Can you pass the Pub Test?

It’s a simple premise, you’re having a drink and you’re asked who you work for, and what they do. If you’re able to give a simple and enlightening answer, you’ve passed. 

Yet surprisingly few people are able to pass the Pub Test first time. Unless you’re a GP, a train driver or a teacher, the struggle to describe your business with real clarity is an indicator of a common comms issue: the fact that very few businesses actually take the time to articulate and sharea succinct definition of who they are.

Many fall into the trap of describing whatthey do; listing the products or services they provide like a menu. But this does little to really describe or differentiate the business in question.  

Our recent brand work with an eCommerce business uncovered the fact that they deliver remarkable projects for the UK’s best retailers. Yet, when challenged with the pub test, they described themselves in terms of the software platforms they implement. Worse still, some of the team told us they prefer a trusted conversation killer like ‘I work in IT’, to a potentially long-winded technical explanation. 

For many businesses, especially in the manufacturing or service sectors, this seemingly simple task is bogged down by a fixation on products and process. But when we flip the task to describing results, the fog begins to clear. Unsurprisingly Seth Godin nails it: ‘People don’t buy goods and services, they buy relations, stories and magic’.

We once produced an exhibition featuring a breadth of Yorkshire businesses. One of the standout exhibitors was a manufacturer of springs. Their pub-chat could have easily been about how great they were at bending steel wire. But instead they brought along a Brompton folding bicycle to show their springs in action. The premium bike gave the humble spring a purpose. It told a simple story of an end user benefit.

Thinking in terms of the-difference-you-make begins to reframe the question of ‘what do you do?’. Loads of firms manufacture springs, but not many can say they make Brompton bikes easy to fold and unfold. It’s more compelling to hear about the effect a brand or product has had on its customers. It’s also a much nicer story to tell. Focus on positive outcomes, successful case studies and happy end users, and your elevator pitch becomes richer and infinitely more relatable.

Try it. It’s a good exercise. Worse-case scenario, you get to spend some time in the pub trying it out.

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