How To Lose A Customer In 15 Seconds


There’s a coworking space in my city with a billboard that says something like this: We rent private offices and coworking memberships so your business can thrive.

Every time I see this sign, I sigh. This business is missing such a big opportunity to speak to their audience about the things they care about when shopping for coworking spaces, and this company has completely missed the mark.

I see a lot of businesses make this mistake, where their one-liner or mission statement is completely underwhelming and tells their audience absolutely nothing about their uniqueness within a pool of competing businesses.

When you have an audience of shoppers who will look at your website or billboard for about 15 seconds before moving on, nailing down your one-liner is non-negotiable. 

Let’s use the example of this coworking space’s one-liner as an exercise to show how you can create or revamp a statement that grabs your target market within those 15 seconds.

Don’t Give Me A Definition

If you’re going to use a billboard to help advertise your business, you have to hit a home run with the one-liner and highlight why you’re different from the numerous competing coworking spaces in the area. 

The current one-liner for this coworking space provides the definition for a coworking space and ignores the fact that shoppers of their product absolutely already know this definition. 

It’s like the person who uses a Webster’s dictionary description to describe what “marriage” means at the beginning of their speech at a wedding. It’s cheesy, unnecessary, and induces a flood of eye rolls.

Do not give your audience a definition. They are much further in the customer journey and already know what a coworking space is (hence why they’re even looking in your direction!). 

Your audience is smart, short on time, and needs more specifics on why they should spend some time learning more about your business versus your competitors.

What’s The One Reason Why You Matter To Your Customer?

I did some digging on this coworking space’s website and found out that their unique value proposition (in my opinion) is that they purchase all of their buildings, so rental prices are up to 50% below their competitors’.

As someone who has shopped around for coworking spaces before, this would’ve immediately grabbed me to walk in for a tour. This value proposition is incredibly different from the existing coworking chains that are out there, and yet, there’s more language on their website around furniture, beer, and free coffee than about their pricing.

Rather than leveraging the one paramount reason why their customers choose them over their competitors, they decided to follow the pack and publicize what every other coworking space is talking about: free coffee, beer, amenities, etc. 

If you’re not WeWork, don’t pretend to be like WeWork. Figure out your business’ unique feature for that 15-second shopper and make a riot about your secret sauce.

Word Choices Matter

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never associated the act of renting with the outcome of thriving. The word choices here are a bit sloppy and my guess is that “thrive” was simply selected because it’s a beautiful outcome word.

If you have an outcome word in your one-liner, please make sure it actually connects with the rest of the sentence. 

Rent and thrive do not have an even remotely close connection to each other when relating to social contexts without our society, so it lacks emotional punch. 

If you mean that you enable small businesses to rent affordable offices up to 50% under market price, and that gives them financial room to thrive, say exactly that.

Don’t take shortcuts with your one-liner and put it under intense scrutiny. Show your one-liner to some potential or past customers and let them tell you exactly why it does or does not resonate with them. 

Losing someone within the first 15 seconds because of your one-liner is a terrible way to kick things off with a potential customer.

This exercise shows the depth of scrutiny at which you can analyze your one-liner/mission statement representing your business. Although there are plenty of other mistakes that can be made other than the three outlined above, I hope that this gives you a case study on how you can critically look at how your business is speaking to its audience.

Sophia Sunwoo