Before you launch your product, service, or cause, you need “an elevator pitch.” This is a short summary of your product offering, including your target market and your value proposition.
The name comes from the idea that you should be able to deliver a succinct, compelling description of what you offer in the time it takes to ride an elevator up a few floors—approximately 30 seconds to two minutes.
The idea originated with entrepreneurs who needed to pitch their business proposals quickly to potential investors in order to secure funding. This enabled those same investors to quickly eliminate ideas that were ill-conceived or simply didn’t fit their investment profile.
Entrepreneurs often spend hours honing and practicing their elevator pitches. The stakes are huge. If they are successful and connect with a potential investor, they win the opportunity to present a more detailed business plan. If they don’t, they are sent packing.
The elevator pitch has become so effective that it is used in other fields as well. This includes publishing, movie-making, job interviewing, and even dating. It is a great way for both parties to cut to the chase and determine if there is a connection.
Why do you need an elevator pitch? I can think of at least three reasons:
- It forces you to achieve clarity yourself. I can’t tell you how many authors I have spoken with over the years who could not summarize what their book was about. They should have achieved clarity on this before they began writing. This is one of the main reasons publishers say “no.” It is also why you should strive for a clear elevator pitch before you do anything else. (This is the first thing I teach you to do in Writing a Winning Book Proposal.
- It helps you understand your prospect’s perspective. If you are going to connect with your target prospects, you must see your offering from their perspective. Moreover, you must understand their problems, their concerns, their hopes, and their dreams. Only then, can you put together an offering that they will find compelling.
- It provides a tool for enrolling strategic partners. In order to be successful in launching anything significant, you need help. You can’t do it all yourself. Whether it is a publisher, a record company, a booking agent, a publicist, a retailer, or a corporate sponsor, you need to be able to explain quickly what you are about. Only then can your potential partner decide whether or not he or she can help you.
Okay, so you’re convinced. But how do you craft a good elevator pitch?
First, understand that the pitch will be different depending on whether you are offering an information product (e.g., non-fiction book, speech, consulting service, etc.) or an entertainment product (e.g, novel, screenplay, comedy act, etc.). Note that when I use the term “product,” I am referring to your creative output regardless of the form. It could be an actual product, a service, or even a cause.
An elevator pitch for an information product should consist of four components:
- Component 1: Your product name and category.
- Component 2: The problem you are attempting to solve.
- Component 3: Your proposed solution.
- Component 4: The key benefit of your solution.
Here’s an example from my current project:
I am writing a new [Component 1] business book called Platform. [Component 2] It is designed for anyone who is trying to get attention for their product, service, or cause. [Component 3] I teach my readers how to build a tribe of loyal followers, using social media and other new technologies. [Component 4] I explain that it has never been easier, less expensive, or more possible than right now.”
An elevator pitch for an entertainment product should also consist of four components:
- Component 1: Your product name and category.
- Component 2: The main character’s ambition.
- Component 3: The conflict he or she encounters.
- Component 4: The real significance of the story.
Here’s an example from a mythical project about the modern composer, Eric Whitacre:
I am shooting an [Component 1] inspirational documentary called Cloudburst. [Component 2] It is about a young, extremely gifted musician who dreams of becoming a symphony conductor. [Component 3] The only problem is he can’t read music. As a result, no one in the music business will give him a chance. [Component 4] Yet he ultimately succeeds because of his honesty, optimism, and hard work.”
Obviously, pitches can vary widely, depending on your offering. Regardless, you want to create an elevator pitch that is clear and compelling. This is a prerequisite to attracting the partners and prospects you need to succeed.
Once you get your elevator pitch fine-tune, don’t deliver it like a mechanical parrot. Instead, do what Michael Port suggest in his excellent book, Book Yourself Solid, Chapter 4: use it as the foundation of a meaningful sales conversation.