How to Create Your Elevator Pitch

Dreaded by many and needed by all:
The Elevator Pitch

Being able to introduce yourself, your project, your company or your fundraising efforts effectively and, maybe even more importantly memorably, is an art. One that many are struggling with, myself included. Instead of using a few crisp, concise and memorable words, we tend to say far too much, don’t focus on the relevant bits and ramble on and on and on … only to watch the interest disappear from our listener’s eyes.   

I’ve been there, I’ve experienced it and I’m done with it. The final push to do something about it was the, in my eyes, brilliant elevator pitch of a woman who organizes children’s play areas. This is how she introduced herself: “I’m Evelyn, The Toy Tamer. I do custom playroom organizing.” She added two or three more sentences providing a bit more context and done. Everyone knows her. Not necessarily as Evelyn, but as “The Toy Tamer”.

Thanks to quite a lot of networking events I attended, entrepreneurs and solopreneurs I spoke with, and research on the internet, I found plenty of information about all the important aspects to keep in mind but interestingly also about the length. If you are not happy with your elevator pitch or even worse, you don’t have one yet, let’s read on and create our own.

What is an elevator pitch or elevator speech?

Before we dive into the “how”, let’s have a quick look at the “what”.  My version of an elevator pitch: It’s a short introduction of yourself, your project or your company with the intention to hook your listener, make them curious and wanting to learn more. Find some more detailed definitions below and use them as guideposts. But always remember: Brevity is king!

[…] It is a quick synopsis of your background and experience and credentials […]

The goal is simply to convey the overall concept or topic in an exciting way without any extra words.

The information should be condensed in order to express the most important ideas or concepts.

It should spark the listener’s interest in your idea, organization, or background.

It’s designed to get a conversation started.

It should be geared specifically to your audience.

Don’t use jargon. The only exception: when you speak with insiders or peers.

[…] the first two sentences […] are the most important and should grab the attention of the listener. 

How long should an elevator pitch be?

Researching this question online, I found recommendations that varied between seven seconds to two to three minutes. In my opinion, seven seconds seem a little too short, even considering todays often criticized short attention span of people. Thinking of an elevator ride, where the idea of an elevator pitch or speech originated from, I would aim for 30 seconds. A good rule of thumb is to have more than just one version and use them depending on the circumstances, your listener and the purpose of your conversation.

Independent of the time, the first two sentences are always the most important ones. You either make your listener’s eyes sparkle with interest or see them drift away. This is of course not always because you don’t have a good elevator pitch, it could simply mean you are not talking to the right person. But it should serve as a reminder that it pays off to find the right words and focus for your intro.

What should be included in an elevator pitch?

  1. Who you are you and what you do:
    This is kind of obvious, but I mention it anyway. In one sentence, state your name and a brief explanation of what you currently do. Don’t get hung up on titles, they don’t mean a lot, but what you do does.  
    Example:
    I’m a writer for the technical products division of company A.
  2. What distinguishes you from others and why does it matter?
    Think in terms of what you love about your work, what special skills you have, how you apply these skills, what difference you make in your company or in your customers’ lives. In short, it’s time to brag. If this is difficult for you, ask colleagues and/or friends. You may be surprised what they will tell you.
    Example:
    I translate complex technical specifications into easy-to-follow instructions that anyone can understand at home. I love being able to distill something complex and full of jargon into simple, clear steps and help people master technology.
  3. Who is your ideal client or customer?
    If you own a business or you work as a consultant, it is important to add who your ideal customer or client is. Questions like company type or organization, values, and size may be relevant for you. If you work with customers or clients one-on-one you may want to be clear about what matters to them, values, age, likes, dislikes, problems they face, etc.
    Let’s take a coach or consultant as example.
    I work with executives and leaders, facing problems arising among international teams.
    I work with leaders in corporations to build trust through better communications and help them reach better results.
    Expanding on the example of the tech writer mentioned above we may say:
    I focus on technical companies in the XYZ area….
    I love to work with technical startups….
  4. What do you want or what’s next?
    This part is often overlooked, telling the listener what you want. Are you in the market for a new job that offers you more challenges in your current field, do you intend to switch industries, are you looking for a more senior role in your or another company, would you like to present your services or products, have you heard about a problem you may be able to solve?
    Before you end your pitch or speech, don’t forget to state what you want and suggest the next step. This could be following up with some additional information, asking for the opportunity to present a product, sending your resume, … you name it. Here are some examples:
    As a freelance writer: Now I’m looking to branch out and do consulting work so I can apply this expertise to other companies and improve the understanding of their technology.
    As someone who sells products or services: If you’re interested, I’m happy to send you some information about my products/services.
    If you touched on some specifics during your elevator pitch offer to mail the information discussed or mentioned.

How to create your elevator pitch

Let’s move on to the next step. How do you determine the specifics, the buzzwords, the hook for your elevator pitch? It’s time to grab a pen and paper or get your computer and start brainstorming. For each of the four categories write everything down that comes to your mind. Yes, I said everything. Take your time, be as specific as possible, and most importantly, don’t censor yourself. There is no such thing as right or wrong.

After you’re done with your brain dump, it’s time to prune. What do you want the focus of your elevator pitch to be? What is the most important information someone else should know about you, your company, or your project? Use these questions to get to the core:   

  • What is your goal?
  • Who is your audience? (You may need more than one elevator pitch.)
  • Don’t use industry jargon (exception: if you’re talking with industry insiders).
  • Where are redundancies?
  • What makes you stand out in your field?
  • What special skills do you bring to the table?
  • What problems do you solve for your company/clients/customers?
  • What language do your customers/clients use?
  • Why is what you do so important?
  • What are your values?

I know it is difficult to delete stuff. We instantly get the feeling of missing out on something, losing a client, a customer, or a job opportunity. That’s why it is so important to be clear about the goal. The more specific you are, the more aligned you are with your values, the more you know about your customers/clients, the more relevant and better your elevator pitch will become.

If you’re like me, I come up with a ton of different versions. I recommend you write them all down and “play” with them. Mix them up, edit them, exchange words, until you find a version you like. I found changing the sentence structure or replacing a word can make all the difference. That’s why I always keep all the versions I created until I’m done.  

Ok, we’re not quite done yet. There is one more step I highly recommend you do. Practice, practice, practice. Before you use your elevator pitch or speech, record it, practice it on a friend or with your partner, and ask for feedback. You don’t want your elevator pitch to sound rehearsed or manufactured. In one post I read that you don’t want anyone to feel “networked.” Remember, the purpose of your elevator pitch is to get a conversation started, to make people curious about you, your company, service, or product. You name it. One blogger suggested to use a question as a conversation starter instead of starting with your pitch. The reason being that with this question you may get some crucial information to help you “customize” your pitch.

I’m not ready yet to post my elevator pitch. I started working on it but it’s still a work in progress. I promise I’ll share it so as soon as it’s done. How about you?

Feel free to add your thoughts and recommendations. Or even better, share yours so that we can learn from it.

Talk to you next time!
Regine

“Writing is thinking. To write well is to think clearly. That’s why it’s so hard.”

Quote by David McCullough

Thanks Pixabay and rawpixel for this beautiful picture.

Tying into last week’s blog, I thought this quote from well-known American author, narrator, popular historian and lecturer David McCullough may remind you that writing about or for your business may feel really hard, because it is. It is much easier to ramble on and on instead of searching for the right word. It is hard to compose a sentence or paragraph that tells your customer or client exactly what you want them to know. I certainly can relate.

Look at it as a work in progress and keep on trying to write your best. Find your own voice, your own style. It will help your clients or customers to get to know you and ultimately feel comfortable doing business with you.

Until next time!
Regine

Powerful Stories – Powerful Marketing

Do you have problems creating a compelling marketing message? If you do, keep on reading. The book “Building a Story Brand – Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen” by Donald Miller may be the solution you’re looking for.

To set the stage for the book, let’s step back for a moment and think about this question: Why do you love a book or movie?

Here are my reasons:
Good books and movies draw me in. They take me on an adventure, transport me into a different world, and I forget everything around me. I can’t wait to turn the page or see the next scene. Imagine Harry Potter or The Lord of the Rings (yes, I do love fantasy books).

Robbi Vorhaus, a self-proclaimed Storytelling Evangelist describes it this way:
“When storytelling is great you magically connect the heart (emotion) and the head (thought), resulting in your audience experiencing – feeling – expressing – and acting – in the way you intended.”

So, how does this apply to marketing and increasing sales?
First some facts:

  • Facts tell, but stories sell. (author unknown)
  • Sales increase approximately 20-fold when a brand story is told well. (*1)
  • Despite what we are telling ourselves, we don’t buy based on logic – we buy based on how we feel and connect with a product or service, e.g. Apple products. (*2)
  • Storytelling enables marketers to develop deeper connections with their audience… (*3)
  • Great stories don’t appeal to our logic, but they often appeal to our senses. (*4)

Back to Miller and Story Brand. He wrote the book “Building A Story Brand…” describing a 7-step framework to create a story for any service or product. He explains each of the 7 elements in detail, their purpose, what to focus on, and, to make it tangible, he added a lot of examples. He also reminds us that, in order to have a clear message, we need to focus on one key service or product. If we attempt to cram too much into our message, we dilute it and lose customers as a result. The one-page Brand Script, which can be found on the author’s website under “Free Resources”, is a guide and abbreviated version of all 7 steps, ready to be used when needed.

Without further ado, let’s have a look at the 7 elements. I capitalized them so that they are easily spotted.

1. The CHARACTER aka your customer.

The question here is: What does your customer want? Use any piece of information you can get to better understand them. Start with some general information like age and gender, moving on to what they want, like, dislike; what’s important to them, to the point where you relate all these pieces of information to what they want from your product or service. The better you know and understand your customer, the better your message will be.

2. The PROBLEM or villain

What’s the problem your customer needs to solve? Your customer needs to survive, in a literal or figurative sense, or they need to strive by solving their PROBLEM. Based on Miller, problems are multi-layered, but the majority of marketing messages addresses only the most obvious layer: the EXTERNAL PROBLEM. Miller adds what he calls the INTERNAL PROBLEM or frustration with the status quo, and a PHILOSOPHICAL PROBLEM or the question “why does it matter?”. Why is that important? Because based on research the real drivers behind purchase decisions are the internal and philosophical problem. Here an example to make it tangible: Imagine Tesla, the electric car company and a customer in need of a new car. The external problem is the need for a new car. The internal problem could be not wanting to drive a gas guzzler or spending too much money on gas. The philosophical problem is wanting a car that is eco-friendly.   

3. The GUIDE aka you or your product

As the GUIDE you have three tasks: Firstly, encourage your customer by solving their problem and helping them to succeed. How you accomplish this depends on your product or service and of course your personality. Secondly, you show empathy and understanding for their situation, their problem, or frustration. Put yourself in their shoes to make them feel “…heard, seen and felt.” (*5) Thirdly, demonstrate that you are the expert and authority who can help them solve their problem by using testimonials, statistics, awards, a portfolio…. to mention just a few.  

4. The PLAN

The PLAN explains the path to success. All business transactions contain the risk of loss, at least from the customer’s point of view. With your PLAN you have the opportunity to address, reduce or even eliminate the sense of risk related to your product or service. How? Offer a money-back-guarantee, list all customer concerns in a Q & A and show if x happens, we do y, provide some instructions on what to do before buying your product, or what to do after your customer has bought your product.

5. CALL TO ACTION

Miller considers the power of the CALL TO ACTION extremely underused to the detriment of the company’s bottom line. According to him a measured approach in all your marketing material will make a big difference. Depending on your product or service it could be a DIRECT CALL TO ACTION such as “order now”, “call now”, or a TRANSACTIONAL CALL TO ACTION offering a sample, a test run, or a freebie. The transactional call to action has the great advantage of allowing your customer to get to know you, your product, your work which helps them to develop trust, build a relationship and as a result, lessens the risk of loss.

6. AVOID FAILURE

Here our customer learns “What’s at stake for them?” Or what will they lose if they don’t buy your product or service. A cognitive psychological phenomenon lies behind this step called: Loss Aversion. In a nutshell: people tend to prefer avoiding losses to acquiring equivalent gains. But, don’t be a fear monger. Think of this step as the salt in the soup. If you add to much you ruin it, if you add to little it tastes bland.

7. ENDS IN SUCCESS

ENDS IN SUCCESS is the last element in the Story Brand framework and also known as “story gap”. Simply put, a story gap is the description of the before and after. It serves the purpose of showing your customer where you will lead them, what they will gain by buying your product or service. Your job is it to create a compelling and achievable future (or after) that your customer is keen on reaching. Nancy Duarte gives a great TED talk about story gaps and why they are so powerful. A little hint: one of the examples she uses is the “I have a dream” speech by Martin Luther King Jr.

Got curious? Grab the book. There is so much more in it and you’ll be able to create your own Brand Script. It’s fun and may help you think about marketing your product or service in a different way.

I’d love to hear from you. What do you think about Story Brand? What is your secret marketing weapon?

Until next time in my “Book Corner”
Regine

(*1) Digital Marketing Institute; Article: 6 Storytelling trends marketing leaders should know about.
(*2) A TEDx Talk Perth by Bernadette Jiwa
(*3) Forbes Online; Article: 3 Reasons why storytelling should be a priority for marketers
(*4) Seth’s Blog: Ode: How to tell a great story
(*5) Building A Story Brand, page 79

Disclaimer:
I’m not related, sponsored, affiliated nor do I receive any commission or other benefits from Story Brand. My intention it to share tools and ideas that I find interesting and helpful.