I know a nice guy who owned a small beverage company. When I asked him about his company, he would ramble for 10 minutes and end up summarizing his company by saying it “provided the correct beverages based on its users’ location… like a geolocation app for beverages”. What he should have said is “We’re a beverage company focused on getting the right flavors to the right audience based on where they live in the U.S.”
Bad elevator pitches are all around us. I’m sure my friend understood his business inside and out. But what he didn’t understand was how to pitch it accurately and concisely. Call it what you want: elevator pitch, 30 second pitch, elevator statement. The point is that every good business person, especially every CEO, should memorize a quick and concise statement that accurately communicates the unique value of their company, product, or service.
Why an Elevator Pitch is so Important
As the saying goes, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. You usually get 30 seconds, at best a minute, to summarize your business before your audience has already made up their mind about it. According to Malcolm Gladwell, author of Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, decisions may actually occur in a mere two seconds. Furthermore, not only do you need a tight elevator pitch, you need to think about the proper body language, tone and approach. Get their attention, impress them quickly and leave them wanting more.
A Few Tips to Try
Cater – Be it a tradeshow, cocktail party or even a family reunion, have your pitch ready. You obviously have different goals at a trade show versus a family reunion (your goal might be to exit quickly here). So take the first 10 minutes to assess the situation and tweak your pitch if needed.
Approach – My dogs Rex and Ruby are always excited to see me. No matter if they chewed up a shoe, got into the pantry or were actually good that day, their tails are always wagging and it makes me smile. As you approach someone for the first time, make sure your tail is wagging and you’re excited to see them, even if you don’t know them. This simple approach will set the table for a successful elevator pitch.
Simple – is smart.
Polarize – Most people say “tell a story”. I say “tell a polarizing story”. Telling a story implies a classic children’s book or fairy tell; stories we’ve all heard before. Many companies were started because of a painful experience which someone wanted to fix. Tell a polarizing story. Even if it’s not pretty, people will remember it. After all we all remember the story about the person who woke up in a tub of ice with a sign attached to their body saying “call 911 we took your kidneys”.
Concrete – Give people something concrete to remember. Be it impressive sales numbers, imagery, stats, etc. Think about the best taglines in advertising “Got Milk?” “Where’s the beef?” “A diamond is forever” “You’re in good hands” they all give people an image to remember.
3 Quick Exercises
I give a lot of speeches to startups and together, we try to get their pitch down to a single tweet (140 characters). Many of the companies end up using a very similar format in their “elevator tweets”. See what you come up with:
[OUR COMPANY] is like [A DIFFERENT WELL-KNOWN COMPANY], but we’re different because we [UNIQUE FEATURE OR BENEFIT] and we make money by [REVENUE DEFINITION].
Write It Down & Edit Ruthlessly:
Write out your story in as many words as you need. Then edit. And edit ruthlessly! Delete all of the boring parts. Delete all of the unnecessary parts. Have your friends, family and people who have never heard about your company provide feedback to you. The goal is to make it shorter. Make sure you listen and pay attention to what they have to say, chances are they’re right.
There are plenty of apps for your phone or computer that you can setup to record yourself. Put them to use. I’ve been known to take it a step further by going through a dress rehearsal before a big event or tradeshow. Our company tradeshow elevator pitch has actually evolved so smoothly that we don’t even get trade show booths, we prefer to have people from our company continually walk the event and pitch. Our theory is that we can meet a greater number of people in a shorter amount of time versus if we were to have a booth where we’re constantly trying to pull people in. So far, the theory is working. A good pitch will not only land you business it will save you cash!
So what’s your pitch? Share it in the comments below and get some great feedback!
About the Author
Paul Jarrett is the Co-Founder and CEO at Bulu Box. Working from NYC to San Francisco, Paul has launched million dollar brands like Neebo and campaigns for Lowe’s. As Vice President of Marketing and Executive Board Member for Complete Nutrition, Paul built a department of ten, trained dozens of franchisees, managed over a dozen vendors, and positioned the brand in a saturated market. He helped Complete Nutrition skyrocket in growth. During this explosive growth he was bit by the startup bug. This former D1 athlete soon turned his sportsman like dedication into a passion for business and began launching nutrition goods since 2004. In 2011, Bulu Box was born. It received 3 nominations for the 2013 Silicon Prairie Awards – Startup of the Year, Paul Jarrett has been nominated as Executive of the Year, and Co-Founder and CMO Stephanie Jarrett has been nominated as Designer of the Year.