Tell me about yourself.
What do you do?
What makes your product different?
If these questions force you to pause, or you don’t feel confident about your ability to convert these inquiries into genuine interest, then you should work on perfecting your elevator pitch.
A good idea may be the start of a big venture, but you—the entrepreneur behind it— are the one responsible for evangelizing your idea and getting others excited about your vision.
A carefully crafted pitch delivers your unique value proposition, anticipates questions before they come up and lets you start strong without tripping over “umm's” and “uhh's” scrambling for an answer.
Your elevator pitch is a versatile tool you can use to:
- Spark interest from potential investors.
- Sell directly to consumers at events.
- Guide your copywriting and personal brand.
- Pitch to bloggers and open up strategic partnerships.
- Explain what it is you do to your confused grandparents (We’ve all been there, right?).
The ideal pitch should aim to be under 30 seconds, around 75 words, and can be easily adapted, made longer or shorter for different contexts, with the ultimate goal of creating opportunities.
Whether you’re already running a profitable business, or you feel like you’re still “faking it, ‘til you make it”, an elevator pitch in your back pocket makes it easier to start conversations off on the right foot.
How to Piece Together the Perfect Elevator Pitch
When it comes to delivering an elevator pitch, a job seeker, a salesperson and a founder will have different goals in mind, but the basic ingredients of an effective pitch are surprisingly similar.
Here’s what you need to accomplish in yours.
Grab attention with your introduction
Your introduction should be flexible and depend on how well the person knows you, if they do at all. By the end of your introduction, the listener/reader should know:
- Who you are.
- Your brand and business model.
- Your product/service category and what you’re selling.
It’s easy to sound robotic with your introduction, so try to personalize your approach for the listener and their existing knowledge in order hook them from the get-go.
Identify your target market and how you’re serving it
Once you’ve introduced yourself and your business, you need to demonstrate product-market fit—in other words, you need to illustrate who your target customer is and the opportunity you’re tapping into.
Prove that there’s demand for what you’re doing by considering:
- The pain points you’re solving (For products with high utility, like ergonomic chairs).
- The passions you’re letting people express (For niche apparel, like shirts for dog lovers).
- The gap you’re filling and opportunity you're creating (For game-changing tech).
- The time/money you’re helping people save (For helpful tools, like an app that helps you save money when buying groceries).
Embrace competition and any inevitable comparisons
Instead of glossing over your competition, acknowledge it—especially if you’re pitching to someone who knows your industry or market.
Drawing attention to the competition gives you an excuse to explicitly differentiate your business from others.
You don’t necessarily need to call out a specific competitor. You can simply mention an existing alternative, even if it’s just the status quo or “the way things are done now”.
This helps you start a conversation with a one-up position over the competition.
Choose your "call to action"
What good is generating interest if you’re not converting that momentum into some kind of action?
End your elevator pitches with a strong, contextual call to action based on who your audience is.
Next steps can include:
- Handing someone your business card in case they want to learn more.
- Recommending a product or sending out a sample for them to check out.
- Asking someone to connect with you on LinkedIn or by email to discuss working together.
- Suggesting that the person pass your information along to their own circles.
3 Elevator Pitch Templates and Examples
Templates offer a good starting point, but you want to make it your own as much as you can.
As always, practice makes perfect, and the more feedback you get over time, the more you can improve your pitch.
But to start, here are three basic templates, with hypothetical examples, that will help you touch upon your major talking points in a natural way.
The All-Purpose Pitch
Your generic elevator pitch, this format provides you with a clear and intuitive way to cover all your talking points, letting you easily expand upon and cut out parts depending on your audience at the time.
The Pixar Pitch
This pitch is aptly named because it invokes the traditional storytelling structure—something Pixar excels at.
Stories are all about transformation and empathy, and if you can explain the journey your customer takes from point A to point B, you can get your audience to step into your customer's shoes even if they're outside your target market.
Give this approach a try if your product solves a very real and relatable pain point for your customers.
The Sales Pitch
Sometimes you find yourself speaking directly with a potential customer. In this case, you know that focusing on them and their needs is the best way to position your product.
Opening with a rhetorical question lets you establish how qualified they are as a prospect from the start, potentially tease more information from them by actively listening, and personalize your approach according to how they identify with the pain point you're proposing a solution for.
5 Tips For Persuasive Pitches That Ignite Interest
The templates above shouldn't be used as rigid structures—a pitch, above all, needs to be persuasive.
Persuasion is the art of getting your audience to nod "yes" along with you.
The following communication strategies can help you spice up your pitch.
Leverage names—the bigger the better
If you’re associated with any big brands, have any celebrity customers or investors, influencer endorsements, or can weave social proof into what you say, you can really raise some eyebrows.
Include concrete numbers
Logos—stats, hard numbers and any appeal to logic—is one of the three pillars of persuasion. How many units have you sold or funding have you secured? Significant numbers add an extra layer of credibility to your pitch.
Explain your product through an analogy
In Made to Stick, brothers Chip and Dan Heath discuss how some of the most memorable pitches are grounded in analogies.
A lot of movies get made simply because the pitch successfully anchors the premise to one that’s already well-known
For example, the writers of Alien first pitched it as “Jaws in space” and had little trouble generating interest in the film. From those 3 words, you can understand that it's a horror movie, involving an unseen threat that leaves death in its wake, set in space.
Try developing an analogy to use something familiar to explain the unfamiliar and complex, or embrace an obvious comparison to focus more on differentiation instead of basic features.
Sell with stories
Stories are a naturally persuasive vehicle: They grab attention, demonstrate change, and evoke empathy.
In fact, neurobiologists have shown that stories can act as a conduit for understanding pain points that makes them a valuable asset in the business world.
A general rule in storytelling: The bigger the gap you can create between the beginning and the end, the more impactful your story will be. So don't be afraid to start off unremarkably normal or even when your character is at rock bottom.
It's all the better if you yourself are the main character in the story—you've got a personal stake in solving the pain point.
Write for the ears
Alliteration, rhyme, rhythm—there are a ton of ways to wield words so they roll off the tongue.
And when most memorable expressions stick because they're pleasing to the ear, you've got a good reason to put some art into your articulation.
If you can make your pitch sound nice on paper, you can give it a unique style that lends you a certain charisma that's hard to imitate even amongst your direct competitors.
Opening Doors to New Opportunities
“Elevator pitch” is a misnomer. You're not looking for them to enter and exit the conversation like an actual elevator—you want the person to invest attention, ask questions, continue the conversation or see value in what you're doing.
You’re focusing on getting them interested in your business, and when that’s the case, less really is more—what you choose to exclude can be as powerful as what you include.
It's going to be a work in progress and the best way to improve is to get it out there and see how others receive it, observing where you create interest, lose attention and win people over.
So let's hear yours. Practice your pitch in the comments below.
About The Author
Braveen Kumar is a Content Crafter at Shopify where he develops resources to empower entrepreneurs to start and succeed in business.