The Elevator Pitch
Here's How You 'Lift' Your Business
Do you need an elevator pitch? Yes, because it will lift your chances of success. It’s that simple. But simple is often not easy. So, first off, what is an elevator pitch?
What is an elevator pitch? We use the American word for ‘lift’ and the idea is that you find yourself getting into the elevator with someone who is potentially important to your business. An investor, a big boss, a decision maker. Someone who could make a big difference if they knew about your product or service and really ‘got it’.
So you have the time it takes to go a few floors to tell them about it. You’ve got in reality about 30 seconds to pitch your business. How are you going to explain your idea or your product or service in that time? Think how fast a TikTok video is. About that long. So what have you got?
You know that thing they tell you about TikTok? If you start the video with you taking a breath – they’ve scrolled past by the time you speak. You do not have long for an elevator pitch so every word has to count. But cramming the words in like some manic rapper is clearly not going to work. It’s not the amount of words. It is their quality.
Every word must count.
Who Does It Help?
If you can pare back your message to a core 30-second focus then –
• You can convey that message confidently to investors, big-hitters, change makers
• They are not the only ones who hear and understand this concentrated message.
So do you. An elevator pitch helps get it clear in your mind exactly what it is you are doing or are aiming to do. It helps you just as much as it helps others. And if you can’t explain the idea in 30 seconds, perhaps the problem lies in the business model or idea, not your inability to describe it.
So what do you need to say or include in your elevator pitch?
What Must You Include?
What is we keep reminding ourselves of in our business idea? That’s right, we’re fixing a problem. So that’s what you lead with. What is the problem and who has that problem? Then you present your solution. Then explain why your solution is the best one – the most cost effective, the most environmentally sound, the most helpful to people, whatever it is. That’s your value proposition. Then a wrap up that is always a call to action. What would you like the listener to do next?
Let’s give an example.
In The Elevator
Let’s assume you are literally doing an elevator pitch. You step in just behind that Very Important Person, the doors close. it’s just the two of you. You’re on the ground floor. They’ve pressed Floor 3. Go.
Panic. Can’t think of a thing to say. Should you introduce yourself? Discuss the weather? Maybe leave it till another time, like in about a hundred years from now. Nope. This is the moment. Seize the moment. Breathe in. The lift is starting to move.
Introduce yourself. Politely, calmly, with a smile. Explain what it is you do. Then explain the problem, give your solution, which includes why you’re the best person/organisation to do this, then give a call to action. Thank them for their time just as the doors open. It’s done. You may have just made a huge leap forward, and you lost nothing apart from some breaths.
Elevator Pitch Example
There are all kinds of templates and things you can find online to help but there’s nothing quite like a real example. Here, shorn of the front and back, is the pitch for WeWorks, the office rental space business:
‘There are 40 million independent workers in the US: consultants, freelancers, and small business owners. Solving office space is tough and expensive, especially in cities like New York. We created the concept of space as a service. We have 20 locations in the city, where people can rent a desk or an office without any of the complications of a traditional lease, effectively saving at least 25% of the cost. They get access to a shared front desk, mailroom, and a community of like-minded people.’
Notice, explain the problem, explain how you are the solution. Notice it’s not just facts, there’s that nice bit about ‘community of like-minded people’ – this thing is a social service as well as a business opportunity.
But what now? That’s it, explain the problem and the solution? Wait until the doors open on the lift? No.
Now we have to make something happen. What do you want to happen? Would you like to leave that person with a business card? Ask if they would be interested in a follow-up call as a business opportunity for them? Say you’re starting a funding round soon and would they like to get in early? Offer them a deal if they wanted in?
Something. Something that means the pitch doesn’t end as the doors open.
Instead your pitch should be something that opens doors.
Practice your elevator pitch. In front of the mirror, in front of a friend, get used to telling the story. Because that's what you're doing, storytelling. Here's a quick course on storytelling. Good luck and feel free to share your pitch with us as we'll give you honest feedback.