I’m going to start my case of why your elevator pitch is your single best marketing tool with a story. I once knew this guy whom I thought was a party promoter. Lets call him Jim. Jim was always doing events. Around that time we, Lidyr Creative, took on this political campaign as a client. The politician running for office expressed to me that he wanted to link with local promoters to do fundraisers. I reached out to Jim and asked if he would be interested in hosting an event. He gave me very vague answers for about a week and finally sent me a 1200 word essay in an email explaining to me that he wasn’t interested in doing events like this as well as what his business was, to both defend his rejection to my offer and also point out how I clearly didn’t understand what he did for a living.
My first thought was, “what the crap! No way I’m reading all of this, all you had to say was, Nikki, I don’t do these types of events, I do [blank] types of events”. My second thought was “Your business has got to be shady if you need to do all this to explain what you do. If I can’t plainly see the value that you offer society then I’m not sure that the value is actually there”.
I sure hope that the latter isn’t true but the reality is I couldn’t bring him real opportunities because his elevator pitch wasn’t very good to begin with. Had I known what he really did, I could potentially be working as a mini soldier in his sales force, the way I thought I was doing when I thought I presented the original opportunity to him.
As a new (or existing) business owner, you are your greatest sales person because you most likely are your only sales person. And a sales person’s greatest tool is his pitch. And In the world of 140-character tweets, your pitch better be short and sweet… an ELEVATOR pitch.
An elevator pitch is defined by Investopedia as: “A slang term used to describe a brief speech that outlines an idea for a product, service or project. The name comes from the notion that the speech should be delivered in the short time period of an elevator ride, usually 20-60 seconds.”
Why Your Elevator Pitch Needs to Be Air Tight
In the beginning when you first start your business, your sustainability depends on how well you promote yourself/the business and how well those people that you promoted to promote for you. This is called “word of mouth marketing” and is arguably the most effective type of marketing. Since you are most likely on a shoestring budget, then you will have to rely on your relationships to capitalize on this. These relationships can be deep or very surface (quite often I get referrals from people that I’ve met once for 5 mins). So, how well you talk about your business when you meet people can very well determine your sustainability and ultimately your success.
Rules to Develop a Great Elevator Pitch
Keep It Short
Your elevator pitch should be no more than 3 sentences. 2 works but 3 is the max. This is enough time to speak at a respectable pace in the 20-60 time frame, as suggested by Investopedia, and still be clear and concise.
Always Recite Your Elevator Pitch with Confidence, Pride and Zeal
If you aren’t confident about your business or your pitch then your business is going to suffer. If your don’t believe in the value that you offer then why should anyone else?
Keep Is Simple
If your elevator Pitch is too complicated to explain in laymen’s terms in less than 3 sentences then one of 2 things is happening here; 1 – your business probably isn’t offering any real value or 2 – your business isn’t very honest. The reality is that, businesses make money only one of two ways. The first way a business can make money is if the business sells something that other individuals need or want. The second way is if the business offers a service that other individuals need or a service that is too impractical for other individuals to do themselves. That’s it. If you can’t explain what you do by relating it to people in laymen’s terms based on these principles then you don’t have a viable business or profession. You know I like to give examples but unfortunately just because of the nature of this conversation I may end up hurting someone’s feelings because they will know exactly who I’m talking about because their job is just that “unique”.
When we extract our elevator pitch to more than three sentences, most likely, it’s just a sign of ego. All entrepreneurs fall victim of the ego a time or two (or twelve) during their careers but the elevator pitch is not the time to let ego control you. Yes, your business is important and what you do is unique, but please do express your uniqueness in the quality of the words that you chose rather than the quantity of words.
Remember the listener doesn’t have to know the ins and out of your business. All they need to know is the bare minimum so that they you can either spark some interest in them to hopefully get business or spark enough interest to earn a referral.
What to Do If You Are Having Difficulty with Shortening Your Elevator Pitch down to 3 Sentences
Relate or Compare Your Business to Another Business or Industry
If you are having difficulty shortening your elevator pitch down to 3 sentences, then try this tactic: relate your business to another business or industry. For example, we once had a client who ran an online marketplace. To protect the innocent, lets say this online marketplace was for, ummm…videographers. Instead of saying “I run an online marketplace for videographers”, which can be way too vague and can leave some people confused, or saying something much more complicated and wordy, I used to describe the business by saying “It’s like craigslist but just for videographers. People can post their services and others can find videographers.”
Try Relating Your Business Simply to the End User.
A lot of times people have difficulty drafting an effective elevator pitch because they offer a high tech product or service. The product or service can be very complicated to use, complicated to understand, or it could even be complicated to look at. In spite of this, when you drill down to it, the product does something very simple for the end user, it offers a solution to a problem. First start off by asking yourself “Why? Why do we offer this product or service? Why does our end user need it?” Drill down and ask yourself “why” until you come to a simple yet concise answer. I guarantee you will end up with the start to a clear and concise elevator pitch.
How to Structure an Effective Elevator Pitch
I’m a very black and white type of person and I like to teach that way. I like to lay things out so that anyone can pick up the information, plug the equation and get (the) value. So my equation for the structure of an effective elevator pitch is the following:
- 1st Sentence: State what you do. This may be complicated and it may be over people’s heads but say it like you are talking to an industry peer. Often you can use your job title here. I’ll use my elevator pitch for my company Lidyr as an example. My first sentence in my elevator pitch is “I run a digital media marketing firm”. To industry people, this is pretty simple. To the average person, they kinda, might know what I mean, but they don’t know how it would relate to them. But the reality is, this IS what I do. But don’t fret, I’ll explain so quickly in the next sentence that they don’t even have time to register that they’re even a tad bit little lost…if they even care.
- 2nd Sentence: Give a simplifier sentence. This is where you are going to break down what you do to everyday terms and put your title in perspective for the listener. Tell them the core elements of your business in a way that helps people to relate your job or business to the world around them. My 2nd sentence is “Our core business is web design, graphic design, social media marketing, SEO and business development”. Everybody can understand some or all of these terms. We all know what web design is. There is no debate here.
- 3rd Sentence: Speak to your point of difference or any career highlights to tell them why you even exist. I have been saying that your elevator pitch should be 2-3 sentences because you could stop at 2 if you would like. But sometimes you may need that extra sentence for a little more clarity to hit the listener with the right hook. Chances are, your first two sentences didn’t give any clarity as to why you are better than their cousin who does the same thing as you. Think about it, if you do the same job as 3-4 other people that they know, then why should they even be interested in you and your business? Why should anybody for that matter? This 3rd sentence is a great opportunity to talk about your point of difference. If you aren’t clear about ‘Point of Difference’, then you can learn more about that here. Here is where I would say “Based on our experience with working with hundreds of start ups to Fortune 500 companies, we know that a great digital media campaign starts with good business development, so our process and approach to building a digital media marketing strategy starts with business development”.
Go on, give it a try. Try using this equation to structure your elevator pitch. But please remember to deliver with confidence and zeal, the success of your business depends on your elevator pitch.