Going Up? Not Without an Elevator Pitch!


The "Elevator Pitch"? Have you heard of it? It's origin is in the idea that if you were some lowly employee or start-up business and you ended up in an elevator with the CEO of your company or possible investor, you had only 30 seconds to "pitch" your great idea to them and win their approval. Easy, right? 


Well, in truth, many of the small businesses aren't riding in elevators with CEO's or trying to raise millions of dollars in capital and therefore, disregard the value of the Elevator Pitch. 


SCENE: A local networking meeting. You have been invited by a friend of yours to attend with her because she thought it would be a great place for you to meet clients for your new business. The moderator starts the meeting off by asking if there are any new people in attendance and you raise your hand. The moderator walks over and hands you the mic. It's your chance to introduce yourself to the 100+ people and have their complete attention and you say...


"Hi, my name is _______ and I'm a ________. Thank you." (Hands mic back to moderator.)


Seriously? What a lost opportunity!


As a Board Director of a local networking group, I was so frustrated for my fellow members after seeing this scene play out at every meeting, I created a agenda centered only on crafting the Elevator Pitch. Since the purpose of the group is to develop business relationships and I wanted our members to improve on how they did that. So we not only spent over an hour working in teams creating a unique Elevator Pitch for every member's business but a representative from these teams were nominated to stand up in front the whole group and deliver it. 


Here's the big key to why you need a good Elevator Pitch - quite simply it's likely that you are in a similar business as others, in which case you cannot get away with simply telling everyone you're a florist/photographer/consultant/etc. If you keep the introduction limited, it immediately puts you in a large vat of other businesses like you and nothing memorable for your audience to remember. Or, conversely, you are completely unique and your product or service is relatively unheard of and if this is the case, you're going to need to have quick and simple explanation. 


So, considering you're not raising capital at this time, let's focus on how to build your own Elevator Pitch that is basically a show-stopping introduction as a first step, okay?




1. What do you do? This seems like the easy part but it's really not. Why? Because most people will make this too brief like the example above. And if you're at a cocktail party, this first sentence could be a great ice-breaker if you deliver it well. If done poorly, then the topic shifts to someone else. You're a business owner - you want the interest to stay on YOU!


Example: "Hi, my name is Jake and I own a yard service company."  

Polite Response: "Cool."


Try Again:  "Hi, my name is Jake, I own Jake's Awesome Tiny Yard Care and I do everything from weeding flower pots to trimming trees for tiny yards."


Interested Response: "Tiny yards? Really? Why do people with tiny yards need a landscape service?"


Intrigue created. Door open. You get to go to Step 2. 


2. Who are your target customers or clients? Are these people who want a high-level of service? Do they want an affordable option? Are they Seahawks fans? Who are they and what do they want? 


Jake's Example: "My clients typically live in urban areas or condos and have really small yards but are like everyone else and don't want to spend their evenings & weekends maintaining them. Unfortunately, they get charged a lot from typical landscaping companies because their yard is too small for them to want to service."


3. How do you do it? This is the key part because this where you highlight what you do that makes you special and will get whomever you are speaking to to ask you more questions or at least remember you and tell others about you.  


Jake's Example: "So, because I specialize in tiny yards, my goal is to get as many yards in close proximity together so that I can take care of them all as efficiently as possible. And I pass this savings to my clients by offering group discounts to neighborhoods. The more referrals I get from the same neighborhood, the more the discounts increase for everyone in the neighborhood." 


Now let's imagine Jake (or you) is not at a cocktail party but at the networking meeting with the mic in his hand. Putting all three pieces together, he now has a sharp, succinct but brilliant 40 second introduction of his unique business.  And, if he's sparked anyone's interest, people will come to him at the end of the meeting to learn more about him and his tiny yard landscaping company. 





Experiment with Different Versions. 

This exercise is one of the most powerful things you can do as you start your business. Really. Many first-time business owners have very little experience in sales and promotions and don't realize how crucial it is to develop those skills. This simple exercise is an easy way to start to practice public speaking and you can use the Pitch to fine-tune your business and brand by evaluating the responses you get each time you deliver it.  And don't think you need just one Pitch. Create a couple of versions and try them out. Sometimes the environment you're in can dictate the way you want to talk about your business. And since the key is not to try tell everyone EVERYTHING about your business, you can find out what particular special features of your business seem most interesting to people. 


Practice. Practice. Practice.

However, building your Pitch and not practicing it constantly means it won't be natural for you deliver and that's the final step in making the Elevator Pitch one of your strongest tools in your small business toolbox. You want to rehearse it so that it comes out of your mouth naturally and easily. Delivering it well tells your audience you believe in what you're doing. When you practice, use your timer on your smart phone to see how long it is and keep it under a minute. Believe it or not, when sitting in a large meeting, long-winded intros KILL people's interest slowly and painfully. Less is more. Trust me.


If this exercise seems challenging because you are having a hard time defining your small business's unique qualities, then I recommend reviewing my post "Your Business DIY Education Needs These Books"  and in particular the book Primal Branding


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Activity Girl


Marketing & Sales Strategies for Small Business Super Heros
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