starts with “Our clients need to speed up their time to revenue…” or “Many of our clients have great technology, but they don’t have a product yet…” In other words, I never start with “We…”

Sharing your purpose

Jo Dorrington-Neville I make activity packs for kids and now also run craft clubs.

To follow your questions..

Mums and kids are my customers and I help them be creative.

I provide a mess free portable way to entertain kids and get them being creative – activity packs.  I feel it is important to embrace creativity as just as important as academic stuff. I need to show that some how.

The mess free part is definitely important. I know even as a creative mum how I hate to get out the messy stuff. My new craft clubs allow that. I have the mess and it’s not at home. My weekly craft videos do not involve paint and my activity books are drawing/colouring/design and puzzles- no mess.

J Laurence Sarno So, statement 1: Children who are encouraged to be creative (list some benefits).

Statement 2: What you provide that allows children to be creative…

Statement 3: How you do it. This is where you can talk about the mess-free part.

Get help with your statements

These are just three examples of how these powerful statements can be created. Laurence is very happy to help anyone create their statements so if you’d like help, please get in touch at  on Twitter @LaurenceSarno and @CambridgeGurus or in the Drive Facebook Group!