In the early stages of your business funds are tight and resources are often dedicated to bringing the physical products and services to life ( i.e., building prototypes, designing websites, making samples), so marketing can seem more like a luxury when mapping out your budget. But one of the cheapest and most effective marketing tools at your disposal 24/7 is word of mouth, especially when the message is coming from the you, the founder. Every interaction is an opportunity to spread the word about your business and spark an interest in what you’re offering. As a start-up, it’s not only critical that you seize each one of these opportunities but that you drive home the key takeaways about your business:
Who you are?
How you add value?
Who you add value for?
Why you/ your business (in particular) is best suited for the job?
HOW ARE YOU INTRODUCING YOUR BUSINESS? YOUR 30-SECOND ELEVATOR PITCH
The most effective way to maximize each first impression is to construct a 30-second elevator pitch about your business or your brand. This allows you to be in control of the message that is being communicated and ensures that the listener walks away with the key takeaways about your business. Keeping it short is intentional as people are most attentive in the first minute of a conversation. In addition, there are a lot of situations where you only have a short amount of time with someone (i.e., in an elevator, at a networking event); you don’t want any opportunity to go to waste.
The inputs to your pitch:
Who you are
What problem you are solving
How you are solving the problem (your product/service)
Who has this problem (your target market)
Why you are uniquely positioned to solve this problem (your competitive advantage)
Customized ending (depending on who your audience is)
Let’s walk through an example: Say you started a environmental consulting agency for luxury clothing…
My name is Samantha Jones, I run an environmental consulting agency for luxury clothing companies. A lot of luxury clothing brands want to be more environmentally conscious, but risk doing so at the cost of design and ascetic appeal. So we have merged environmental engineers with leading fashion designers to provide cutting edge solutions that are environmentally sustainable without compromising design or prestige. Our employees are a mix of engineers and designers that go through a vigorous six month training program to ensure that everyone speaks the same language. You had mentioned that you run a clothing line on the West Cost, does your company incorporate green initiatives into its objectives?
Let’s break down this elevator pitch to see how all of the inputs were incorporated:
Who your business is: "I run an environmental consulting agency..."
Who has this problem: "for luxury clothing companies..."
What problem are you solving: "A lot of luxury clothing brands want to be more environmentally conscious, but risk doing so at the cost of design and ascetic appeal..."
How are you solving the problem: "we have merged environmental engineers with leading fashion designers to provide cutting edge solutions that are environmentally sustainable without compromising design or prestige..."
Why is your business uniquely positioned to solve this problem: "Our employees are a mix of engineers and designers that go through a vigorous six month training program to ensure that everyone speaks the same language..."
Customized ending: "You had mentioned that you run a clothing line on the West Cost; does your company incorporate green initiatives into its objectives?"
THE CUSTOMIZED ENDING IS CRITICAL...
The goal is to incentivize a call to action from the listener depending on where mutual benefit may lie (i.e., a potential investor, customer, business partner, follower). Customize the ending of your pitch in a way that engages the listener into the conversation based on their potential role. In the example above the listener was a potential customer, so asking them about their experience is a way to engage them in the conversation and see if an area of opportunity existed for both parties. Perhaps the listener is a potential investor, so the call to action would be getting them to set up a meeting with you. This should be incorporated into the ending of the pitch (i.e., “I’d love to chat further…").
PRACTICE YOUR PITCH
Being able to clearly and concisely communicate the core purpose of your business and its unique competitive advantage is a critical success factor as an entrepreneur. If you struggle to explain what your business is about it’s a red flag for potential investors, and likely a loss of a potential customer or follower. Practice your pitch out loud so that you can deliver it confidently when the time comes. The style and tone of your pitch should be adjusted depending on the audience you are speaking to, so practicing it with various people is a good way to rehearse different variations. But regardless of who you are speaking to your pitch should always come off as organic and conversational. A good way to test this is to ask yourself if you would be comfortable delivering it to your close friends. If the answer is no then your pitch is probably too formal.
Constructing your elevator pitch gives you a solid "go-to" every time you introduce your business, and takes the stress away from explaining to people what you do or what you are building. Take the time to put it together so that when the time comes, you’re ready!