I can’t begin to count the number of nervous eyes I have seen in entrepreneurs whenever you ask them that they do. You might as well have just asked them where their birth-mark was, or what they hate most about their own body. It’s this incredibly big question to them, to me. It’s a mountain.
A 2–4 sentence description of your business that you could give in the time it takes to ride an elevator with an executive. It should inform the listener clearly about what service or product you offer and differentiate you.
The idea to write about this came from a business networking circle at the place where I work. You can always tell those people who have been through a business program, or are doing some executive course. They always have these nifty little speeches they give about themselves. So slick, so sales-centric. I am always completely impressed by it, and in turn feel totally dejected. Why is my own idea not that simple? What am I missing? I’m in marketing! I do this all day for other people! You can read my other article about the internal battle here.
Setting aside my selfish need to critique, and putting on a more objective lens, though, it’s pretty funny how un-helpful an elevator pitch can be. I’ll be honest, after feeling so impressed by those people, I completely forgot what they said. Not one single notion of what they do. The whole purpose of their pithy pitch was to give me a memorable nugget to recall later. Mission failed. It was so short, so well-crafted, but completely forgettable. I even remember thinking, “I need to talk to that person,” and have completely forgotten why.
All these wild-eyed entrepreneurs slave over this piece. It’s hard to think you can even start your business without your “Elevator Pitch” fully refined and packaged, but the truth is that I think its success-rate and necessity haven’t been challenged in a while. In its defense, it does show clarity and confidence. The speaker really knows what they are about on the surface. They have spent some time learning how to speak about their service or product. That counts for a lot. But I have also met a lot of confident liars. People that could get business in the door with their bravado and clarity, then had a hard time following through on their promises. Like dogs who finally catch the car, they are totally ill-equipped to do anything more than chase. But that’s only a few cases. I have a friend , Kurt Kersey, that is an incredibly clear communicator, has a SICK elevator pitch and also knows how to knock it out of the park where the rubber meets the road. So I’m not really against the idea. But, should self-starters really be held up by not having a clean, clear pitch?
There’s another way.
In that hypothetical elevator ride, why not just ask the other person about themselves? “I am passionate about helping business and serving them well through branding and marketing. What do you do? Maybe I could help you?”
You see at this point, you are more about your passion for others than your self. Everyone hates a prig. People will listen to people who care about them. My dad, when teaching us kids how to interact with other people in a social setting would say, “Try to spend 2/3 of the time listening and 1/3 of the time talking. If you find yourself talking the whole time, you’re doing it wrong. Ask more questions.” Why can’t the elevator pitch be the same ratio? Quick passion statement (which we all know we have) and then jump to the other person. Turn the elevator ride into a meeting, and a meeting into a project, and that project into 10 more projects. Even if a word-vomit is pretty clean, it’s still just vomit.
I mentioned Kurt Kersey earlier, the caveat to his clean pitch is that he actually has a highly relational nature. He probably wouldn’t have even dropped it on you until he had asked about 15 questions and gotten to know you a bit. He subdues it to the top priority of relationship.
If you have a hard time talking about yourself and your business, then don’t. Start with your passion and what you love, why you care. We all know this much more readily. It’s better to just start. Whatever it is you want to do and however you care to serve and learn, don’t delay launching because you are afraid of not having the right pitch.
No I need to go build my website…