Why Your Business Needs a One-Liner (And How to Craft A Great One)

Dr. J.J. Peterson

Published: Apr 19, 2024

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When someone asks, "What do you do?" it's more than just a question—it's an opportunity to make an impression. But often, we squander it by giving complicated or forgettable answers:

"I'm an accountant."

"I provide IT solutions to businesses struggling with tech problems."

Imagine if, instead, you could say something so clear and interesting that people not only remember it but they’re dying to know more about what you offer. 

This is where a well-crafted "one-liner" comes in handy. A one-liner is different from a slogan or a detailed sales pitch. It's a simple, powerful sentence (or two) that explains why someone needs what you're selling.

Why One-Liners Work

A one-liner works because it's short and to the point. It tells a mini-story: there's a problem, you have the solution, and here's how life gets better with your solution. It's like telling someone, "Hey, I see the issue you're facing, and I've got just the thing to help!" This approach grabs attention because everyone loves a good story, especially one where challenges are overcome.

Let’s take a fictional e-bike company as an example. Instead of saying, "We sell e-bikes," their one-liner could be:

"With 110 people moving to Nashville every day, people are wasting more and more time sitting in traffic. With a Circuit e-bike fitted just for you, you'll get to work faster and add hours back to your day." 

This tells you the problem (traffic jams), the solution (their e-bike), and the happy ending (saving time).

The One-Liner Formula

Creating a great one-liner means knowing your audience and what problem your product helps them solve. When you can zero in on that, you’re able to capture people’s attention and keep it. 

We’ve created a simple 3-part formula to craft the perfect one-liner. Here’s how it works:

PART 1: The Problem

You want to kick-off your one-liner by clearly identifying the problem your customer is facing. What problem does your product solve? When you start with the problem, you immediately hook the audience. Remember, no one starts paying attention to a story until someone encounters a conflict. So when you start with the problem, people will listen to you right away. 

Another reason you should always start with the problem is because the question every one of your customers is asking (even if they don't know they're asking it) is this: “What problem are you going to help me solve?”

When you give them that answer, you become useful to the customer because you have something that will help them. People don't ignore useful brands, and the way you become useful is by solving a problem. 

Using the e-bike example from above, the problem is defined as:

"With 110 people moving to Nashville every day, people are wasting more and more time sitting in traffic.”

Keep in mind, the most effective problems to highlight are those that resonate on a personal level with a lot of people. It makes listeners eager to hear more.

PART 2: The Product

Now, you want to introduce your solution to the problem—the product or service you offer. Keep it straightforward. You're showing that the annoying problem you just mentioned doesn't have to exist, thanks to what you're offering. 

When you position what you do as the solution to a problem, you immediately become useful to the customer. They pay attention because what you do helps them.

Let’s look at the e-bike example again. The solution to the traffic problem is clear and simple:

"With a Circuit e-bike fitted just for you…”

Make sure that your product links directly back to the problem you've identified, showing that there’s a way to overcome this challenge.

PART 3: The Result

End your one-liner with a bang by painting a picture of how much better life is with your product. You want to show the result your customer will experience if they do business with you. This is where you get people to imagine a happier, easier, or more productive life because of your solution to their problem.

You need to make this part very clear so people can easily envision themselves enjoying your product. If you don't, they might not understand how it helps them and just forget about it. People usually don't figure out on their own how a product can change their life. 

So, you have to show them this bright future clearly. It’ll make them remember your product and how it can make their life better.

The ending of the e-bikes one-liner paints a picture of success: 

“You'll get to work faster and add hours back to your day." 

In this final part, make sure to paint a vivid and specific picture of the positive outcome. Avoid broad or vague language. 

Making Your One-Liner a Key Part of Your Business

After crafting your one-liner, it's time to use it everywhere. This isn't just about having a ready-made answer to a question. It’s about making your business more memorable and engaging. 

Here's how to spread the word:

  • Make sure you and your whole team memorize and use the one-liner. It should become a part of how you talk about your business, inside and out.
  • Add your one-liner to all your marketing materials—your website, business cards, social media profiles, even your email signature. This keeps your message consistent no matter where people find you.
  • Don't just keep your one-liner on paper. Use it in conversations, at networking events, or any time someone asks about your business. Practice makes perfect, and the more you use it, the easier it gets.

The Impact of a Strong One-Liner

A solid one-liner does more than just make you sound clever. It makes people remember you. It turns a simple introduction into an effective way to show the value of your business. By clearly stating a problem, your solution, and the benefits, you're tapping into what makes people tick—emotion and logic.

A good one-liner also helps unify your brand's message. In a society where we're bombarded with information, being clear and consistent helps you stand out. Think of your one-liner as a quick summary of why your business matters. It's a tool that can help guide all your marketing, making sure everything you say and do reinforces the same message.

Ultimately, a well-crafted one-liner is about making meaningful connections. It quickly and clearly shows how you can improve people's lives, turning a routine question into the start of a valuable relationship. By focusing on the problem, offering a solution, and highlighting the outcome, you're not “selling”—you're offering a solution to make people's lives better. And that's something they'll remember and appreciate.

Not sure how to define the problem your brand solves, the solution you offer, and the success your customers will experience when they buy from you? 

Start by using the 7-part StoryBrand Messaging Framework to create a BrandScript. You'll clarify your message into something clear and compelling for your customers.

You can learn how to create a great BrandScript in Create a Brand Message That Converts With the StoryBrand Framework.