...And How to Make it Exceptional
“For investors, the product is nothing.” – Marc Hedlund
If you want to find out how to make an exceptional pitch that'll win investors, interviews, and dazzle online, read on. So how is your pitch going to make a difference?
By standing out.
And how do you do that? By boiling your pitch down to a single concept.
But first things first…
What is an elevator pitch?
Also known as an elevator statement, an elevator pitch can help in a number of situations, and it’s a great skill to master. It’s useful for interviews, networking events and sales pitches.
Think of it as an executive summary, never longer than two pages. Realistically, it shouldn’t last longer than 30-120 seconds, hence the name ‘elevator pitch’.
Time is precious my friend. Use it in scenarios where you need to summarize your skills, your team or your startup in a short and concise way.
Now down to the nitty gritty….the elevator pitch types:
A high-concept pitch is a shorter version of an elevator pitch. It tells a story about your company in one sentence, showcasing an idea, and how it's different from others.
It’s a great way to boil your concept down to one concept, giving investors and those in your network an idea worth spreading in one simple line. If you want to stand out, you want to nail this one.
Here are high-pitch examples:
• Youtube - Flickr for video
• LinkedIn - Facebook for business
• Dogster - Friendster for dogs
• Slack - Where work happens
The other kind of pitch lasts anywhere between 30 seconds to two minutes. It serves as an in-depth pitch. In a sense, it is a follow-on of the high-concept pitch.
Once you’ve got them hooked with your ‘tag-line’, reel them in with the long-form version. It won’t be quite as daunting as shark tank, but you want to make sure you’re not making mistakes.
The do’s and don’ts of an elevator pitch
Elevator pitch do
The startup, Blendoor, executed one of the best elevator pitches creating a compelling storyline, and even has the time to fit in her high-concept pitch ‘do for people what Netflix had done for movies’.
She mentions her challenge in the market, target customer, value, business model, and goals. The only downside was half of the table was for, and the other half against, leaving her without funds.
The pitch was very natural, humble and short. While she doesn’t steal a deal, the pitch shows more than anything that you can’t please everyone, even if your idea is sound.
Elevator pitch don’t
In terms of elevator pitches, you’ve got to make sure that you leave investors intrigued. But if you don’t answer some prime question, you’ll be in trouble.
This is a prime example of how not to do an elevator pitch. This startup was missing some key questions.
• How much money do you make?
• What are you asking for in terms of funding and equity?
• How does your product differ from competitors?
But there was a positive note to take from this pitch. Instead of dwelling on their loss, they took on the criticism and moved on.
[Related Article - They Raised How Much? Secrets About Great Pitch Decks]
The pitches: funding, interviews & online
When people hear ‘elevator pitch’ they tend to assume it only applies to pitch a business idea. This idea has also been popularised with tv shows like dragons den and shark tank.
But an elevator pitch can apply to a lot more than a business pitch. You can apply it to an interview, to explain your job, or a new strategic concept to potential investors, your CEO or manager.
Creating the perfect elevator pitch: for funding
The structure to follow in an elevator pitch may vary. But in almost every successful elevator pitch, there are four points to hit:
Product or service
Start by defining your product or service with a short one-liner. Think of the first part of your pitch as the high-concept pitch.
If you can’t summarize your product quickly, it’s too complicated. And if you can't summarize it with a one-liner, it's a sure sign that you need to reevaluate your product/service.
Lead into the rest of your elevator pitch by summarizing the basic problem that your product resolves. Segway into the benefits of your product/service providing an example of concrete results.
Keep it to a couple of sentences. The problem, the benefits, and results of your product/service.
What does your unique product bring to the problem? Explain one or two key features of your product/service.
Every successful startup brings something new to the table. Whether it's a new unique approach to an age-old problem, a completely new industry in itself, or one that disrupts an already established industry.
The final piece, and the most important. You need to end every elevator pitch with an ask, otherwise, what’s the point?
It’s wise to take this opportunity to say what funding you need.
Keep in mind, the best elevator pitches are:
• Simple, clear and short
• No longer than 30 seconds to two minutes
• Not overly technical with industry jargon
• Humble, enthusiastic and most importantly, authentic to you
• And finally, practiced the hell out of
Creating the perfect elevator pitch: for interviews
For a perfect elevator pitch that hits all the spots, follow these six steps. And keep in mind that each step can vary in terms of who you are, and your skillset, and who you’re talking to.
It may sound silly, but an introduction is very necessary. Briefly introduce yourself by putting a face to the name. Not everyone is a mind reader, and without giving yourself a brief introduction you'll be at risk of not being memorable.
Go more in-depth by telling him/her where you work or what you’re working on. Keep it to a couple of sentences. It's where nailing a high-pitch comes in handy.
You can be the judge of how much context you need to provide, but make sure that it provides an explanation of the background of your startup.
“It’s a startup in Copenhagen that directs you to the closest hot dog.”
Make a connection with the person your pitching to. Studies have shown that investors are more likely to give you the capital you need if you're able to instill a feeling of connection with them. Everybody loves to hear about themselves, so don't be afraid to throw in a compliment.
“I’ve heard so much about your work, and your accelerator.”
The ask, it’s the most important point to hit. Make sure to let her/him know what you’re asking for. It’s easy to forget when you’re in the flow of a conversation.
“I’d love the opportunity to work for your company, and I was wondering who I could contact about joining it?”
[Give the person some time to respond, maybe they will give you their business card or another contact]
Don't forget to close the conversation, it can be an awkward part for lots of people, but leave a good impression by closing your interview elevator pitch with a strong and confident tone.
“Thanks, I’ll contact [person] this evening, looking forward to hearing from [person].”
From Daniel H. Pink's To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others, he’s created a list of six tips to help you ace your pitch online. It doesn't follow the traditional approach and takes a modern approach on the elevator pitch.
The 'Pixar Pitch' is exactly what it sounds like. It's based on the narrative structure of a Pixar pitch and follows a series of sentences.
'Once upon a time_____.
Every day_____. One day_____.
Because of that_____. Because of that_____.
- Daniel H. Pink's Pixar Pitch
Pink's advice (no, not the singer) is to fill in the gaps, and surprisingly, it creates a powerful and emotional pitch.
Storytelling is a powerful tool in the business world, and it's why you see corporations paying consultants million on branding, and why 'about' pages read more as a biography than a boring corporate jargon-filled introduction to the company.
So give it a shot.
Contrary to popular belief, email is not dead, and almost every email, in some way, is a sales pitch. Yeah, it may seem a bit traditional compared to the communication tools that we have access to today, but it's still very much in use, and useful.
In Pink's opinion, emails fall into two categories
1. Utility - give people something they can find a use for or gain knowledge from, and
2. Curiosity - leave room for a gap in knowledge, leaving your reader itching to learn more.
If an email tries to combine the two, or falls outside of those categories, you'll lose the interest of the reader. Engaging titles are EVERYTHING.
Fluency, something in the form of a high-concept pitch is what people remember. People are able to process a sentence that rhymes more easily than a sentence that includes more complicated and technical language.
A better understanding = More absorption
That's just all around better for everyone involved!
Some famous examples include catchy advertising campaigns like MailChimp's ad campaign that took advantage of the autocorrections of the company and turning each autocorrection into their own campaign.
Be careful though, incorrectly executed and it comes across more awkward and cheesy than memorable and unique.
Questions, they initiate a response, whereas a statement only promotes listening. An answer stimulates a two-way flow of communication.
One of the best ways to lose an audience is to speak directly at them the whole time. The best talks are those that engage the audience and get people thinking. This applies online too.
But once again, it's a fine line. Add too many questions and you'll end up confusing the listener. You've got to master the technique of getting the balance just right.
One word pitch
A word that you want to own, and distills your message into one word. It's such a small task, but a mighty one a that. Taking ownership of a word is somewhat of a skill, and some of the best companies in the world haven't even got it right.
People love information, and Twitter is a breeding ground for it. Whether it's self-promotional or something you've just learned, Twitter is the perfect place for sharing a pitch. And if you include a question in your twitter, it'll be more likely to initiate engagement.
Questions = more engagement.
Now that you’ve learned all that you need to be able to create an awesome elevator pitch, you can find the events near you.
Test, test, test!
Once you have built your pitches, it's time to test them by pitching to anyone and everyone. Networking events are especially great for giving people a short slice of what you’re working on. If you can practice in more real-world situations, the more prepared you'll sound in front of middlemen or investors.
Email works, but it’s far more effective in person. Depending on the situation, you should keep it as short as 15 seconds or if it feels right, around 2 minutes long. Make the pitch sound like an open conversation, where instead of closing a sale, you’re making plans to have a more in-depth conversation.
Rick Gibson, an investor at hotventures says: “When I see an elevator pitch that doesn’t hit me, it does come from the fact that I don’t see a why in the pitch. The big word for me in all of this is motivation. I’d like to know that the entrepreneur has fire in his belly and has a real interest to accomplish something.”
Overall, it depends on the situation to decide which pitch to use. However, you should always be prepared with both. Craft, memorize and practice until it’s time to put the pitch in action. Both of the pitches are necessities for the pitch deck too. So make sure you nail them.