Imagine you happen to get in an elevator alone with someone who has the power to change your life. Maybe it’s an executive at a venture capital firm who might be able to fund your start-up or a world-renown journalist who can feature your company in an upcoming article.
You have their full attention for approximately 30 seconds before the doors open and they walk off. It’s an opportunity that you won’t want to miss. What do you say? How do you communicate your company’s value (or your personal value) in such a short amount of time? This is the premise of an elevator pitch.
The typical definition of an elevator pitch is a short, memorable description of your company and your product. However, it’s actually more about condensing your value proposition into a compelling story.
There are a lot of ways to write an elevator pitch, but we recommend modeling it off of Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle or the Why, How, What framework. This framework is also helpful with crafting compelling mission statements that align your employees to your core values. We highly recommend watching his Ted Talk!
“It’s not about what you do, it’s why you do it”
Let’s walk through putting an elevator pitch together. We’re going to use Apple as our example that we’ll walk through step by step.
In the framework, the “why” is at the center and is the core reason why your company exists. This is your answer to the infamous “so what” and “why should I care” questions.
If your why is compelling, it will be more likely to resonate with folks who hear about your company and be more memorable. Some questions to think of would be: What problem are you trying to solve and why did that compel you to create your company?
Now let’s go back to our example of Apple. Back in the late 1970s, computers were a relatively new idea to the general public. Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak found that the current models were unaffordable and not practical to use. The reason why they created Apple was to challenge this status quo.
The “how” in the second ring gets at your company’s value proposition. How are you different from other competitors in the same market? What sets you apart? If the why resonates with the person, the how really piques the investor’s interest.
Going back to our Apple example, the way Apple challenged the status quo was by introducing a sleek design that was intuitive to use.
If you can answer these questions, you are 90% of the way done. You might have noticed that we didn’t include the “what” ring. Because you only have 30 seconds, you probably won’t have time to get into the details of what you do on the day-to-day. You should definitely be familiar with what your company is currently doing, but keeping it towards the end ensures you get to the important stuff.
Here’s a template for an elevator pitch. Change it up to fit your brand voice and style.
Hi ___, my name is ___ and I’m the founder of ___.
[how you came across the problem; talk about industry]
[describe the opportunity you saw; the “why” you identified]
I wanted to create a company that [value proposition; the “how” you identified]
Thanks for listening and do you have any questions? Here’s my card/linked in
Hi! My name is Steve Jobs and I am the founder of Apple. I believe that computers are the tools of the future because of their capability as an external memory bank. Unfortunately, the models on the market are super expensive and impractical to use.
I created Apple with the goal to challenge that status quo. We want to empower people with this powerful tool of innovation and bring personal computers to the public. We are focused on designing our computers with the user’s experience in mind and making sure our products look amazing.
Once you have the draft, run through it and make edits as needed. You generally want to keep it down to 30 seconds or less. If you have a good elevator pitch, the person listening will want to learn more, which will spark conversations down the road.
Your elevator pitch is the most important thing to consider before you have a product that you can show people. It is the way you express what you are doing, it is how you convince someone to listen to you. This is a work in progress, and it will take time, but it is imperative that you have a well worked through elevator pitch.
Your pitch is always important, even when your product is live. While it is slightly less important since you have a product to show for your business, it is still important when it comes to having day to day conversations with anyone. Never under-estimate the power of your pitch!