Who Really Talks on Elevators Anyway?

You've probably heard that you need to develop an “elevator pitch” for your business. This concept is explained as how you'd describe your business if you had the length of an elevator ride to do it, around 15-30 seconds. Now, assuming this ever actually happened, it would be good to have this description in your back pocket. Even more importantly for a start-up or small business, you need to make sure that everyone in the company has it in their back pocket, as each and every one of those employees is an ambassador for your brand. And as they say, you only get one chance to make a first impression.

But how do you go about creating an elevator pitch? The exercise is both easier and harder than you think. Assume you have 50 words to tell your story. Each of those 50 words has to be considered carefully and reviewed for maximum impact and clarity. A few key tips on choosing your words are below.

1) Avoid jargon and acronyms as much as possible. Bear in mind your target audience for this elevator pitch has to be broader than your potential customers: if you're looking for funding or talking to journalists, who may not have as technical a background, they need to understand what you're doing. Telling them “we provide SaaS solutions for the cloud” will probably confuse most people (even your potential target audience, actually)!

2) Focus on the “outside-in” sales approach. Don't tell them what you do, tell them what the benefit is to your customers. People don't care if you make the most pretzels of all pretzel bakers; they really only care about their experience with your pretzels: are they easy to get, the right price, and most of all, do they taste good?

You need to know why people buy your product, or in case you are brand new and don't have a product yet, why they would buy your product. If in doubt, ask them: talk to your actual or potential customers why they buy your products over competitors'. When you know what makes you unique, that elevator ride becomes a compelling experience for the person you're speaking to. And who knows, he or she could end up being your biggest customer, your most helpful partner, or a key investor!

3) Make them want to know more. If you get your potential customer excited about knowing more, you've done all the work you need on marketing to them. If you've really understood why they would buy your product over other competing products, and can articulate that you understand their need, they will be ready to buy, or at least willing to schedule a longer meeting with.

I'll give you the example of my own elevator pitch for my marketing business: I have spent 19 years providing clarity, transparency, and measurable results in marketing strategies and campaigns for my small business and start-up clients. With my “Marketing in Box” approach, clients can approach marketing and communications in a low-cost, high-impact way that builds on successes and has no hidden costs.

Forty-nine words, and you know what I do and what my unique selling point is.

Generally, it's best to get outside help on your elevator pitch. It doesn't have to be a marketing professional (although that is best, since they will be good wordsmithers). Write out a draft of what you want to say, and read it to a friend; someone in the same business area as you but perhaps not as technical. Get their feedback and ask 1) is it clear, 2) does it resonate with what they would be interested in hearing about your product, and 3)does it make them interested to know more? If not, keep working on it. After all, it's the 50 words that could make you a lot of money in the end!