February 28, 2022
An elevator pitch (or elevator speech) is your chance to quickly explain to someone what your company is all about. Maybe you want to sell something, network, or pitch to an investor. In any case, you need a way to tell someone who your company is in about 30 seconds—around the time it takes for an elevator ride.
Too often, though, an elevator pitch comes out like this. (We’ll make the elevator literal, just for fun.)
James is headed to his accountant’s office to talk about the need for an investor for his company. He hops on the elevator, pulls out his phone, and starts reviewing his emails. Two floors later—not his floor—a woman steps in. He looks up—Omigosh, it’s Barbara Corcoran!
He recognizes her from Shark Tank. What are the chances?!
James seizes the moment with gusto!
“Um, excuse me, Barbara? My name is James Angler. Um, about 2 years ago, I came up with this idea for cell phones. Well, I first thought of it 8 years ago, when I lost my phone off my fishing boat. Since I worked with boats, I’d seen that happen to a lot of people, actually. So anyway, I started a company. We’re called Fish Your Phone. We sell to charter boats and other types of companies. And we’re netting about a quarter of a million a quarter—but I think we can take that to $5 million with a little help . . .”
Barbara exits, with a polite nod and face that says, “Not interested.”
Let’s dissect why Barbara doesn’t care.
James clearly didn’t have his elevator pitch down pat.
You use an elevator pitch when you want to introduce yourself and your company. Think of it as a little synopsis of who you are and what you do. You might use it on LinkedIn, at a networking event, or with a prospective client.
Maybe you are a florist selling your services to clients.
Or the owner of a craft company discussing your products with a local distributor.
Or perhaps you, like James, are leveling up and need a backer.
Whatever your industry, a compelling elevator pitch will grab your listener’s attention and hold it by answering questions about your company’s purpose and usefulness. Some of the questions your pitch may answer are:
Your goal is not to close a sale or snag an investor. Your goal is to get the audience to want to know more. Think of it like a book blurb or movie trailer—it should entice your listener to hear a fuller story.
There are a few steps to preparing and writing your perfect elevator pitch. Let’s walk through them together!
Sit down and do some thinking before you even start writing. Jot down ideas. Do some brainstorming.
Start by thinking about what is at the core of your business, who your audience is, and how they can benefit from your skills/experience/expertise/product/service. It’s important to keep it about this one core message. After all, you’ve got less than a minute. You want your message to be clear and you want to come across as focused.
You also want to connect the audience with the information you’re sharing. To make this connection best, you need to consider who your target market is. Specifically. Remember, your audience is never everyone. As Zig Ziglar reminds us—“If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time.” In this way, everyone ultimately means no one. So spend some time thinking about who your audience really is.
For example, you aren’t a restaurant aiming at everyone who is hungry. You are a restaurant focused on rushed executives, or maybe budget- and health-conscious 20-somethings, or perhaps parents with fussy toddlers. Speak to your audience!
In fact, you might want more than one elevator pitch. For example, when speaking to a potential customer, you might not want to use the same industry jargon you would with, say, a potential investor.
Think about your experience. Is it crucial to your message? Are you a startup-up or established business? Are you a 15-year industry veteran? Have you won any awards? If it’s essential to understanding who you or your business is, then you’ll want to mention it.
Carefully consider the problem/solution and how you’ll frame it. You’ll want to establish what the difficulty is that your customers face. Then you’ll describe how your product or service solves the problem.
In some cases, you may want to include a call to action (CTA) or the next step, so put some thought into this. If you’re at a networking event, for example, you might want to ask, “May I give you my business card for the next time you need a rush print job done?” Or maybe, “Would you like to have coffee and talk further about how I can help your company?” In many cases, the pitch itself is going to be the conversation starter.
There are many approaches to actually writing your elevator pitch. Here is one formula. Try it on. Adapt where needed.
Occasionally, you may want to grab attention by hooking the listener with a startling fact or statistic.
Identify yourself and your company. State what industry you are in.
Discuss the problem that your company solves. You’ll want to introduce your audience here. For example, “I help seniors navigate the complex world of Medicare.” You can frame this as the pain point of the audience, their need, or the gap you are going to fill.
Describe how you solve the problem or address the pain point. You do this by introducing your offering. Talk about how your product/service addresses the pain or closes that gap. You can also state how the customer’s world is better with your solution.
Mention what makes your company or offering unique. You want to head off the question, “Why should I work with you/buy your products?”
Consider including a goal, follow-up, or CTA; for example: “Does your company have experience with Ethereum blockchain data for Cryptopunks?” or “Do you want to skip this next presentation and talk about how our businesses can combine superpowers?”
*Protip* This is a very similar formula to how you should have your website home and service pages laid out! Check out our home page and see for yourself! Wanna talk about how to make that happen for your business? Message us here!
Now, go back and cut, cut, cut! “Murder your darlings!” as writer William Faulkner starkly put it. Figure out how to say things more concisely. Trim any unnecessary words or phrases. Stick to the essentials.
Being ruthless with your words is not an easy process, but it is worth it. Get help from your spouse, business partner, or friends if you need to. Remember, your elevator pitch needs to be around 30 seconds long. That’s the time it takes to speak about 75 words—which is not a lot! But it is enough.
You should now have a concise introduction to your company that will pique interest in your target audience so they want to learn more.
The Monday following his bumbling introduction to Barbara, James sits down and works on his elevator pitch. He comes up with this:
“Having worked in the boating industry since the inception of cell phones, I’ve seen how devastating it is when people drop their phones into lakes. My company, Fish Your Phone, has an innovative way of retrieving phones involving a magnetic net. It’s 75% more effective than other solutions. With retail demand far exceeding inventory, we’re looking for an investor to climb aboard with us as we race towards a 700% revenue increase over the next year. Are you interested?”
There are countless ways to express what your company is and does and how that helps your customers. The goals are to be clear and concise. 30 seconds is the guideline—and that’s pretty short. But it can be done. Check out these examples.
“We work with online business owners to build stellar websites that represent them and stand out so they can grow their business and make more money!
“I am a business coach for new female entrepreneurs. I offer structured and affordable programs to help them put doubt and anxiety aside, build their entrepreneurial skills and confidence, and create a business they love that delivers the results they desire.”
“Hi, my name is Brad and my company develops and designs personalized online sales funnels. That means two things: one, online customers enjoy a flawless user experience tailored to their needs and interests, and two: our clients get automated solutions that dramatically boost sales. We helped our last client increase online revenue by 120 percent month-over-month. Does your company have any experience with e-commerce automation?”
“I am one of New York’s most experienced doulas. Over the last decade, I’ve assisted more than 700 women during pregnancy and provided support for another 1,400. I’ve also written several books on childbirth. I would love to assist you with the birth of your child. If you’d like to speak about this and how I can help, let’s meet after this presentation.”
“I’m Brian Pendergraft, Esq., and I am a full-service real estate and title attorney. I help with ABCDEF: agreements, business entity formation, closings and title, deeds, evictions, and foreclosure. For all of your real estate legal needs, it’s as simple as ABC; work with me.”
“I run a social media marketing agency that manages your social accounts for you, so you can receive quality results without spending time on it yourself.”
“In my experience, any organization—whether sales or suppliers—needs help coordinating work and team communication. Work can be rather chaotic, especially now, without it. That’s why we’ve created a software tool that helps both individuals and teams organize their projects and communications all in one place. Have you ever thought about using something similar?”
“I’m DroneClip’s Joe Neely. We offer hands-free shears for frugal ranchers. Buy a T-shirt, show you love Alpacas, and impress people with this fun new technology.”
Writing a great elevator speech is hard work, and it will take time (and lots of trial and error). The more concise something needs to be, the harder it is to write. But writing is not the whole process. You’ve also got to work on delivery.
You may have the most enticing elevator pitch in the world, but if you don’t deliver it well, it can fail—or worse—backfire. Remember, first impressions last. So . . . always keep the following in mind:
Know your pitch like the back of your hand, so you won’t stumble or ramble (like poor phone-fishing James).
Let it become so familiar that it just rolls off your tongue.
Fast speech can distract a listener, causing them to tune out your message.
Otherwise, you run the risk of rambling or over-explaining. The point of your elevator pitch is to open the door to further conversation or future connection—it is not to give a history of your company or a catalog of all your products!
Sometimes when we memorize something, we recite it very dryly. But it should be fresh each time. It may be the 100th time you’ve thrown this pitch, but it is the first time your listener will have caught it.
If you have to fake it—fake it till you make it! Pretend you are the confident, powerful business owner that you want to be. The more you adopt that persona, the more natural it will feel.
After all, if you can’t get excited about your company—who can?!
Mirror their tone to a degree, without compromising who you are.
It’s 2:30 on a Sunday afternoon. James is leaving his accountant’s office. He enters the elevator. It stops two stories below—not his stop—and a man gets on board. It’s Shark Tank’s Kevin O’Leary, a.k.a. Mr. Wonderful. James stands up a little straighter, takes a breath, and smiles. This time, he’s prepared.