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Develop a word-perfect elevator pitch in 4 easy steps

If you only have a minute to sell your business idea don’t fluff your lines. Brand language expert Liz Doig shares her secrets

If you were asked to put in a nutshell what your company does and what difference it makes – would you be able to do it?

Talking clearly and compellingly about your own business can be a surprisingly difficult thing to do.

If you’ve ever listened to another business owner rattling off a crystal-clear summary of what their company is all about and thought, “Well it’s okay for them, their proposition is so simple…” then it might be time for you to work on your own elevator pitch.

An elevator what?

Imagine you’re stepping into a lift with a potential new contact. You have the time it takes to get to the top floor to explain what your company is all about – and make them wish the doors hadn’t opened, because they want to hear more.

That’s what an elevator pitch is all about – packaging the essence of your business into the space of a couple of sentences.

I’m often surprised by how many small and mid-sized business owners and start-ups don’t have this off pat. Because it’s a straightforward thing to put together – and having it naturally at the tip of your tongue could lead to all kinds of exciting and profitable new relationships and opportunities.

1. Use words your friends would understand

Even if your service is highly technical, the people you want to buy it may not be.

As an example, let’s imagine the owner of a data storage business is talking to the owner of a recruitment company.

The data storage lady knows she wants to keep the spiel short, so this is what she says:

We offer a convenient way to manage backups which assists in mitigating risk in disaster recovery and enhancing business continuity. This has the advantage of cost savings in terms of personnel, hardware and physical storage space. Our offer is based on a cost-per-gigabyte-stored model, and we utilise our clients’ WAN or internet connection to transfer data.

By the time the lift has reached the 15th floor, she’s said it easily – but is the recruitment company owner wanting to set up a meeting or run for the hills?

2. Tell a story rather than listing out processes

Every company has procedures – and if you get far enough into a relationship with a new contact, their procurement department might want to hear about them. But as an opening gambit, they’re unlikely to inspire.

The data storage company lady might have been more successful if she’d tried an approach like this:

Imagine there’s a fire in your office. Or a flood. Or burglars break in and make a huge mess.

It’s the kind of thing you hope will never happen. But if it does, wouldn’t it be good to know that all your data – all your work and your clients’ information – is stored offsite in a high security warehouse? That would mean you could keep your business running – even from home.

That’s what my company does. We provide safe, efficient storage for all kinds of clients. If you’d like to find out more about us, please do have a look at our website – it’s here on my card…

3. Help your potential customers to feel the benefits

Most businesses have many strings to their bow – but to have a good elevator pitch, it helps if you can condense all of your activities into one meaningful line. The easiest way to do this is to think about the benefits you bring – in other words, the difference you make to your customers. We offer laundry services for all your cleaning needs.

Is clear, understandable and to-the-point. But it doesn’t spell out why it’s any different from using the dry cleaners at the supermarket.

Our clients never have to do washing or ironing – because we deliver their freshly laundered, sharply pressed clothes back to them within 24 hours. All they have to do is hang them up and call us again when their laundry basket is full. Suddenly, I don’t just know what this company does, I can imagine the benefit of using them – and picture all that beautifully ironed laundry lining up neatly in my wardrobe.

4. Know it off by heart

It may seem a bit silly at first, but practice saying your elevator pitch over and over. Say it out loud to the mirror before you brush your teeth. Say it while you’re driving to the office. Say it again before you go to bed.

Because you never know when an opportunity is going to come around the corner – and being able to sum up what your company does in a tidy, compelling snippet could lead to new relationships and new business.

Liz Doig is a director at Wordtree, the brand language specialists, which runs ‘tone of voice’ residential courses for small and mid-sized businesses. www.wordtree.com

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