What’s a Pitch?


Before delving into how to pitch effectively or how to craft an elevator pitch, let’s start by defining what a pitch is. A pitch is a presentation of a business idea, either to potential investors, to people you would like to have as clients, or to people who could introduce you to potential clients. 

Pitching is one of the very many marketing strategies available to brands. When you have a product or offer a service, you need to be constantly pitching it and marketing it in several ways (ideally inbound marketing being the key strategy), and you work on your branding strategy.

We read somewhere that “Marketing is like asking someone on a date, and branding is the reason they say yes.” We’d like to tweak the phrase around and say “Pitching is like introducing yourself to a stranger, marketing is like asking them on a date, and branding is the reason they say yes.” You can’t go asking people on dates without first telling them who you are. So think of pitching as an introduction. There are different types of pitches, but we will be focusing on the so-called “elevator pitch” today.

What’s an Elevator Pitch?

Elevator Pitch

As defined by Dr. Todd Dewett, author and business coach, an elevator pitch is “a quality verbal extension of your business card, lasting between 15 to 20 seconds” (the duration of a brief elevator ride). You should design your elevator pitch so you always know what to answer when someone asks you “So, what do you do?” during a small, unplanned or planned encounter (it may be planned, for example, if you are attending a networking event). You never know when you’ll run into someone whose time you could never get before or might never get again, so preparing an effective elevator pitch is essential.

Elevator Pitches and Inbound Marketing

We would like to establish a connection between elevator pitches and inbound marketing. Let’s start by defining the latter: inbound marketing is a strategy that utilises many forms of “pull marketing” (understood as getting customers to come to you). Inbound marketing seeks to create brand awareness and attract new business by sparking interest in what you do. In short, inbound marketing attracts customers to you so you are not chasing them down. It helps prospects find your company in the early stages of their decision-making process, leading to a stronger influence on their future buying decisions.

When done online, inbound marketing can be put into practice through sharing valuable content (blogs, social media posts, infographics, webinars, etc.). 

“Inbound Marketing is so powerful because you give the searcher/consumer the exact answers they are looking for at the precise point that they need them. That builds trust, reputation, and authority in whatever niche you are practicing this form of marketing in.”

Joshua Gill, Inbound & SEO Marketing Consultant, Inbound Authority
Magnet and Elevator Pitch

It is also possible to execute inbound marketing verbally, i.e., face to face, and a well-delivered elevator pitch is, in my opinion, the first part of the process. To be able to share valuable content with someone in person, first you need to introduce yourself and make them interested in you and what you do. Ideally, once you have dazzled them with your elevator pitch, they will have a thousand questions for you and you will have the opportunity to give them “the exact answers they are looking for”. The result? You have created brand awareness, you have built trust, you have built authority. You have now become the go-to person for them should they (or anyone they know) every need your services.

What’s the Aim of an Elevator Pitch?

You should think of an elevator pitch as a quality introduction. Your main objective is to make a memorable impression in a short period of time so you can turn strangers into clients (or into good sources of leads). By casually telling strangers who you are, what you do, and how to contact you, you spark their interest and curiosity so they will ask more detailed questions that will allow you to expand on what you have to offer as a professional.

Considering that success really is about who you know as much as what you know, networking is of utmost important to succeed in business (regardless of the size of your company; freelancers, SMEs and large companies all need to network).

The aim of an elevator pitch is not just selling; it’s not a sales pitch, it’s a quality introduction to establish a lasting connection with your interlocutor. The more you make a solid, lasting connection with somebody, the more they are going to think of you when they need someone with your skills or expertise.

If executed well, an elevator pitch should inform the other person and make them relate to you (the more relatable you are, the more memorable you become). However, because most people don’t have the patience or interest to listen for long, you need to get to the heart of the matter quickly: you either get their attention quickly or you lose them.

Structure of an Elevator Pitch

Dr. Todd Dewett recommends the following structure:

  1. Summary of your professional identity (who you are and what you do)
  2. The types of problems you solve and who for (Niche)
  3. Where you’ve been
  4. Where you are currently
  5. A little about where you are going (share a future goal)

Dos

  • Define who you are and what you do. You won’t be able to effectively explain your products or services in a few short sentences if you are not clear about it yourself. What is it that you do? What’s your specialty? “If you can’t say who you are and what you do in a few sentences, you don’t know who you are and what you do and neither will anyone else,” says Roxana Bahar Hewertson, CEO of Highland Consulting Group.
  • Define your unique selling proposition. Why you and not another person? “Top quality” is not a USP!
  • Build rapport with your listeners.
  • Use real case studies or client stories.
  • Identify the problem your business solves: “What is the pain the potential client may have that your service can solve?” Focus on the listener and the value of your proposition for him or her.
  • Do your research. You must know your product, audience, and competitors well and should be prepared to answer any questions your interlocutor may have.
  • Talk about yourself first, and your ideas/ambitions second. People buy from people.
  • Be concise.
  • Use plain language.
  • If you have time, address competition.
  • Read body language. If you see eye contact is being broken or they are putting their phones out, change the subject from yourself to them.
  • Be informative.
  • Be authentic.
  • Stand upright, speak calmly.
  • Maintain eye contact.
  • Adapt your pitch to your audience (a colleague who might outsource work to you? A client who already gets these services from somewhere else? Someone who doesn’t know about your industry?).
  • Provide a way for your listeners to learn more. Hand out business cards so listeners can contact you.
  • Land it with a question or a CTA.
  • Practice!

Don’ts

  • Don’t wing it.
  • Don’t speak to strangers like you’d speak to a colleague from within your industry, i.e., avoid technical jargon or confusing terminology, and use clear language.
  • Avoid acronyms, abbreviations, glib neologisms and words that are irrelevant. Jargon never impresses those trying to decipher it
  • Don’t be vague, don’t speak in riddles.
  • But don’t go too heavy on the data either.
  • Don’t try to impress, try to inform.
  • Don’t be salesy.
  • Don’t ignore body language.
  • Don’t forget the call to action! If content is king, call to action is queen.

Examples of Good Elevator Pitches

1) I’m a branding expert, I run my own business called XXX. 2) I design digital branding strategies for British SMEs to boost their revenue within 8 weeks. 3) My background is in graphic design and marketing, which I did for 15 years, 4) but I’ve specialised in digital branding for the past 5 years. 5) I love what I do, and I’m now looking to expand my business by working with larger-sized companies.

1) I’m a developer, I write code. 2) I design interactive apps for conferences that allow the live interaction of speakers, organisers, and attendees through live polls, questions to speakers, and LinkedIn networking. 3) I used to work for Google, 4) but then I decided to launch my own business. 5) The business is going great and now I’m looking to diversify my income by partnering up with creative agencies needing web design services. 

Examples of Bad Elevator Pitches

A: So you work with languages, right?

B: That’s right, I’m a translator. I have translated 500,000 words so far and I really like what I do. I’m currently looking for new opportunities.

Problems with this elevator pitch: 

  • Are you self-employed or do you work for a company?
  • What are your language pairs?
  • What is your field of specialisation?
  • What problems do you solve for your clients?
  • What sets you aside from other translators?
  • The number of words is irrelevant for someone outside the industry, they don’t have a reference of what’s a lot or very little.
  • Exactly what new opportunities are you after?
  • Length: there’s room for more information!

A: What do you do?

B: I’m a UX/UI designer for Computing Love UK. I’m in charge of integrating quality solutions into their current systems. I moved to the UK in 2010 because the situation in my home country is quite problematic in terms of unemployment and I wanted to find a job in IT. After a few years I managed to land this job, which is quite good, I like it, but I think I want to try my luck in system architecture.

Problems with this elevator pitch:

  • Technical jargon: not everyone knows what UX/UI is
  • Lack of clarity: what do Computing Love UK do? (“A company providing X services to banks in London”, for example)
  • ”Quality solutions”: very vague. What solutions exactly? What do they solve?
  • Irrelevant: nobody asked you when or why you moved to the UK!
  • Lack of assertiveness: “I think”, “quite good”
  • Self-centered
  • Length: too long, the interlocutor is probably yawning by now


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