The elevator pitch – so named because it should last as long as an elevator ride – if done properly, is a powerful tool that highlights the unique aspects of your business, helping you and business to stand out, while opening doors to further communication and opportunities. Vicki Lew, the co-founder of boutique graphic and web design consultancy Brew Creative, sums it up succinctly: “An elevator pitch is a quick and compelling introduction to your company and what you do.”
However, whether you are standing in front of investors, networking at a cocktail party or just happen to bump into Sir Richard Branson on your travels, quickly convincing others that you and your business are exactly what they need takes a lot of hard, behind-the-scenes work. Compressing your company’s mission, vision and goals into a short string of sentences is a daunting task, even for the most adept wordsmith. Nonetheless, it is an essential part of modern marketing and you would look extremely unprofessional without one. “Having an elevator pitch means you're always prepared when someone asks you what you do, or if you need to introduce your company in a jiffy. You'll never be that deer caught in the headlights again!” says Lew.
So how do you start crafting a pitch that is compelling, relevant and, above all, one that encapsulates your company's very essence? Here are some tips to get you started.
Articulate what you want to achieve
Your elevator pitch should answer three basic questions: Who are you? What do you do? Where do you want to go or what are you looking for? Have a look at your company’s mission and goals, and try to summarise in the simplest terms precisely what you would like to achieve. Do you want to improve the number of leads? Are you looking for new partnerships? Or are you simply testing the waters?
Craft a pitch based on the nine Cs
At this stage, work out exactly what your pitch will say. Consider designing a pitch based on the nine Cs, as laid out by author and entrepreneurship expert Chris O'Leary:
Concise: Keep it sharp and precise, using as few words as possible.
Clear: The pitch should be understood by the average man on the street, and be devoid of acronyms and industry terms. Eliminate jargon.
Compelling: What problem does your business solve and what can it do to improve the lives of your target audience?
Credible: Spell out clearly what makes you qualified to do what you do. Do not use management or marketing speak such as ‘synergistic’, ‘team player’ or ‘outside the box’. Instead stick to credibility-driven words such as ‘certified’ or ‘recommended’.
Conceptual: Keep your pitch broad. Do not dive into the details.
Concrete: Be realistic and make it easy for your audience to understand.
Customised: Create various versions of your pitch to fit with different target groups. Your elevator pitch shouldn't be a static, memorised statement. It must be tailored to your listeners.
Consistent: No matter how many versions of the pitch you prepare, always ensure they communicate the same underlying premise or message.
Conversational: Keep it casual and do not attempt to hard sell. Let it spark a conversation or idea.
Ensure the pitch is not all about you
Avoid the ‘me, myself, I’ approach. Instead, consider the needs of your audience, and how your company can meet them. In short, offer solutions. Lew says, “Your audience wants to know what's in it for them. For instance, the value that your company brings or what solutions you can propose them; that will pique their interest. And they certainly do not want to know how big your company is or how many awards you've won.”
Refine and retune
Once you have put it all together, record yourself on video. Assess if you sound interesting and if your pitch is convincing. Tweak it, and get comfortable with what you have written. Like most things, practice makes perfect. So take the time to practise your pitch regularly until you are sure you are uttering it with genuine conviction.
Do not be afraid to ask for feedback from friends, business associates or colleagues, and to alter your pitch accordingly. Think of your pitch as a constant work in progress. Refine your elevator pitch each and every time you use it. Gauge your audience's reaction and identify any ambiguity or gaps. Your business will evolve and grow, and hence it makes sense to alter your pitch too. Keep that in mind as your goalposts change.
Most of all, continue to wholeheartedly believe in what you say. People can easily tell when you are lying (to them and to yourself), and this erodes trust and confidence which will, ultimately, harm your business and personal brand value.