Crafting a great elevator pitch—a quick, persuasive speech that outlines what’s great about your business idea—is harder than it sounds.
The idea is that if you were to give your pitch to a complete stranger in an elevator, you would deliver a message so powerful it moves that person to take action (invest, come aboard, spread the word) by the end of the ride. How do you sum up your entire business—including the passion, logistics, products, service, and drive that make it all work—in just a minute or so?
A spot-on elevator pitch is becoming even more important in the online era. Now your elevator pitch can take the form of a tweet, a LinkedIn profile description, a tagline, or an about page on a website. Across platforms, that brand message should be consistent and spark real interest.
You need to start by shaping your elevator pitch. Here, the process is just as valuable as the end product. Do it right, and you’ll learn a wealth of information about what your ideal customer thinks, and how to connect with them in an authentic way that drives the business forward.
How to Craft an Elevator Pitch in 5 Steps
Here’s how to pin down your perfect elevator pitch in five steps:
1. Get Inside Your Customer’s Head
When helping companies shape their core message, many brand agencies offer up an ideal client persona.
This is an individual with a name, a family, a job, a home, and unique interests. They just happen to be entirely made up, only grounded in real life. It’s important to understand your customer on a wide range of levels—from how they think to what they actually do on a daily basis.
Perhaps you start by researching U.S. census data to determine how many potential customers are out there, and where they live. Knowing the on-the-ground facts is vital. But to do this step right, you need more than statistics, charts, and numbers. You need to make it personal and get inside your customer’s head.
Interview or do a day-in-the-life observation of a potential customer in your target market, especially if it’s a niche market. Try to understand their core motivations, their pain, fears, and beliefs. You’ll be surprised how much insight you gain on the marketplace and your industry, and how your small business can and will serve it better.
Your elevator pitch is your quick-and-dirty description of your business. But you should be prepared for people to prod you about your business after you give it. If upon further questioning you don’t know your stuff about your customer, business, or industry, you’ve lost that person as a partner or client.
2. Pinpoint the Issue You’re Solving
So what are your customers’ pain points? What problem does your product or service solve? This is the first step in figuring out how to market your business, and at the end of the day, that’s what an elevator pitch is: one-to-one marketing.
Sometimes, it helps to exaggerate this step like the beginning of a bad infomercial. Picture a person pulling their hair out because they can’t open a jar and going to Lucille Ball-esque lengths to get the job done.
How do your potential customers feel now—before your product steps in to save the day? What goes through their mind when deciding how to navigate that particular situation? What do they really want at that moment? By answering these questions, you’ll be able to step in with the right message at the right time.
3. Tell a Story
Think of the story of your business in terms of a beginning, middle, and end. People like a good story. Especially a story that builds up to something interesting—a turning point moment with a powerful message.
This doesn’t have to take an age to tell either. In fact, it shouldn’t take an age to tell. The best elevator pitches convey the business’s story in 2 or 3 phrases—short, simple, and direct.
Once you define your business’s story, you can figure out a way to string the first three steps together in a quick way that will really impact the person you’re trying to reach.
For example, when talking to a bookkeeper about online time tracking software, you could say, “The original idea for our company actually came from a bookkeeper. She was frustrated with the late, error-filled, handwritten timesheets that took hours to enter into Excel spreadsheets, making payroll a nightmare. So we worked with a software developer to design a custom solution that would work anywhere, in real-time. Now we’re the number one rated app for Intuit and QuickBooks. Still a total hit with bookkeepers worldwide.”
4. Define Your Takeaway
When it’s all said and done, did anything come out of the exchange? It’s up to you to decide what you want your call-to-action (that’s right, CTAs are not just for your website) to be, and how to work it in.
Be realistic. Handing off a business card might not make the magic happen, but getting the person’s name and following up with an email will give you a much better shot.
Or think about messaging them on social media with a quick link and thank you for hearing you out. The key is to first spark interest, then back that up with a way to take action that makes sense in the context of that person’s overall life.
5. Use Your Echo Chamber
An echo chamber is your audience, tribe, or customer base.
It’s important to test out your message in an echo chamber, because that’s the only way to know if it works. Saying your message out loud to key people you want to reach will help you trim the fat and get rid of marketing jargon that doesn’t really connect.
Ask your test subjects what resonated with them as well as what they didn’t understand. This is an ongoing editing and testing process, because every person is different, and the marketplace is always changing. However, by focusing on delivering a consistent, engaging message to your echo chamber, you’ll make your voice heard over the long run.
The Final Word on Elevator Pitches
The perfect elevator pitch to the right ears could be what launches your startup into the successful business it was meant to be.
That’s why your elevator pitch is an important exercise to put time and effort into—and revisit over and over again. It helps define a brand that lasts, and win future business.
Say it straight and say it great. Then see your profits rise accordingly.
Eric Goldschein is the partnerships editor at JustBusiness and Fundera.
Eric Goldschein has a decade of experience in digital media, writing and reporting on entrepreneurship, finance, business lending, marketing, and small business data and trends. He has written for a number of outlets including Business Insider, HuffPost, Men’s Journal, BigCommerce, Volusion, Square, RetailNext, Zenefits, and Keap.