Can you explain what you’re about in thirty seconds?
If not, you have yet to master the “elevator pitch.” This 30-second summary of your company and its mission might seem like a trivial exercise in brevity. But its implications for your brand, your unique value proposition, and your company extend far beyond the elevator.
If you have a new small business, someone is eventually to ask what it is that you do. It’s not enough to have an answer. You should have a good answer. An answer that generates interest. Having a go-to elevator pitch for your company will enhance your networking, clarify your mission, and make you a better representative of your business. Here’s how to create an elevator pitch that makes people want to know more:
Get Clear About Your Unique Value
There’s something your business does better than anyone else. Maybe you’re the first business to tackle a specific problem, or a rare business to combine two different niches to solve a problem people didn’t even know they had. But whatever it may be, your first goal should be to settle on the unique value proposition you offer and weave it into your pitch.
Not sure about what that is? Then it’s time to get clear about what you do. According to QuickSprout[DK1], the top tactic for developing a strong value proposition is clearly explaining the value of products and services. It may take more time to do this than you imagined. If you have a complicated service, narrowing it down to one sentence might take some time.
The importance here is finding clarity. Think about the following questions:
- Why should someone be interested in you?
- What problem does your business solve?
- What is it about your business that makes you unique from other businesses?
- What’s the most interesting thing you do that you can fit into 30 seconds?
Even in an unofficial elevator pitch or casual conversation, you don’t have much time to win people over with an explanation of your company. Not before their eyes start glazing over, at least. Make use of that time by getting very clear about your unique value—and doing it quickly.
Tell a Story
Thirty seconds might not be enough time to regale your audience with an epic like the Iliad, but it’s certainly enough time to tell a story.
At its essence, a business’s story comes down to two elements: problem and solution. There’s a problem out there, and your business is the one that’s ready to solve it. Think of the elevator as a two-act structure: there’s the conflict and then the resolution. (Sorry, but 30 seconds likely isn’t enough time to introduce a cast of characters).
What’s the story of your business? Only you can answer that. But you should familiarize yourself with effective elevator presentations to get a sense for how your story might sound. Forbes’ guide on the perfect elevator pitch even recommends putting your elevator pitch down on paper before you start.
To make your elevator pitch feel like a story, sit down with a piece of paper and brainstorm. But jot down each thought in one of two categories: problem and solution. If any extraneous bits of information work their way in, you’ll likely find they don’t belong in either category. Since this is an elevator pitch we’re talking about, cut out the fluff and stick with the interesting parts that comprise a brief story.
If you tell your elevator story to someone and they still have questions, that’s usually a good thing. You want to hear questions that sound like “Can I have your business card?” and “are you taking on new clients?”
But there are some questions you don’t want to hear. “So what kind of industry do you serve, exactly?” is the kind of question that means your elevator pitch still needs some work.
As Harvard Business Review notes in their article “How to Perfect an Elevator Pitch”—" Practice, practice, practice. Very few people have the oratorical power to make [a] compelling 15-second speech about their entire professional lives on demand and under pressure.” Your elevator pitch isn’t done simply because you’ve put something on paper. It’s something you can tweak. It’s something you can correct as you gather feedback. It’s something you can continually mold and improve upon, increasing your confidence with every delivery.
Bring It Down to One Sentence
Having trouble cutting out the fluff? Try this experiment: explain what it is you do in one sentence. It doesn’t have to be a short sentence, but it should be clear and focused. “I consult businesses and teach them how to build their brand on Instagram” is an example—it gets the essential information across.
Bringing your elevator pitch down to one sentence might be difficult at first. You want all of that great information about your product or service to shine. But remember that most people hearing an elevator pitch are thinking about one thing: what you can do for them. If they have a problem you can solve, tell them that’s what you do right away. Cutting out the extraneous information will force you to get to the core of your unique value proposition.
The phrase “elevator pitch” can be a bit misleading. It doesn’t always have to be a pitch. It doesn’t have to be anything you don’t want it to be—after all, it’s your time.
Your elevator pitch should be the business card version of your website’s “About Me” page. Think of it as a simple foot in the door. It doesn’t have to wow anyone or blow their hair back—it only needs to communicate the most powerful parts about what makes your company tick. If they’re a potential customer, they’re going to be interested. If they’re not, they’re not.
Ultimately, your elevator pitch should be a quick summary of what your company does and why it does it. After you jot down your ideas, practice it when someone asks what you do for a living or what company you represent. Over time, you’ll get a sense of what draws interest and what doesn’t—as long as you use that feedback, you’ll eventually land on an elevator pitch that consistently creates genuine buzz for your company.