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Going up? How to craft the perfect Elevator Pitch

Let’s say you’re at a networking event and someone steps in the elevator with you, notices your nametag, and asks, “So what do you guys do?” Quick–what’s your answer? You’ve got just 30 seconds before the doors open so you’d better think fast.

In many ways an Elevator Pitch is shorthand for what your brand stands for. It’s your one-shot opportunity to be different and present yourself in a compelling and memorable way. For most business owners, getting to the crux of what you really do is the hardest, yet potentially most rewarding, one-minute conversation you could ever have.

Here’s more about a concept we’ve all heard about, but often don’t understand how to apply.

So what is an Elevator Pitch?

In a way, we all make elevator pitches every day whether it’s meeting a new client, attending a networking event, going on a job interview, asking someone out on a date or pitching a new start-up business idea to potential investors.

The concept of the “elevator pitch” actually originated in Hollywood. It was often the only chance that young scriptwriters had to catch the attention of the big wigs in Tinseltown. Aspiring writers would seize the opportunity and jump into the elevator with a producer and pitch their new script idea in the time it took for the elevator to go from the lobby to the penthouse suite all of 30-40 pressure packed seconds!

A good Elevator pitch enables you to clarify, simply and amplify what your brand stands for. Sadly, many people don’t invest a lot of time thinking about or crafting their elevator pitch because they don’t believe that it’s that important. However recent research by Princeton Psychologists demonstrates that human beings make a qualified first impression of someone within the first one tenth of a second. Longer exposures after the first contact also do not significantly alter the 1st impression although they may boost confidence in it. Like it or not we are all being critically judged and a strong and differentiating Elevator Pitch is important because you never get a second chance to make a first impression.

How do you build an Elevator Pitch?

Today, most elevator pitches are the economic equivalent of speeches at a beauty pageant: cliched, boring and bland. Yawn. When put on the spot, people often have a brain fade and will mention the company mission or advertising tag line in an awkward attempt to cobble together what makes their company tick.

So start not by trying to convince customers of the value of your products, but rather the other way around. Focus on identifying an important job a customer needs to get done. Propose a solution that fulfils that job better than any other alternative that the customer can turn to. If you can capture and define this, your Elevator Pitch becomes the short hand message that communicates your company’s customer value proposition in a concise and powerful way.

At ThinkTank we use a simple exercise to help clients construct, frame and communicate their elevator pitches. Take a moment to write down how you would portray your organisation in a single sentence.

For xxxx (target customers) who want xxxx (key need), we are a xxxx (type of organisation) that offers xxxx (main products or services). Unlike other xxxx (type of organisation) we xxxx (key differentiating factor).

All you need to do is just fill in the blanks for your business.

So as an example for ThinkTank’s Elevator Pitch would be:
For SME’s who want to ignite business growth, we’re a strategic consultancy that enables you to tap into the commercial & creative skills used by the Big Brands. Unlike conventional ad agencies we combine logic and lateral thinking to help you stand out from the crowd, innovate and create new profit opportunities.

So in summary your Elevator Pitch starts with the target customer and their needs. It explains clearly what kind of company you are and what you offer. Then it delivers the key difference that makes you special. This creates a shortcut to a vivid picture that helps people quickly understand what you provide, who you sell to and how you are different.

How to best deliver your Elevator Pitch?

The Elevator Pitch exercise is powerful, because like the sharpest of scalpels it cuts through the complexity and business speak and gets straight to your core purpose.

In simplicity lie the seeds of explosively powerful propositions. In complexity, only confusion, incoherence, and uncompetitiveness. Think of how Barrack Obama rallied an entire nation around a call of “Yes We Can”. With the explosion of social media and the sea of competing voices it has become even more important to be able to whittle your Elevator Pitch down into a single sentence or the 140 character space contained on Twitter.

Some of the world’s most disruptive and successful businesses go even further. They are able to drill down and distill what they stand for into one single word e.g. Google? Search. Apple? Design. Lego? Creativity. Nike? Performance.

So once you’ve crafted your Elevator Pitch and captured your essence is a single word; be sure to remember the following:

  1. Be relevant – adjust your pitch to the person who is listening
  2. Alleviate painĀ  – understand what your customers need and how you can solve their problem
  3. Be different – focus more on the why and not the what
  4. Be snappy – make sure your message is clear, simple and easy to understand
  5. Pitch it – be inspirational and not mechanical, connect with your customers
  6. Be prepared – practice often and have fun doing it (it will show)

Continually perfecting the Elevator Pitch ensures that you are always able to put your best foot forward as your business evolves and your client base expands. More powerfully than that, it enables you to capture your economic concept in a razor-sharp way that can be shared with your various stakeholders. So fight the competition and not yourself. Set aside some time with your key people and discover what a powerful and provocative Elevator Pitch can do for your brand and business.


Jonathan Amm is the Co-Founder and Marketing Director at ThinkTank -a catalytic consultancy specialising in strategic marketing, branding and innovation. www.think-tank.ie

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