You ask someone what his or her company does, or the person has approached you at a conference or tradeshow.
What you hear is something like “we’re the premiere/best/biggest/newest/oldest provider of x/y/z in the [fill in the blank] industry.” It’s like listening to someone read out a Mad Libs™. And to make things worse, you can tell he or she has delivered the same information the same way many, many times. Have you learned anything compelling about that company? Do you really want that person’s business card?
Here’s another scenario:
You’re at a networking event and have only 30-60 seconds to tell someone what’s unique and exciting about what you do and illustrate why your business is the business that can provide an opportunity or solve a problem. You don’t have that description on the tip of your tongue, so you do your best on the fly and then walk away thinking about what you should have said.
The elevator pitch was born to help focus business people on how to describe what a company does in terms that focus on the customer or client – the person who wants to know “what’s in it for me?” – and should be succinct, engaging, and call-to-action oriented.
This is all supposed to happen in the time it would take for the average elevator ride – hence the name.
Our advice for creating and delivering an elevator pitch boils down to understanding your existing customers and using that to craft a customer-centric message, conveying your enthusiasm for what you do, and putting yourself in the listener’s place. Would you find your own elevator speech compelling?
“I’m a partner in a company that helps businesses communicate effectively to the right audience with the right message using the right tools.”
“We’ve just done a social media campaign for a construction company and it worked very well for them. Have you thought about something like that?”
Even though your basic elevator pitch should be something that’s ready to use at a moment’s notice, it is important that it’s flexible enough to be adapted, so be prepared to do that. What can you leave out and still deliver an effective message if you don’t have as much time as you’d like? What can you add if you have more time? What responses should you anticipate?
If you’re going to a networking or other event where everybody is likely to have an elevator pitch, you want to stand out, so putting together several specific examples ahead of time based on what your company does and the nature of the event can help you be prepared.
An elevator pitch doesn’t have to be about getting business, and it doesn’t have to be delivered in a business setting. You can use the same system to sell an idea to you boss, inform people about an event, sell yourself when you’re job hunting, or even have a ready answer when someone on the spin bike next to you at the gym asks what you do.
For an entertaining look at elevator pitches, check out this message from The Puppets Who Know Stuff about Marketing.