By Sandy Hershelman
Elevator Pitch: A
slang term referring to the 20 to 60 seconds an entrepreneur has
to interest a venture capitalist in his or her business
No matter what your business, you should have an "elevator
pitch." The underlying premise is to imagine that you're
in an elevator with a potential client or investor. He is captive
for the length of the elevator ride.
"So, what do you do?" Donald Trump asks politely.
What you say to The Donald in those 30 precious seconds make, or
break, the first impression. This is why you should craft a well
practiced description of the benefits of using your company's product
and/or service. Sounds like you're writing a commercial, huh? Exactly.
Now, in the small town where I live, there's only one elevator within
30 miles. . .and it only goes up one floor. Chances are my magical
happen between floors. It'll happen at a party, in line at
the grocery store, or while I'm getting your tires rotated.
Your pitch needs to be well rehearsed, but sound like it's
off-the-cuff, casual conversation. Delivery is key. Smile, and look
them in the eye.
- Keep your pitch short and sweet, less than 150 words. My own
pitch is under 100 words. Then again, I have no problem winging
perfect strangers—and could talk for hours.
- Respect your
comfort zone, or you may not throw the pitch.
- Solve their problem.
No matter what your business does, you are solving a problem
by providing a service that someone else can't (or
doesn't want to) do.
- Keep it simple, in layman's language—no
trade lingo or acronyms. If you're not sure exactly how to pitch
without the lingo, ask your customers to describe you.
- Grab their
attention with a "hook," something sure
to spark questions.
- Depending on your business, you may need
to have more than one pitch, each tailored to different audiences.
passionate about what you do, and let it show.
- Make sure your
employees are well versed in the pitch, too.
Some marketing gurus say to conclude your pitch with a request
to contact them again. Be very careful with that one. If
it's appropriate to exchange business cards, do so. If not, make
a note of whom you pitched. It may come in handy later.
If someone asked me, "So Sandy, what do you do?" And
I said, "I make Web sites." Do you think anyone
would be impressed? While the statement is quite true,
it does nothing to stimulate
conversation. "Oh," may
be the best response I'd get to that one. After all, there
are probably more Web designers and massage therapists
per capita in my small town than anywhere else in the world.
Since I'm not usually hanging out in elevators, I prefer
to break my elevator speech into two parts. "I market
businesses. I was a freelance journalist and photographer
for about a dozen years. These days I work primarily with
small business owners, schools and non-profits to help them tell their story
an eye-catching way. I design Web sites, newsletters and
other printed materials to help them effectively market their product or service."
More often than not, they reply at that point. Often, it was
spent as a journalist" that piqued their interest. It was "my
hook." Most people feel they can't write, and they
truly value that skill.
I intentionally repeated, "help them." It's my
hands-on approach people are buying. I'm not just working
for them; I'm working with them. As far as my pitch, I
to be interested in me. I am my company.
From there, I continue, "Desktop publishing was a
natural use of my writing and photography skills. From
there, the Web
was a perfect
progression. Words, photos, pretty colors. . .it's such
a wonderful medium. . .I just love it!"
Sometimes the imaginary elevator doors open and we part
ways. But more often than not, we continue to chat—and
this is a good thing.
Self-promotion can be tough. As much as I know I should
have it in my pitch, I can't bring myself to actually say, "I've
won numerous awards for my writing, photography and desktop publishing." I
have "award-winning" in my e-mail signature line and
on my Web site, but saying it in casual conversation with a stranger
just doesn't feel right. Of course, there are situations where
it would be critical to include it—and I would. In
today's market, you can't afford to be humble.