As a business owner, you are constantly being asked what you do or what your business does—in your day-to-day conversations, on the train, in line at the airport, at a networking event, during an employee candidate interview, even on an elevator. This can be stressful. While you know your business like the back of your hand, others do not. Furthermore, you only have about 30-60 seconds before the attention of your listener expires. It’s hard to sum up everything your business does in less than a minute, but it’s crucial to be able to do so. You never know who you’re talking to. Every time you describe your business is a potential opportunity—to build your reputation, to gain a new customer, to build your network, or even to win over an investor. To prepare you to be able to seize these opportunities, we have provided six tips to help you come up with the perfect elevator pitch.
Your elevator pitch is meant to convey, as efficiently as possible, the value of your business to those interested in it. No matter what industry you’re in, just about every product or service can be boiled down to the solution to a problem or the means to a goal. To come up with a great elevator pitch, work on identifying both: the specific problems that your target audience faces, and the goals that you help them to achieve. While you are not always pitching directly to your target audience (you may be pitching to an investor, a fellow business owner, or even a complete stranger), it is important to stay focused on how you serve your target audience. Your elevator pitch is about conveying value and distinguishing yourself. Communicating your main points in the context of your target audience will help shed the brightest and most relevant light on your business.
A good elevator pitch often starts off with a powerful sentence that captures the gist of everything. This element of your elevator pitch will most likely get finalized last, but it makes for a great first step in your process. Take some time crafting a single sentence (not a paragraph disguised as a run-on sentence) that describes your business. You don’t have to get it right, and you can come up with a few. You might not even end up using it in your pitch. The point is to get the gears turning and thinking about the core value your business offers, as this is what your listeners are most interested in. Once you’ve earned their attention, you can then move on to the how and why.
Another reason to perform this elevator pitch exercise is because the shorter the description, the harder it is to write. As such, a one sentence description will make a 30-60 second pitch seem like a breeze. Plus, this one sentence has the potential to become your next powerful slogan.
If you’re struggling to come up with a single sentence to describe your business, try asking friends or family to do so. People who are less intimately involved with your business can often come up with a description that makes sense to and resonates with other outsiders. Friends and family are better to use than strangers, as they are more likely to come up with a description in the context of your personality and values.
Once you have your pitch, test it on others who know nothing about your business and ask them to explain back to you what they gathered about your business from your pitch. This will help you to determine how effective your pitch is and if it communicates your intended message.
Sometimes, the best way to explain something is to ask questions. Of course, you don’t want to ask too many questions—this is about conveying the value of your business to your listener, and the last thing you want to do is confuse them. However, asking the right (prompting) questions can be a way of getting your listener to say and hear for themselves what your business does.
Asking a question or two during your elevator pitch is also a way to keep your listener or audience engaged. Just make sure your questions are easy to answer or obvious (yes or no questions like “Did you know” might work). You don’t want to intimidate anyone or make them feel like they’re on the spot.
If your product or service is a bit harder to explain, you may want to take the approach of comparing it to something with which they are more familiar. Try to avoid using competing brands (as this might detract from your originality) and the most popular brands (“It’s like Uber for Exercise”). Stick with more of an everyday analogy that is simple and relevant to your audience
Rather than trying to recite your entire elevator pitch in one breath, give your audience or your listener a chance to ask questions. This will help ensure that they don’t feel as though you’re only concerned about yourself or your business. It also will allow you to hone your pitch based on common questions you get. If you don’t get questions or comments during these pauses, you might want to ease up a bit (you get excited about your business, but this can come off as overbearing to some) or revamp your pitch.
The benefits of your product or service are the direct value that your audience gets from it. The features are what make those benefits happen. While it’s important for potential customers to know how you offer the value you do, they must first be interested in that value. It’s important that your elevator pitch is more benefits-heavy than feature-heavy. People don’t want the details until they’re on the verge of purchasing. An elevator pitch with benefits is one that will captivate them in the first place.
This doesn’t mean you should neglect features altogether. Mentioning one or two key features that help to support the benefits you describe can help to strengthen your pitch.
Your elevator pitch is never quite done. You can always be practicing and perfecting it and is likely to change as your marketing insights and strategies sharpen. Focus on capturing attention and conveying benefits, be open to feedback, and pay attention to responses.