An elevator pitch is a sales pitch that is short and succinct enough to be told during an elevator ride. In other words, writing an elevator pitch gives you a stump: something short, repeatable and interesting. There are a few key elements to a good elevator pitch. These elements will help make sure that this highly repeatable message hits all the right notes and has the best chance of getting you new business.
For the sake of illustration, I’ll look at famous brands and how you would get an “elevator pitch” out of their familiar marketing messaging. You can then apply those principles for your own brand.
- Elevator Pitch: The Who
- Elevator Pitch: The What
- Elevator Pitch: The Why
- Elevator Pitch: The How
These are the four basic elements of an elevator pitch. You need to create a few, very quick sentences that answer the questions: who are you, what do you do, why do you do it and how do you do it. The terms you use need to be accessible. The tone you use needs to be conversational. The pitch needs to leave someone able to recap what you just said and interested in learning more. That’s a tall order for a few sentences of speech. But, it can be done. And, if done correctly, it can make you money.
Elevator Pitch: Tell Them Who You Are
An elevator pitch can come about in response to the question “what do you do?”, which may be one of the most basic small talk questions ever. Who you are should be the first statement out of your mouth. Not, “Tom, 42, balding, lefty” but “We are a…”. The royal we, I suppose. In other words, this “who” is your company. This “who” is who you represent professionally. This “who” is the first part of your elevator pitch.
Here’s the exercise: who are you for the sake of this elevator pitch?
First, let me tell you who you are not. If an elevator pitch succeeds, it’s not going to be in response to you telling people that you are a “multi-level marketing agency that helps businesses leverage success on digital platforms” because that is NOTHING. Nothing. Get clear. Get personal. Get specific.
Here’s some examples of other company’s identifiers:
The largest employee-owned grocery chain in the United States.Publix
Global fashion business with seven brands.Gap
Essie is the go-to nail brand for salon professionals, beauty junkies, industry insiders, celebrities and fashion icons around the world.Essie
I’m telling you right now, most companies’ Wikipedia pages are better at telling you who they are than their websites are. That’s telling. The statement about who you are in your elevator pitch should be:
- One sentence
A word about individualization. An elevator pitch will be adapted differently by each team member. It needs to sound natural and not canned (although it should be!). There’s a bit of personal flair and acting that needs to take place when this is relayed by your people. Every team member will have a different elevator pitch because every team member speaks differently. However, because this is representational speech, there will be some marked similarities in what you say. So, same same but different.
Elevator Pitch: Tell Them Why You Exist
Obviously, again, I don’t mean existentially or personally. We’re not wrestling with questions of the universe here. We’re talking about how, in an elevator pitch, you quickly come to the point: why do you matter? Why does your business matter?
What acute, meaningful and prevalent human problem do you solve?
That is your why. This is not philosophical. This is not core values and mission/vision statements. It is probably an adaptation of those. But, in this summary statement you get more specific. This is just the brass tacks or the basics of why your company exists or why the good and service you’re about to pitch exists. “It’s pretty exciting… we noticed that… and we’re working on…” People’s problems + your solutions = sales.
Here is an example of what NOT to say during an elevator pitch:
Colgate-Palmolive is committed to act with compassion, integrity, honesty and high ethics in all situations, to listen with respect to others and to value differences. The Company is also committed to protect the global environment, to enhance the communities where Colgate-Palmolive people live and work, and to be compliant with government laws and regulations.Colgate-Palmolive
That’s all well and good. It’s not an elevator pitch, though. What someone who works for Colgate-Palmolive would do in an elevator pitch (not that they do these) is convert that into something like this:
“We make great toothpaste and skincare products.”
Here are some examples of ways you could tell the “why” succinctly and in a way that makes sense:
The Atlantic engages its print, online, and live audiences with breakthrough insights.The Atlantic
Our products are designed for support and comfort.ACE Bandages
The world’s leading guitar manufacturer.Fender
Again, keep the why specific and introductory. Let it be your second sentence set-up that leads into the heart of your sales pitch.
Elevator Pitch: Tell Them What You Are Offering
Anymore, we have a very tippy-toe attitude about sales. Some marketing writers act like they’re going to trick people into buying something. As if just the right combination of storytelling, emotional ask and illustrations will coalesce into a hypnotized customer pulling out their credit card. I haven’t personally seen that happen. Maybe it does. Stranger things.
More typically, you will sell something to someone who is fully alert and making a conscious decision to buy your good or service. This only happens when they have the information. While there are impulsive buys, more customers than ever are crowd-vetting products and doing online research before they buy. Because of this, a live-and-in-person elevator pitch has to offer something SO memorable, SO unusual, SO unique that it gets remembered once you get to the right floor.
The what is your most important point. What are you offering? I say offering. I mean selling. Offering is the kind way to put it. And, it is accurate in a way. You are extending the offer for you to join your company in whatever good or service they’ve made that will improve the lives of consumers. Unless yours is a nefarious, villainous company. In which case, I guess just quit and go follow Simon Sinek around until he notices you.
If you do have a good product or service that you want to offer, now’s the time to do it. You’ve already said, “we are an Etsy store that makes thumbnail sized figurines of grandmother rabbits.” Now’s the time to pull out the big guns (“and they can be hand-crafted to resemble your loved ones!”). Bad example.
Better examples, tell them you offer:
- Wholesome snacks (Nabisco)
- The most functional backpack (Nomatic)
- Best fitting bras (ThirdLove)
- Cowboy catheters (Um)
- Refreshing gum (Extra)
Be specific about the good or service this elevator pitch is about. Describe it as briefly as possible. Think about words that stand out and stand a chance of being remembered. Don’t use more than two adjectives.
Elevator Pitch: Tell Them How to Get Involved
This is the frantic last sentence or so. This is the seconds before the doors open moment of truth. Elevator pitches are a long shot. “How” is the swing you take. Invite them to get involved. This may mean buying, signing up, subscribing, testing or attending. Depending on the nature of what you’ve pitched, your ask will be different. Have a business card handy. Get their info if possible. Every good sales person knows, though, that you can’t beg. Lay out an offer. See what happens. If you strike out, you have the elevator ride down to try again.
Learn How to Write an Elevator Pitch
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