Having a good response to the question, “What Do You Do?” is essential.

Afterall, you only get so many opportunities on any given day to ‘nail it’ with a prospective client.

If you don’t, you may be missing an incredibly valuable opportunity simply because a prospect for your services didn’t understand the value you offer.

So, what to do?

The OLD Formula

You’ve heard about an ‘Elevator Pitch’?  That’s where you answer that question, “What do you do?”.  Ideally, in 15 seconds or less.

The problem is this — ‘technically perfect’ Elevator Pitches often fail to hook the interest of a qualified person for your services.

Here’s an example.  Assume you’re a financial planner.  You could say, “I help self-employed businessowners (audience) accumulate the funds they need to retire in style (desirable outcome)”.

Technically, that’s a ‘perfect’ Elevator Pitch.  But does it ‘reach-out-and-grab’ the attention of a qualified prospect?  It’s a tad too generic, isn’t it? And the benefit being offered isn’t very unique.

Most of the time when I hear a bland Elevator Pitch, it’s because the person using it focuses more on the solution they offer than on their prospects problem.

The NEW Formula

Try this:  “Problem” + “Solution” + “Target Profile” instead of what you may be saying now.  Take our financial advisor just mentioned above.
The Problem
What problems do the people who fit this planner’s target profile want to solve?  There are probably several.  But talking with prospective clients will help isolate the issue/s they have. Once that’s known, their most potent issue can be isolated.  That’s the ‘problem’ you want to use.

In the example of a financial planner, let’s say the problem that’s being cited by a number of prospects is this: “It’s hard to find the money to fund a retirement plan when college costs are looming on the horizon and  taking care of elderly parents leaves little money for my own needs”.  NOW . . . you have a good ‘problem’.  Good enough to be worthy of a solution.

The Solution
Make this easy.  It’s supposed to be, you know –– just turn the problem around!

In our financial planner’s example, the ‘solution’ that’s desired by most people is . . .
“to be able to find the money I need to do the following:
1) fund my own retirement,
2) put my kids through college,
3) help out my parents who are living longer than I thought, and
4) support a decent lifestyle for myself”

That’s a bit involved, but notice the richness and specificity it offers if you bring it into a conversation.

These four challenges provide a problem-centric context that makes it far easier (and more likely!) that a qualified prospect will respond to a planner who uses this level of detail instead of the ‘vanilla’ comment (see above) that’s used / abused by so many others.

The Target Profile
This is not your target ‘audience’.  This is a single person who’s a member of the audience you’re seeking to work with.  And it’s the person who would like to fund their retirement but has the three issues, cited above, keeping them from doing that.

Putting It All Together

OK, with all that we’ve addressed, let’s re-do the answer a financial planner could give when asked, “What do you do?”.

The Set-Up

“May I ask you a question, first?  (sure)  Do you have kids you’d like to send to college? (yes) Any chance your parents may need some financial help from you at some point in the future?  (probably)  Do you find it’s harder to maintain the lifestyle you’ve become accustomed to? (yep)  So I’m just guessing . . . with everyone looking to you for money . . . that putting money away for your own retirement . . . is a real a challenge?” (oh, you bet it is!).

The Delivery

“Well, I help small business owners (target) get their kids through college (specific Issue), keep their aging parents comfortable (specific Issue), retire on their own terms (specific Issue)and . . . without compromising their current lifestyle (specific Issue)

“Really!  How the heck do you do THAT?” Now, isn’t THAT . . . precisely what you wanted a qualified person to say after hearing your ‘Elevator’ pitch?

Do you see the potency of your message when you address the specific concerns of someone who fits your target PROFILE vs the ‘vanilla’ concerns of just anyone who is in your target AUDIENCE?

Do you think you could talk with some clients and prospective clients to learn the SPECIFIC issues they have that you can address?

Do you think that will make your ‘Elevator Pitch’ more meaningful?  More memorable?  More response-able?  (I sure do!)


The more specific the issues you communicate, the more attractive your ‘message’ and the more response-able it is for you, too!

In marketing, you often hear the term ‘demographics’.  Which simply defines a group of people who share certain characteristics in common.

Typically, characteristics such as . . . age / gender / geography / occupation / etc. are used to define a demographic — e.g. “female veterinarians, age 30 or above, in the counties of . . . , who subscribe to Veterinary Economics . . . etc.”.  That . . . is a demographic or ‘target audience’.

The problem is, while a demographic profile or target audience is a ‘good start’, it is NOT enough!

Once you develop your demographic profile, you have defined a target audience.  To be useful in your marketing, you must further refine your ‘audience’ into a ‘profile’.

Target Audience or Target Profile — What’s the Difference?

There’s a BIG difference!

A target audience is a GROUP of people who share characteristics in common — as suggested by your demographic profile.

A target profile is a SPECIFIC individual in that audience you’ve just defined.


So what . . .

is the value in distinguishing a single individual from a group of people who share the same characteristic?  Aren’t they the same thing?

No.  No, they’re not!

Here’s an example: “Women who use cosmetics”.  That’s a very large group (audience) of people, isn’t it?  You could further refine this broadly defined audience by limiting your audience by geography (“In the US” or “In Canada”, etc.) or age (“18 – 25”, etc.) or occupation (“CPA’s”, “Executives” etc.).

But even if you didn’t, there is at least one (and doubtless, more than one!) person who fits the audience definition “Women who use cosmetics” who also prefers to purchase and use cosmetics that have not subjected live animals to harsh chemical testing during the development of the cosmetics she buys.


When crafting a message to attract the attention of women in this target audience, you could extol the benefits of using the cosmetics you offer. But, isn’t that what every other cosmetics maker could say?  So what makes you different and better?

Well,if you wanted to ‘stand out’ from the pack of all the “Me-Too” advertising, you could focus on one ‘issue’ that matters most to a certain sub-segment of this audience — ‘women who prefer to buy cosmetics that have not been tested on live animals’.  (NOTE: there are many ‘issues’ that would help you refine a general audience into a more specific profile . . . but I’m just using this one for this post — any others would be equally valid and effective!)

Suddenly, you’re appealing to a much smaller audience of prospects, aren’t you?

And, because of your unique and beneficial focus — appealing to women who buy cosmetics that do not test cosmetics on live animals — you’re actually more appealing to the specific kind of person you want to attract than the ‘generic’ messaging that other cosmetic companies are likely to produce.

Want proof?  Anita Roddick.  She’s the lady in the UK who founded The Body Shop back in 1976.  She knew there was an audience of ‘women who use cosmetics’.  So did every other cosmetics company!  But Anita also knew there was a profile of ‘women who use cosmetics AND prefer to use cosmetics that have not been developed by testing them on animals’.

Once that profile was understood, Anita’s competitive appeal, relative to her undifferentiated competitors, was significant and undefeatable.

I like to say that you want to, “become a special body to a special group of bodies”. Anita did just that. And, she sold her ‘not-tested-on-live-animals’ cosmetics to enough women — that, in 2006 L’Oreal purchased The Body Shop for over a billion dollars.

The More You Focus, The More You Appeal

There’s a funny thing about ‘focus’ in marketing.  The more specific you are in terms of who you want as a customer or client, the more effective your messaging and marketing is going to be.

Now, as long as the people who fit your target profile are adequate in number to meet your revenue goals, the specificity of your message to them will make you more attractive and your marketing messages more response-able than anything most of your competitors are doing.

Won’t that be nice!


You start with a target audience, you then refine that to a target profile. When you do, your messaging becomes more appealing and your marketing becomes much, much better.