passing the bar test for positioning

The Bar Test

What do you say when people ask what you do? In person? On your website? On LinkedIn? When you’re talking to your friends?

What do your clients say you do for them?

Is your answer consistent and authentic? For many folks, it’s not. Note that the answers don’t have to be identical– different contexts might mean telling the same story slightly differently (or briefly)– but it should be the same real story.

The problem is that many folks approach this as if they were supposed to say something impressive like, “I use my decades of multinational experience to help business owners leverage their key assets to enhance growth.” Blah, blah, blah. And if you start from there, every other part of your message is on a weak foundation.

How do you tell a better story?

Maybe it’s just because we’re all stuck at home, but I’ve been thinking a lot about the “bar test”, lately.

The Bar Test

Imagine your at a bar, talking to people (this requires some imagination right now), and the “what do you do?” question comes up. But not at the very beginning. After you’ve had some drinks. And the person asking you has, too. And they say something like, “you mentioned you help business owners leverage keys assets– what the hell does that mean?”

And you might say:

  • I get them growth capital without having to sell part of the company to investors.
  • I turn their clients into an unpaid, but very effective, sales team.
  • I increase the productivity of their employees by 20%.

Much better, but still a bit vague. After another round…

  • A lot of industrial manufacturing companies have trouble growing because they can’t get loans and don’t want to raise capital, but if they’re between $5-$50M in revenue and [have some salient characteristic], we can usually get them $2-$5M in financing without giving up a stake in the company.
  • Most law firms rely on referrals, but they’re really passive about it. We have a program for firms with up to 20 lawyers that we guarantee will increase their referrals and their business.
  • 30% of most employees time and consulting companies is non-billable, if you’re lucky, but the real problem is the distraction of those tasks during client work. We help companies automate a lot of the busy work so you not only have more billable time, you have more engaged, productive employees.

You get the idea. Does your website pass the bar test? Your LinkedIn profile? What you say to people at the bar? If there’s “junk” or jargon in your message, take it out (unless it’s jargon your clients use).

If you’re stuck, have a drink or two and then try again. And if you’re still stuck, call your current and past clients up and ask what you did for them. They’ll tell you without all the B.S.

Comments are closed.