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What’s Your Story?

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The biggest mistake made in marketing—and a reason that success can be so elusive—is not clearly making the case for who you are and what you offer.

At a business function, when someone asks what you do, how do you answer? Many advisors simply say, “I’m a financial advisor.” Oftentimes, however, when that question is asked, because of misconceived perceptions about the industry, your black-and-white answer actually repels people.

For the past 12 months I have been asking financial advisors how they answer this question and if their answer would have people wanting to talk with them more or less. Ninety-five percent of advisors answer with a response of “less.” The perplexing question I then have to ask is “If you know what you say will have a negative response, why don’t you say something different?”

Every firm needs to have a refined firm “story” to assist in marketing and client acquisition. And it is important to have a compelling opening line for your story. Without this, you may never get the chance to share it. Even the classic elevator pitch, typically one to two minutes in length, is too long-winded for an informal initial introduction. In a world of ever-decreasing attention spans, less is definitely more.

A solution for compelling others to want to listen to you is to develop a 15 to 20 second simple, repeatable statement of value (SRSV). An SRSV is a statement that is easy to remember and offers some value to the person you are speaking with. Below is the four-step formula for building your own SRSV. (Your SRSV may not include the answer to every question, and it doesn’t need to be stated in this order.)

SRSV builder questions:

  • Who are you?
  • What do you do?
  • Who do you work with (niche)?
  • What is unique/memorable about what you do or have done?

Use these questions as a guide in building your own unique SRSV so that you can stand out—in an elevator or anywhere else.

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Maribeth Kuzmeski is the founder of Red Zone Marketing, LLC, which consults to Fortune 500 firms on strategic marketing planning and business growth. For more information, go to