How To Write An Elevator Pitch

I recently read a great post on how to create an effective elevator pitch. After I read it, I thought how important it is for every community to be able to articulate its core brand promise in the form of an elevator pitch. This would be an interesting way to assess if everybody involved in economic development for your community is on the same page.

What is an Elevator Pitch?

I know you are likely familiar with the term. But, based on the number of presentations I have heard described as an elevator pitch, it is clear for many people a reminder is in order.

In essence, it is a short summary that quickly and simply defines your community’s brand promise (value proposition). Think of it as succinctly answering the proverbial “What is in it for me?” question.

The emphasis is on the adjective “short”. Theoretically, you should be able to comfortably share (i.e. not get out of breath) your summary within the time it takes to complete an elevator ride. Unfortunately, since the concept was first named, buildings have gotten taller and people have apparently opted to elongate their pitch as a consequence (tongue in cheek). The literature suggests you should limit the length of your elevator pitch to less than a minute. Anything longer should be considered a sales presentation rather than an introduction to your community. Mind you, there is nothing wrong with a sales presentation as long as the circumstances allow you to the time to do it right. An elevator pitch is designed for situations where you do not have the time to engage in a real dialogue.

The shortness of the pitch is important because it forces you to stay focused and share only the most important things the person needs to know about your community to decide if they are interested in learning more. Summarizing your community’s brand promise in less than two minutes is a lot harder than it sounds.

How Do I Create One?

Whenever I am faced with a challenge on how to write something, the first thing I do is try and find a template that can help me think it through. There are a number of templates available to help you craft an elevator pitch. Here is one I find relatively easy to use.

Step #1

Write one sentence that explains your community’s promise. The sentence should describe the benefit of living and working in your community. Make certain it is void of jargon. You should be able to stop a random stranger on the street and he/she should easily understand the sentence you write. This sentence should create an emotional connection with the listener.

Step #2

Back up your community promise with facts. One or two concrete examples that demonstrate what you say is authentic will establish immediate credibility. Ideally, your examples should paint a picture of how your community can help the business deliver improved shareholder (or owner) value. It should put the promise in context and create a rational connection with the listener.

Step #3

Say what you are asking for. In most cases it will be for permission to follow-up with the person. Be realistic in your ask. An elevator pitch is the start, not the end, of the selling process. In a networking event, it might get you the person’s business card. At a booth in a trade show, a good pitch might get the person to register for additional information. Whatever action you ask for, make it easy for the person to say yes. Asking the person to put too much “skin in the game” early is a sure way to lose the opportunity for a meaningful follow-up discussion.

Step #4

Validate your elevator pitch to ensure it is relevant, competitive and persuasive. You can do this by trial and error, or you can invest in some quantitative market research to objectively assess your pitch. My counsel is to strongly consider market research because the data will help you convince your community ambassadors to adopt the elevator pitch you’ve created. Without data, people will have a tendency to keep positioning your community the way they always have and are comfortable with. And, that defeats the purpose of the exercise.

Example

Companies in our community are reporting profit growth +10% higher than national [insert industry] average.

There are two things driving this performance. First a unique program with our local University that provides HR Managers with easy access to top talent across a wide range of disciplines. And second, companies are taking advantage of our multimodal distribution center to significantly lower their global logistics costs.

Over the next 18-months we are looking to have conversations with [insert industry] executives who may be considering business expansion. We would like to better understand their needs as a first step in determining if our community might be appropriate for consideration as a location option. I would appreciate the opportunity to follow-up with your Assistant and set an appointment for us to continue this conversation. May I have your business card?

Discussion

Creating an effective elevator pitch is hard work. It requires you to have thought through your community’s brand promise and how to articulate it in a way that captures the attention of the person you are speaking with. Sometimes, professional help in writing the elevator pitch is useful. You might consider finding an Agency with a copywriter to help. They might even consider doing it on a pro bono basis. Or, reach out to an employer or two in your community and ask for help from their external relations (or public relations) manager. This person will be skilled in positioning the company to the public and those skills are exactly what you need to position your community.

Unfortunately, you may find from this exercise that your community’s brand promise is weak. If you do, then celebrate! This is a critically important insight that you need to act on. If you do not have a strong brand promise, then investing time and energy in selling/marketing will be a waste of resources. It would be a bit like ignoring termites in your foundation and instead investing your limited household budget to build a second floor addition on your house.

You can learn more about creating a brand promise for your community by reading these posts –

Put First Things First

Articulating Your Brand Promise

Message Map

Please share your experience with or lessons from creating an elevator pitch. Have you found an elevator pitch useful? How easy or hard was it for you to write? Were you able to get broad based alignment from community ambassadors to use the elevator pitch? What tips do you have for anybody trying to write an elevator pitch?

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2 Comments so far

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  2. David Chapman

    November 20, 2012

    Thanks for this Ed. So many times I keep saying to myself that I need to devote some time to tackling this succinctly and strategically. Very useful tips and hints.

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