Why does the “elevator pitch” earn its own spot here as an important marketing topic? Because it is one of the most impactful (and FREE) marketing tools available to you, great for one-on-one connections and a host of other uses. It’s also the most neglected.
When most of us hear the term “elevator pitch”, we cringe. Because most people struggle with how to effectively share what they do. Do it well and new doors open. Ramble or stumble through it, and eyes glaze over.
You meet a person at a conference (or party, or meeting, or yes, even in an elevator). You shake hands, exchange names, and the first question is. . . “What do you do?”
You say, “I’m a lawyer” (or accountant, store owner, etc.) You follow up with: “And what do you do?”
Uh oh. You may have thought you were politely sharing the reins of the conversation. After all, you didn’t want to seem pushy. The problem is that you let go too soon. Not only did you fail to deliver a useful pitch, now the other person doesn’t know what to say. You haven’t given them enough to grab onto.
In our business culture, the question “What do you do?” is the equivalent opener of “How are you?” It’s something we all say on auto-pilot to initiate a conversation with someone we don’t yet know. Yet it’s also an invitation we extend to each other to share a bit about ourselves.
The challenge is to find an approach that reveals who you are and what you do in an intriguing way. If you do it right, there’s a good chance they will want to know more. However, if you slap a period after the title of your occupation, you’ve closed that door and locked it uptight. There’s nowhere for the conversation to easily go.
Here’s a better way:
The person you meet asks, “What do you do?”
You: “I’m an accountant. I work with small to medium-size businesses to get them through tax time painlessly and profitably.”
If the other person is a business owner, that elevator pitch will likely trigger questions like, “Painless? Is there such a thing?” Or, “Tax time didn’t make me feel profitable. Did I leave money on the table?”
They may or may not verbalize those thoughts, so before you go further, ask, “May I ask what you do?” Now you can continue with one example that you think might be relevant specifically to them. If they’re intrigued, you’ve got the makings of a potential lead or referral.
Planning Your Pitch
In “Defining Your Target Market,” we talked about how to pinpoint the market segments that are best for you at this point in time. Then, we talked about how to define your niche. Remember, your niche is the particular solution you bring to your target market and the unique way you do it. Be sure you take the time to think this through because a clear vision of your niche is what will yield your best elevator pitch.
Consider each of these three elements:
- What you do
- What you server
- How you’re different
As we discussed earlier, you might be focused on a certain vertical (industry) and specialty (i.e., tax accountant). In that market, is there an overriding solution you provide? A common pain point you address? What sets you apart from others doing the same thing?
Structure your words around what your clients want to hear. In other words, use this streamlined statement to talk about them and their biggest concerns, instead of making it about you.
Your Pitching Style
There are a number of ways to convey a great elevator pitch. What will work best for you depends on your most comfortable pitching style. Are you a casual conversationalist or do you prefer things a bit more buttoned up? Here are a few pitch examples, demonstrating two different pitching styles. See which one best suits you.
The Straightforward Pitch:
“I am a marketing writer and strategist. I specialize in creating campaigns for mid-size and enterprise companies, creating whatever they need to help them captivate their target markets and close the sale.”
“I build websites for business professionals who want something they can easily manage themselves. Then for those too busy to do it, I offer service packages for my clients who prefer a tech guy who already knows their business.”
The Casual Storytelling Pitch:
“You know that guy at work that everybody calls when something breaks?”
(smile) “I manage facilities and repairs for small-to-mid-size businesses that don’t have their own maintenance staff. Last night the heat was out on my client’s entire 14th floor, today computers were down at another client. Every day another crisis averted.”
Let’s take another look at the accountant example we gave earlier:
“I’m an accountant. I work with small to medium-size businesses to get them through tax time painlessly and profitably.”
The casual storyteller might add the following very tongue-in-cheek, “Basically, we stay up nights so you don’t have to.” A touch of humor can go a long way to making everyone relax into the conversation—if you can carry it off.
Just be mindful that even if you’re telling a story, be short and to the point. No monologues, please!
- Write it down. Aim for no more than 50 words.
- Read it aloud. Does it sound like you?
- Try out several different versions. Which feels right?
- Time it. About 15-20 seconds is ideal, 30 seconds max.
- Rehearse it until it flows naturally and fits the right time limit without sounding robotic, awkward, or rushed.
Planning it all out and rehearsing will get you comfortable with your new pitch in no time.
Switching Up Your Pitch
Even if you really like your new pitch, be ready to vary it as needed. Let’s say you meet someone and your pitch goes great. You continue to chat. Now someone else joins the conversation. You don’t want to repeat word for word what you said to the first person. Be ready to change it up as needed.
Versioning by Segment
If you work with several different types of clients, have an example ready that fits each. The facilities manager above might mention the way he saved the day for a technology client in one conversation, then in another talk about a maintenance crisis for a healthcare client—each mirroring back to the prospect he’s talking to a concern or pain point they can likely relate to.
The Team Version
As business owners, we know we may be called on to deliver a pitch on a moment’s notice. However, is everyone on your team ready to do the same?
Think about it. Everyone that works for you, from the team on the sales floor to the receptionist meets new people all the time, both during their workday and when they’re off. They, too, will be asked, “What do you do?” Even if they aren’t salespeople, they should be able to state a simplified version of your elevator pitch.
Instead of, “I’m a receptionist,” the answer could be, “I’m the receptionist for ABC Company. They build websites and handle tech problems for small businesses.” Without this training, you can assume that most of your staff simply put a period at the end of their job title.
It’s worth the time it takes to provide this very basic training to everyone on your team. It will amp up your potential reach as well as help your staff see themselves as valuable contributors to your company vision.
It’s More Than Just Networking
Now that you’ve nailed down the ideal pitch, don’t stop now. There are other ways to capitalize on it beyond networking.
Start with the team version of your elevator pitch, the one that encompasses your primary target and represents your business as a whole. A good marketing writer can now turn this into a company slogan, a targeted tagline or catchphrase to build your brand in the market place.
Here are just a few places that you can easily add your new slogan or a short statement of your niche to amp up your marketing:
- Email signature block
- Business cards
- Company brochures & promotions
- Proposal headers and in body content
- Case studies
- HR manuals
- Sales training tools
The consistent use of a well-articulated elevator pitch in your networking and marketing efforts serves to help you guide initial conversations, make connections that evolve into lasting relationships, reinforce your market positioning, and ultimately help you grow your business.
Are you ready for your pitch?