Build a Compelling Elevator Pitch for Your Business

Whether you are selling your products or services, looking for investors or simply updating your Aunt Sally on what you do at a holiday party, you need an elevator pitch. It is not a tagline or description of your industry. As Chris O’Leary states, “an effective elevator pitch is designed to give the audience just enough information that they will have a sense of what you are talking about and want to know more.”

The term comes from the concept that you might find yourself in an elevator with the perfect prospect, investor, etc., and only have the time of the journey to entice them about what you do.

The first thing to know is that, when crafting an elevator pitch, you have to write it down. And you will revise it multiple times before you are done. You should also say every new version out loud because it is supposed to be a verbal pitch and has to flow properly.

Second, the target length can vary but most experts suggest an elevator pitch should be no longer than 30 seconds.

Elevator PitchThird, you will have to customize your elevator pitch for specific audiences, but there are certain elements you should include for an effective elevator pitch.

  • Address the problem or pain that your business addresses.
  • Follow up with how your solve it.
  • Detail who has this challenge (i.e., the target market).
  • Explain how big the market is for the solution.
  • Stress the main benefit you provide.
  • Figure out what makes your company different.
  • Make it exciting.

The goal is to intrigue and engage, versus telling someone all there is to know about you. You can’t be everything to everyone so determine your niche and go for it. You should also have a hook (e.g., you could ask a question, “Have you ever felt held back by lack of time and wished you could clone yourself so you could get everything done, when you want it done, the way you want it done?”). Think about why you are in business and what gets you motivated and out of bed in the morning. That should be included in the elevator pitch. Another point to consider is your specific qualifications to solve the problem and/or the people behind your business such as prominent investors, board members, associations or business partners.

Here are two examples from Business Plans Kit for Dummies.

  1. “I’m a health-information specialist. I produce a world-class newsletter, send email updates and establish client relationships in an effort to support health and wellness for people 50 and older. Working with individuals, HMOs, physicians and health and fitness centers, my business is a leading player in helping people maintain healthy lifestyles by providing summaries of medical advances and practical lifestyle advice, as well as access to leading medical professionals.”
  2. “Our business translates medical breakthroughs into people language for the fast-growing 50-plus age group nationwide. Basically, we shrink the latest medical findings into news capsules that we feature in a monthly newsletter. Our subscribers include HMOs, clinics, and fitness centers—plus 15,000 individuals who receive targeted emails addressing specific health conditions. We’ve won advertising commitments from more than 50 marketers who want to reach our audience of health-conscious older Americans.”

The second paragraph starts with a sentence about the company’s innovative product and audience. The next sentence talks about how the business works. The third sentence refers how the company makes money and the forth illustrates the acceptance of the market. It is less self-centered and clunky (e.g., “health-information specialist”), with no jargon so it is the better option.

The Business and Entrepreneurship Center offers a template for building an elevator pitch:

  1. [Name of your company] provides [name your products or services] for [describe the segment of the market you will serve] who [describe the problem this solves].
  2. [Enter one sentence that tells why this business is needed and by whom.]
  3. [Make a statement about the size and/or growth trend of the industry.]
  4. [Write a sentence or two, no more, to address your qualifications to run the business.]
  5. [Make an honest, upbeat, substantive and credible claim about the business potential in terms of sales or profitability.]

One of my pet peeves is industry lingo and complicated language. If you are a yogurt shop, don’t talk about different types of bacteria, talk about how you offer a healthy and delicious snack. Try to eliminate techno-speak and convoluted terms or you potentially alienate your audience and anyone who is not in the business. The elevator pitch should be delivered with enthusiasm and in easy-to-understand language.

You should also be specific whenever possible versus tossing around general statements such as “we’re going to take the market by storm.” Yawn.

Once you have your pitch polished, practice it constantly. You have to do this until it comes out naturally and is second nature to you.

You should also get feedback on the pitch from employees, stakeholders and others not as close to the business as you to ensure it is clear and compelling.

The final elevator pitch should be shared with all employees and reinforced constantly so there is one message for the organization. Recently, we designed business cards with our elevator pitch on the front and major service categories on the back. These were distributed at a sales meeting we had in Atlantic City with new hires and existing team members.

For more help, this YouTube video clip from Tim Berry offers tips on crafting the elevator pitch.

Ultimately, the goal of the elevator pitch is to generate interest, prompt questions and begin to develop a relationship with the listener. It helps you introduce yourself and break the ice in networking situations. You can also use your elevator pitch to clarify the target audience and business goals for your own use and become more confident in business settings.

When was the last time you polished your elevator pitch?

About Kelly Glass
Kelly has been vice president of Marketing at Affinity Express for nine years now. She drives company strategy and all marketing activities.

One Response to Build a Compelling Elevator Pitch for Your Business

  1. msienicki says:

    Great information to have. Thanks, Kelly!

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