I recently came across an interesting blog post about how to put together a good elevator pitch in a limited time. “The 15-Minute Method to Writing an Unforgettable Elevator Speech” by Kathryn Minshew is a good read. In fact, it’s just as important for those who believe that they have had the perfect elevator pitch for years – and for those who believe they don’t need one – as it is for those who recognize that their elevator pitch could use some significant improvement.
To the first group – those who feel they already have a solid elevator pitch because they’ve used it since the Reagan administration, I’d suggest that this would be a good time to see how your pitch has weathered the years. My guess is that over the last couple decades, your industry, your services and/or your clients and customers have probably changed. Your pitch needs to reflect those changes. What are your clients most interested in today?
To the second group, those who don’t believe that they need an elevator pitch, I’d suggest that most of those who claim not to have an elevator pitch actually do have one, they just don’t call it that. But when asked what they do for a living, this group likely utters the same well-worn phrases time and time again. But are they the right phrases? For this group, also, a look at how to craft a compelling elevator pitch would be time well spent.
Finally, to the third group, those who recognize that their elevator pitch could use some help, you also have come to the right place.
What’s so important about an elevator pitch?
A compelling elevator pitch is one of the most critically important – and yet woefully undervalued – of all the many marketing and business development tools and tactics out there. Why is the pitch so often overlooked? Probably because it seems so easy and straightforward that, in the words of the Geico ads from a few years ago, even a caveman could do it. And yet, a compelling elevator pitch is anything but easy. First, it has to encapsulate someone’s strategic brand and market positioning in just a few words, and second, it needs to resonate with the listener.
Additionally, the elevator pitch is so important because it’s how you introduce what you do. It’s not just for that rare opportunity when you find yourself in an elevator with a potential client or a hiring partner and you have 30 seconds to impress him or her with your talent, expertise and wit. Yes, it’s good for those opportunities, as well, but it’s important to think about the elevator pitch as how you introduce yourself to everyone you meet, day in and day out. And for that reason alone, it’s critical for you to get it right. When your elevator pitch is not working, you could be missing opportunities on a regular basis.
With that in mind, here are five insights and tips on elevator pitches and how to craft one that’s natural, meaningful and memorable:
1. It’s an elevator “pitch,” not an elevator “speech”
First, you’ll notice that I call it an elevator “pitch,” and not an elevator “speech,” as it’s often called. While the difference may seem to be just semantics, it’s actually more than that: You’re not making a speech, you’re making a pitch, and it needs to be fairly quick. Too many people don’t understand this and have memorized long, detailed monologues that seem to go on forever to the poor individual listening. This means that the “pitcher” is frequently boring their audience just when they most need to be interesting – and compelling.
To combat this somewhat natural tendency to talk on and on about the details of what we do (even when it feels as if we’re just warming up), it’s important to understand just how long 30 seconds can feel like – especially when one is on the receiving end of an elevator pitch that seems as if it’s never going to end.
2. You need a “Fast Pitch” to complement your elevator pitch
This need for speed is why I recommend also putting together a seven-second, shortened version of your elevator pitch. I call this the “Fast Pitch,” and it’s what you should use when you’re in what I would call a typical conversation with someone (i.e., a two-way discussion) and they happen to ask what you do. That’s definitely not the time to roll out your 30-second elevator pitch, as that will seem canned and artificial, neither of which is conducive to a good conversation.
Instead, a seven-second Fast Pitch can quickly tell someone what you do, and it can provide just enough detail to be interesting – and to make them want to know more. (That’s when you’ve hit gold.) And while seven seconds may seem as if it’s too short to say anything beyond, “I’m an attorney,” it’s actually more time than you think. In fact, it’s long enough for you to say something like, “I’m an attorney with a practice in estate planning, and I frequently work with people who have gone through a divorce.”
With that Fast Pitch, you would have instantly branded yourself as not just another attorney, and not even just another estate planning attorney, but as someone who will come to mind in very specific situations. That’s the essence of strategic branding and market positioning – and it’s critical that that message is conveyed early and often, i.e., through all channels of your marketing and business development initiatives. In other words, that message needs to be part of what you say, and not just what someone can read when they visit your website.
3. Don’t just write it down – you need to speak it
As Kathryn pointed out in the blog post mentioned above, there’s a huge difference between what reads well and what sounds natural when someone is speaking – and one of the most important elements of your elevator pitch is that it sounds like you, and not like overly edited marketing copy filled with jargon.
With that in mind, don’t make the common mistake of thinking that what reads well on a webpage will sound just as wonderful in a conversation; there’s a good chance that a beautifully written turn of a phrase will come off as stilted and unnatural when it’s spoken in what’s assumed to be a less-than-formal one-on-one discussion..
4. Use a trusted advisor to help you shape your elevator pitch
Feel free to try this at home, but don’t try this alone. Of course, you can make good headway on crafting your elevator pitch in the privacy of your office or while walking your dog, but I’d recommend not venturing out to your next networking event with it until you’ve had the chance to run it by someone who knows you, your business and your strategic brand.
Your trusted advisor can help you determine if it sounds natural and genuine – and if it resonates with the intended listener. (One caveat: Be sure that you run it past someone who is able to speak frankly with you.) And just as important is a question that only you can answer: Does it feel genuine? Are the words and phrases ones that you can string together without feeling self-conscious or dishonest? If not, you need to keep working on it.
5. Personalize your pitch – and one may not be enough
While you may not always know exactly to whom you’re speaking, it makes sense to personalize your elevator pitch as much as possible. Sometimes this just means tweaking the details of it based on what you know – or have to assume – about your audience.
However, depending on your practice areas and clients, this may mean that you should have two or more standard pitches, one for each of your target markets. By doing so, you’ll come off as less generic, less one-size-fits-all, and less easily forgettable. Instead, you’ll be much more memorable because – unlike most of your competitors – you’ll be seen as helping a specific type of client with a specific service. That’s niche marketing – and that can be very powerful.
What’s next? Go through the steps Kathryn recommends in her post. But don’t do it all yourself. Be sure you enlist the help of someone who can help you put together and critique your elevator pitch so that it incorporates your strategic brand and speaks to your target market in a way that addresses their needs. And of course, if you would like some professional assistance with crafting your elevator pitch, don’t hesitate to contact us at NCG Strategic Marketing. Good luck. It’s not easy, but it’s worth the effort.