How to craft an elevator pitch

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Convince a customer or investor in under 60 seconds

One of the most effective communications tools at your disposal as an entrepreneur is a short, sharp ‘elevator pitch’ that describes what your business does in 60 seconds or less. Knowing how to quickly tell someone what you can do for them, and what you would like in return, can help maximise a random encounter with a potential customer.

It’s also a great way to capture the attention and interest of an investor looking to buy into your business. You may want to bring on board a talented colleague as a partner or employee. Your elevator pitch can be useful if you manage to get an interview with a journalist or radio broadcaster.

If you attend networking events, an elevator pitch serves as a conversation starter that leads to sharing more information about your company.

Overcoming short attention spans

According to a study by the National Centre for Biotechnology Information, the average human attention span has dropped from 12 seconds to eight seconds since 2000. In a world dominated by information overload, an elevator pitch can make all the difference between getting your message out there or not at all.

If it sounds tough to sum up your business in a short pitch not much longer than a tweet, you may need to refine your value proposition. Perhaps you need to reflect on why your customers love your products and services, and why your business is different.

Here is some of the content you could include in an elevator pitch. Some of the specifics might vary if you are talking to an investor, a customer or prospective employee:

  • The problem, challenge or opportunity your customer faces
  • A description of your product or service, and how it addresses the customer’s challenge
  • For a pitch to a funder or investor, your business/revenue model and the size of your market
  • Your performance to date – case studies or metrics illustrating your success
  • The action you’d like to inspire from the person listening to you
  • What you can specifically do for the listener – with a focus on both rational and emotional benefits

Tips from the king of the pitch

James Oliver Jr. got to the second round of auditions for the popular TV show “Shark Tank” twice on the back of his elevator pitch skills. He writes:

“Knowing how to effectively give a 60-second elevator pitch of your business can be the difference between getting the attention of a potential investor or not. This can mean having to eat more noodles or having enough cash to be able to buy real food while you keep grinding to build your business.

“If you can’t quickly and succinctly describe what your business does, and exactly what you’re asking for from a potential investor, you either don’t understand your business well, or simply don’t have a compelling idea.” 

Focus on the listener

A great elevator pitch focuses on the needs of the listener and aims to connect mind and heart. Avoid using industry jargon, buzzwords and hyperbole. Rather use language that outlines what you do, what you have achieved and the value you can create.

A simple example for a company selling solar panels and battery systems as a backup to Eskom power could be:

“Tired of sitting in the dark or listening to the loud hum of your generator when the lights go out? Our solar battery system offers you a green, quiet and affordable backup power source. If you experience eight hours of power outages a month and each hour costs you R500 in lost productivity, it will pay for itself in just one year.

“We have already installed our product in 200 homes and businesses. Can we set a time to discuss how we can help relieve your load shedding headaches?” 

It’s not uncommon for business owners to struggle with explaining what it is they do. This can lead to others perceiving them as unprofessional. Writing, refining and memorising your pitch means you won’t be at a loss for words when creating a good impression depends on telling a compelling story.

Once you have an elevator pitch you are happy with, you’ll be able to tell your story in other formats. This could be on your website, in proposals, press releases, presentations or brochures.

Looking for further inspiration? Check out the elevator pitches and short slide decks that have helped put companies like Airbnb, Tesla and Facebook on the road to success.

Once you have mastered this and are now taking the next step, you should try GoDaddy’s Website Builder to turn your business into an online success.

This article has been adapted from an original piece by James Oliver Jr. 

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