How I found my pitch — and how you can find yours

I was recently in a competitive situation for an editing job. A first-time author with a book contract was seeking an editor, and someone she trusted had recommended me.

She was also considering others.

Strange as it may seem, this doesn’t usually happen with me. Usually, people who pick me want me. And I flubbed it — I hadn’t clearly enough articulated what I do that’s different. My price was higher, and she was determining if there was any reason to pay extra for that.

In the process, I realized that I had to differentiate. So I did. This is what I wrote to her:

Here’s what you have to know about me.

For 20 years I worked with Forrester analysts, some of the smartest thinkers out there, on structuring their ideas and presenting them. There is a lot of pressure to get those ideas to be as powerful as possible. For my last 5 years there, I held the title of SVP of Idea Development — it was my job to make those ideas better through blunt, rigorous editing.

Most ex-analysts work in industry or become independent consultants. I’m the only one who works with authors. That’s because it’s what I love to do.

My first book (coauthored) sold 150,000 copies. The reason is that it clearly presented a useful and powerful set of ideas at exactly the moment people needed to hear them. I analyzed what worked in that book and have applied that to all my subsequent projects.

If you are looking for an editor, pick an editor. There are plenty of those, and many are excellent editors. They mostly concentrate on language.

If you are looking for someone who will give your ideas a thorough workout, fix where your structure is wrong, suggest changes that will make your language stronger, and cut text that’s not pulling its weight, that’s me. I don’t edit fiction. I don’t edit memoirs. I don’t edit narratives. I don’t edit “motivational” books. I only edit practical business books based on powerful ideas and case studies. That’s what I’m good at, and it’s why I charge more.

Do you think I got the job?

No. I didn’t. She picked someone else. And that’s okay.

But I’m still grateful, because it gave me a chance to write down what my differentiation is.

What makes you special?

This episode makes me want to challenge you. So here’s the situation: someone is going to pick you, or someone else, to do a job that you think you’d be the best at. The train is about to leave the station. What would you say?

“I’ve designed 116 infographics. I know what spreads. Some of them were shared over a million times. I’m fast and what I create looks great. Sure, there are lots of people who do infographics, but I know exactly how to take what you have to say and make it into something beautiful that people share a lot.”

“I pave driveways. There is a right and wrong way to do that. When I do it, rain won’t gather in puddles. It won’t wear out and need to be redone in two years. It will look as good then as it does now, and you will no longer have to worry about it. I’ve done so many now I can’t remember, and you can ask any one of the people I worked for to give a reference, because I know how to do this right.”

“I make ads. They’re funny. They’re effective. Maybe you’ll like my sense of humor, maybe you won’t. But the deal is, after I spend some time with you, I will come up with multiple ideas. They will not be things you have heard before. And I will execute them in a way that actually accomplishes your objectives. If you want boring focus-group tested concepts, go to the big guys. If you want original, come to me.”

(Yeah, I just made all of those up.)

Do those sound egotistical? I don’t think so. They sound confident.

They are people talking about what they do, and what they did.

They are honest.

They don’t worry about telling people what they don’t do. (You don’t want that work anyway, it will be tedious for you and the client won’t like it because it’s not what you’re good at.)

They’re differentiated.

And they support appropriate pricing in a world filled with competition.

Do you know what you will say if someone asks you what your pitch is?

I’m looking at you. Suppose I want to either hire you or pick somebody else right now.

What are you going to say?

(Put your own pitch in the comments — I’ll tell you what I think of it.)

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  1. I help my clients use the internet to win new customers. My job is to make sure your business gets noticed by the right people. Then, I make it easy for those same people to reach out to you themselves or refer their friends and colleagues to you.

    I’m good at this because I take the time to understand you and your business. We work together to identify your ideal customer, figure out the best ways to communicate with them and shape messages that are honest and potent.

    By the end of the engagement, you have a website and an internet presence that wins new customers. As a bonus, you also have a template of how to sell your business.

  2. Here’s something to consider: A trusted friend referred the prospect to you so why the need to focus on yourself? If they ask for your credentials then give them a fact sheet but make the pitch about them, not you.

    I’m in a different industry but that doesn’t matter, the formula is the same – solve problems (I have a long list but focus on the 3 that I think relate best to the situation):

    Organizations come to me (us) when they are worried about data breaches but
    – It’s too expensive to hire and retain information security talent (needed to maintain a comprehensive CISO program)
    – or their employees need training on how to recognize and avoid malicious messages.
    – Some are just looking for penetration testing and an IT risk assessment but don’t know where to start.
    If any of this resonates with you, then maybe we should have a more detailed conversation.

    I’m interested in your perspective on this!

      1. I try to know a bit about the prospect and include bullets that are relevant to the situation and solve problems others can’t or don’t. Otherwise, I’m just another jamoke on the bus.

  3. If you need help with a book or other project, I can make it easier, quicker and more successful. I have researched, edited and co-written books. I have also ghostwritten articles, blogs, whitepapers, etc. After a career in B2B technology marketing, I decided to leverage my skills distilling complex information into highly readable and easily understood content, for something I’m passionate about.

    My passion is the greatest existential threat that mankind has ever faced – climate change. So I work only on projects that are focused on some facet of our climate crisis. I am the Chief Content Officer qt a climate change nonprofit (working closely with the Futurist, David Houle). I’ve spent thousands of hours over the last six years learning as much as I could about our climate situation, its solutions (technological and otherwise), and the communications hurdles that surround it.

  4. I spent part of my career in marketing, and the cardinal rule there is to sell benefits, not features. So not just an XYZ engine, but an ecomical XYZ engine, or a fast XYZ engine, or a powerful XYZ engine that can tow almost anything you hook to it. It’s an idea that’s so basic it often gets overlooked.

    In this context, as well as explaining how you make things eadier/better/faster/less stressful for the author, you might also want to answer the question, “Why will I be the best choice for your readers?”

    Illuminating post, as usual, Josh!