After recently attending a massive trade show for the food and restaurant equipment industry, I have some important observations. First, I had no idea there were so many types of fake display foods that look so real. The rubber burgers and plastic sushi looked good enough to munch on. And I was about to steal a bite of a luscious-looking 9-layer chocolate cake until I learned it was synthetic–spawned from a 3-D printer.

OK, on to a more substantive observation: The food equipment industry–like any other tangible product sector–tends to lead with the products themselves to draw attendees in and elicit ooh’s and aah’s. I get that. If you were at a car show you’re there to see the latest Bugatti and Ferrari, not hear about warranties, right? And I admit I was blown away by the latest gleaming 12-burner gas stove, giant cylindrical rotating, 9-foot high, glass-front baking oven and unmanned, robotic floor scrubber. And I’m sure the performance spec’s (reduced time to max heat, cooking speed, low energy draw, etc.) were impressive.

But amidst all the shiny objects on display, one exhibitor, Perlick, drew by very large, sustained crowds throughout the show. Throngs of equipment dealers, food service managers and restaurant owners gathered to watch and hear this company’s pitchman give a 20 minute demo, which he repeated throughout the day.

What was so special about this booth? Was it the product (a cocktail station)? Was it the pitchman’s humor? Was it the tagline high above the booth? Were they giving away free booze?

The answer is none of the above (although the pitchman was pretty engaging). It turns out, unlike most of the other exhibitors, Perlick made an intentional effort to articulate and lead with the customers’ perspective–or Elevator Rant, as I call it.

Here’s how they did it

The “pitchman” wasn’t just an entertainer. It was actually Tobin Ellis, a former bartender who’s now a leading hospitality consultant (known as “the Godfather of Flair Bartending”). In Ellis’ pitch, he explained from the restaurant/bar owner’s perspective the problems of inefficiency and lost productivity caused by typical underbar systems…resulting in sub-optimal return on investment. Ellis also demonstrated the literal pain bartenders feel as they contort their bodies in all sorts of unnatural ways to reach this bottle or that ice machine–for 8 hours a day. (“Now imagine doing this for 40 hours a week–for 10 years!” he said.) Talk about walking in the customer’s shoes.

Ellis showed how Perlick’s new underbar system was ergonomically and logistically designed based on actual input from bartenders to maximize efficiency and productivity and reduce the physical stress of reaching too far or stretching awkwardly, over and over again. So if you’re a restaurant owner whose Elevator Rant is around productivity and efficiency–or employee retention or turnover, sick days or health care costs, this pitch was spot on.

Here’s where the story gets even better

It turns out that Perlick had worked with Ellis to conceive and design this new underbar system to ensure that it incorporated bar owners’ and bartenders’ actual Elevator Rants. This is a perfect storm for marketers: By aligning the product development, the product, the value proposition, the pitch–and the pitchman–around the customer’s Elevator Rant, Perlick quickly generated credibility and authority, which in turn drew the large crowds–and kept them engaged.

What does mean for your business?

When planning your next product launch, PR push or trade show–or any marketing initiative for that matter–ask yourself these questions:

“Should we lead with the customers’ Elevator Rant (pain point) when developing and promoting our product or service–vs. focusing on features and benefits?”


“Do we know our customers’ Elevator Rant?”

The short answer to the first question is “absolutely, yes.” Here’s why:

In today’s increasingly customer-first world marketplace, B2B buyers perform more than half of their research and buying process online before they ever contact a vendor or dealer. Chances are they have read about your product and features–and your competitors’–online during their research process. So it’s harder to grab their attention and differentiate with a cool feature.

But leading with a statement that shows how well you understand their true perspective, problems, objectives and priorities (not the typical platitudes) is a proven way to grab buyers’ attention and differentiate your pitch. Remember, customers are human beings, so they have emotional reactions when a marketer strikes the right chord–as Perlick clearly did.

How to Discover Your Customers’ Elevator Rant

To discover your customers’ Elevator Rant and increase the relevance of your marketing and sales efforts, download a complimentary copy of our “Shut Up & Listen” Playbook. This step-by-step guide gives you everything you need to learn customers’ rants that you can turn them into competitive advantages.
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