You’ve just run into a potential client at the bar, or perhaps you’re at a networking event and learn the person you’re talking to invests in businesses like yours. After the typical handshakes and exchange of pleasantries, she asks you: “So, what does your company do exactly?”
Your business life flashes before your eyes. This could be the turning point for you and your company. If you can catch her attention immediately, you could land a sale, make a business partner or receive an influx of startup capital. But if you fumble, ramble or make no sense at all, the potential opportunities will slip through your fingers.
What you need in this moment is an Elevator pitch: a short, catchy, to-the-point statement about what your business does, and why it’s important for the other person to care about it.
"The purpose of an Elevator Pitch is to describe a situation or solution so compelling that the person you're with wants to hear more even after the elevator ride is over," explains Seth Godin, an American entrepreneur and former dot-com business executive.
But it's not easy crafting a short, memorable statement, and it can be nerve-wracking delivering this statement the first (or tenth) time. When the elevator pitch is the turning point for your business, take a deep breath and following these strategies.
1. Set Your Goal/Determine Your Theme
Every company or business has a different brand persona, theme and niche. From the polished and perfect (e.g. Apple, Lexus) to the whimsical and fun (e.g. Aritzia, Etsy), what's yours?
Think back through your accomplishments and make a list of your biggest hits. Take a look at your brand's voice and personality. Then, narrow in on one accomplishment that you think best suits your brand and best exemplifies your business’ personality.
2. Create a Single Statement of What You Do
Toss out corporate speak and buzzwords, recommends Forbes. Remember, an elevator pitch isn’t a 10-slide Powerpoint. It’s meant to be short and to the point. In plain language, what is it that your business does?
Then, spend 10 minutes refining this. Edit like a madman. Cut out words that mean nothing and are simply filler (e.g. “cutting edge” or “synergy”). Ask for feedback from someone who knows nothing about what you do (it’s easy to accidentally use language that only people in your core industry understand).
3. Identify Your Customer
If you have a mission and vision statement, they’ll come in use here. Identify your target audience. Get more specific than just “women in their 40s” or “stay-at-home dads.” Know exactly who you want to reach, and write one or two sentences that describe your ideal clients and customers.
4. Connect the Dots
Now, connect what your company does with who your company serves. Why does your company’s purpose and activities matter to your core audience? Why is it important to them? This is, essentially, your unique selling proposition (USP).
It helps to turn it into a benefit statement. Here’s a template to use:
“I help/teach/work with ________ (ideal client) to ________ (feature of your business) so they can _________ (benefit/solve a specific problem).”
For example: “We help stressed college students to write urgent essays so they can focus on excelling in school.”
5. Now Make It Snappy
The above four steps are the typical steps that someone follows to create your traditional elevator speech. And while the end result is fine, you can do better. Successful startups, entrepreneurs and business people know how to take your typical elevator speech and send it to the proverbial top floor.
“You’ve got to break their expectations,” advises the Harvard Business Review. “If you want to be interesting, you need to stand out. [...] Break the patterned thought process that made them ask the question in the first place.”
You could start with a problem statistic or surprising fact (e.g. "Did you know 56% of employees struggle with productivity?" Or you could go for something noddable, such as an inspirational quote from a business leader.
Now that you’ve grabbed their attention, you can move into the actual elevator speech that you crafted above.
The Art of the Delivery
The success of your elevator speech is as much about how you deliver it as it is how you write it. If you want your pitch to come across powerfully and confidently, make sure you:
● Practice, practice, practice. Do it in front of a mirror. Record yourself on your smartphone and observe your body language. Tweak and adjust accordingly.
● Speak slowly. This makes your pitch easier to understand, and it also makes you appear more confident and authoritative.
● Breathe slowly. This will naturally slow your speech, and also help you to stay calm and reduce nervousness.
● Be flexible. Every circumstance or person you speak with will be slightly different. Be open to the possibilities of changing your pitch slightly to best match the circumstance.
Steff Holloway is a blogger from Newark. She contributes content to marketing blogs and she's working hard on her first book. Feel free to check her articles on WritersPerHour.