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Elevator Pitch

Note: Originally published at SANDIOS.

Everyone has heard of the "elevator pitch" and all entrepreneurs know they need one. Right? I'm talking about the ability to tell your business story in the time it takes the elevator to get the floor where your audience will egress. While everyone knows they need one, the confidence imbued in entrepreneurs -- necessary to be an entrepreneur -- often results in the overconfident belief that the pitch will magically flow when the time comes.

While I'm sure this sometimes works, the strategy is a mistake. A good elevator pitch can mean the difference between getting funding or not, forming a relationship with a key ally, or even closing a customer. Frankly, you simply don't know how valuable that person you're talking to might be.

So how to develop a great elevator pitch? Surprising, too, is the lack of familiarity with Geoffrey Moore. Amazingly, Moore's Crossing the Chasm is still relevant, is still considered the "marketing bible" 18 years after its publication. I highly recommend this book to all entrepreneurs.

[There are, of course, significant criticisms of the Chasm model. As its name suggests, the book focuses on the "Crossing the Chasm" stage of corporate development, when businesses must transition from selling to early adopters to selling to early mainstream customers. As Steve Blank points out, most businesses would be happy to ever achieve the level of development where the chasm was in sight. See this earlier SANDIOS post for an introduction to Blank's customer development methodology.]

In Crossing the Chasm, Moore provides a positioning exercise, with examples, that helps produce an elevator pitch. A powerful elevator pitch must include these components:

  • Who your customer is
  • Why they need your product, i.e., the pain you are solving.
  • The name of your product (or web site)
  • Your primary benefit to the customer, i.e., the compelling reason to buy, and
  • Where you fit in the marketplace vis-a-vis the competition

It seems straightforward, but is harder than it looks. People often confuse benefit with differentiation and want to restate the "why?" when stating the compelling reason to buy. Here it is in Moore's parlance:

For (target customer)
Who (statement of the need or opportunity)
The (product name) is a (product category)
That (statement of key benefit – that is, compelling reason to buy)
Unlike (primary competitive advantage)
Our product (statement of primary differentiation).

Let's try an example:

For blog readers who like to follow embedded links in the articles they read, Que-It is a bookmarking site that provides a 2-click method of saving links to articles you haven't seen yet. Unlike existing social bookmarking sites designed to save articles you've already read, Que-It creates a simple "que" of links for users to read later.

Initially, the pitch may come out clumsy and a bit unwieldy. Your final pitch emerges once you are able to incorporate all the components into your manner of speech.

Give it a try and if you're brave, put your example in comments!

Slide 21

vFor (target customer)
vWho (statement of the need or opportunity)
vThe (product name) is a (product category)
vThat (statement of key benefit – that is, compelling reason to buy)
vUnlike (primary competitive advantage)
vOur product (statement of primary differentiation)
In Crossing the Chasm, Moore provides a positioning exercise, with examples, that helps produce an elevator pitch. The pitch is comprised of 6 parts:

3 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “Elevator Pitch”

  1. Matthew Wensing September 26, 2009 at 11:37 pm

    I greatly appreciate the way you are bringing Moore into the Ries/Blank methodology. I was sold on Moore (and still am), but am having trouble synthesizing everything.

    Here’s my attempt:

    “For those affected by severe weather who need to manage risk, Stormpulse is a storm-tracking website that smartly displays data and boosts situational awareness. Unlike Google Earth and other complex, desktop GIS software packages our product is easy-to-use and web-based.”

  2. scott August 23, 2010 at 8:25 pm

    That is pretty good Mr. Wensing. I might edit this slightly to be: “For those who need to manage the risks of severe weather…”
    “Web based” is a feature. You should state it as a benefit. “Can be accessed from any location, accessed by any staff,”
    I am googling your site now!

  3. David Bratvold March 23, 2011 at 10:39 pm

    Thanks for the article. I’m applying it to my business. I’ll let you know what my peers think.

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