You’re in an elevator, and all of a sudden, in steps your dream business investor, mentor, or client. You have 30 seconds to introduce yourself and your business in a few deathly-concise sentences that will impress and convince them to want to work with you before those elevator doors open and you miss your one golden opportunity forever.
Would you be ready for that opportunity, and what would you say?
Using examples from real case studies, we’re going to take a deep dive into each one to explain what makes it work and why, plus provide you with the inspiration and insight to be able to write your own – so that you are ready to spring into action when opportunity knocks.
A good elevator pitch summarises who you are, what you do, and the value you bring to a person.
It can either be a pitch about you or for your business.
Having a short, sharp, memorable elevator pitch is the ultimate way to attract new and beneficial relationships and opportunities for your company or brand. And while an elevator is just one of the most common ways to visualise the concept, there are many, many other places and ways one can be used to your advantage.
An elevator pitch is particularly effective on your ideal customers, for example. The truth is attention spans are ruthless these days (a study by Microsoft concluded that the average human attention span dropped from twelve to eight seconds in 2022), so an elevator pitch is one way to ensure that not only can you prove you know what you’re talking about quickly and concisely to yourself, but also to your potential customers in a way they actually care about.
In the famous words of Albert Einstein:
“If you can’t understand it simply, you don’t know it well enough.”
It can also be used to attract potential partners. As the story goes, Steve Jobs looked the President of Pepsi – who he wanted to poach – in the eyes and said:
“Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water, or do you want a chance to change the world?”
An elevator pitch is also an excellent tool to use with people who work in press or when you have a large audience you are planning to present to. You’ll want an elevator pitch in order to immediately pique their interest enough to want to find out more and hopefully convert into media opportunities or sales.
Elevator pitches extend far beyond the realms of physical elevators – you can use them anywhere, from parties, to keynote speeches to casual business chats over coffee, or on your website and press materials. It should be something you consider writing in your business plan from the very beginning when you’re ready to start your business.
You must remember that the whole point is to get your most essential points across to your audience in a few precious seconds, and in a way that is meaningful to them, so this means ensuring that you’re not waffling on about your entire life story, bibliography or long list of product features (despite how interesting all of those things are to you personally).
It’s best practice to introduce yourself or your business as you would in any other conversation. It’s not essential or the only way (as you can start with an attention-grabber as shown with Steve Jobs’ pitch above), but it’s a polite and fail-safe place to start.
What problem does your business solve? There are so many problems in the world that need solving and in so many areas (from lifestyle to life-saving), with new challenges and struggles for people emerging everyday. If your business doesn’t solve a clear problem it is a very damning indicator of future failure.
Now that your elevator pitch has brought a (hopefully very relevant) problem to light in the mind of your audience, your business needs to be the solution for it. This is also called your “value proposition”. What does your company do that eases or solves the problem completely? And how can you make this sound essential and a no-brainer to all with the problem you put forward?
Bonus points if your solution features a USP (unique selling point) that makes you stand out from other competitors and businesses in your industry.
The clue is in the title: an elevator pitch should be the length of a short elevator ride, around 30 seconds to 2 minutes. Yes, we know that’s hardly any time at all, but if you can step up to the challenge, the results are extremely effective, and the pitch will be an invaluable asset to your business for a lifetime.
A bad example of an elevator pitch would be:
“Hi, my name is Mary, but I know I need no introduction. I work in an office, doing a bit of this and a bit of that. Uhm, maybe you could fund some of my ideas one day even though I haven’t put together a full plan yet? I started thinking about the idea in University in 2002 when…”
“Easy to learn. Astoundingly powerful. And designed to let you work, play, and create in ways you never imagined. It’s the computer that comes packed with apps that are ready to go right out of the box. Free, regular software updates keep things up to date and running smoothly. And if you already have an iPhone, it feels familiar from the moment you turn it on.”
Geared towards customers, this elevator pitch hits a few of the most timeless and sought-after desires directly when it comes to any product or service: ease of use, and power (which would also be defined as “individuality” according to Apple’s iconic brand strategy).
Having your elevator pitch lean towards a customer desire (most namely power) is backed by a few theories – including McClelland’s theory of needs and Tony Robbins’ six core human needs – in that ultimately people want products that make them feel free, autonomous and significant i.e. all attributes that Apple want their products and brand to be known for.
It goes without saying that Apple are global leaders in marketing and experts when it comes to brand storytelling and captivating their audiences at this point. This example is no exception. Strong, clear value propositions and short, authoritative sentences are something you can take away for your company from this elevator pitch and Apple altogether as a brand.
“An elegant lighting solution that gives you the freedom to experience beautiful lighting wherever you are.”
It clearly states the USP, why someone would want to purchase it and also subtly the type of person who should buy it, by its use of the word ‘elegant’. The elevator pitch positions the product as a luxury item in the listeners mind right away, as well as a lifestyle piece, by also using words like ‘freedom’ and ‘experience’. The great thing about lifestyle product branding is that you never really lose customers by communicating your more exclusive status – it simply increases the desirability of the product. It will be an alluring and exciting buying prospect for those who already consider themselves elegant, and those who wish to be.
One of the key components with this elevator pitch is actually not what was said (although in those two small sentences, a lot was conveyed) – but really it was about the confidence in the delivery. Max Gunawan knew he would be on a worldwide platform, sharing his idea for the first time to a half-engaged, unreceptive audience watching at home, so had to capture not just the room but the millions of viewers. To do this, he was bold and assertive, which was enough to catch people’s attention and have them intrigued enough to want to learn more.
In this case, confidence and a short concise explanation of the product and its potential audience win out here. Considered one of the best Shark Tank pitches of all time, these 16 words secured a cool £350,000 investment for 10% equity from Robert Herjavec, and Lumio continues to make a profit of an estimated £5 million annually to this day.
A subscription-based streaming service that allows our members to watch TV shows and movies on an internet-connected device.
While there are many different types of streaming services now, Netflix was always one of the pioneers.
Its pitch went from one about sending DVDs to people’s homes, to unlimited movies at people’s fingertips with the click of a button. But the story behind the pitch remained the same – wanting to solve the hassle of having to go to a rental store.
Herein lies the genius behind this particular pitch. It is a perfect opener for Netflix to share more about founders Reed Hastings and Marc Randolph’s personal grievances and pain points that led them to creating their own, perfectly streamlined solution.
It explains everything you need to know by using extremely succinct, keyword-type language that is easily recognised in any listener’s mind. The technicality and straightforwardness of the pitch makes it hard to misinterpret or misunderstand.
While there are multiple other ways to access this kind of technology nowadays, Netflix was truly a pioneer when it came to TV and movie viewing on the internet. It has continued to evolve and innovate since Blockbuster laughed them out of their offices for what they considered to be a ridiculous idea with absolutely no potential for the future.
We all know who’s had the last laugh, as the company continues to grow and has a current net worth of $127.58 billion (as of December 2022).
The most important lessons you can learn from Netflix and its humble pitch are that 1) It’s okay to change your pitch as your business evolves and 2) simple, cheap and convenient business ideas can change the world.
“Financial infrastructure for the internet.
Millions of businesses of all sizes, from startups to large enterprises, use Stripe’s software and APIs to accept payments, send payouts, and manage their businesses online.”
This elevator pitch is Stripe’s current staple when it comes to marketing in a quick and succinct way in its advertising across all its platforms, from its homepage, to social media to underground station posters. What’s great about this pitch is that it communicates a strong and memorable positioning statement, as well as an enticing vision.
From the initial sentence you understand Stripe’s decision to take a hard stance on how it intends the world to see the brand. This kind of positioning statement inspires confidence in a company, because it signifies that it’s intending to stick around for the long term and be #1 in this aspect in the world. It also hints towards the brand’s future vision, because the idea of ‘financial infrastructure’ is still quite innovative but Stripe is willing to take on this title and in doing so, must aim to take it to the next level.
A positioning or vision statement is very intriguing to start with and immediately captures attention. It is also memorable and should be easy to understand for best effect.
“Google exists to organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”
On the day Google’s founders walked into his office, venture capital investor John Doerr learned something that all entrepreneurs should consider: There’s power in simplicity.
Once in a blue moon, an idea comes along that is truly life-changing for the majority of the world. An idea that shifts the entire framework of how we work and live. That was Google. The brand showcases this very well with their use of extremely big phrases such as ‘universally’ and ‘the world’s information’. Those are huge claims, and fortunately Google could actually back them up otherwise the pitch would not have been as legendary as it is today.
A good elevator pitch can double up as the beginnings of your brand story, forming the foundation of almost everything else you present in a marketing sense from the company’s launch presentations, press releases, ads to fully-fledged marketing campaigns.
Use our template below to start constructing your elevator pitch and customise it where needed. This template incorporates the four parts explained above to hit all of the important details of a good elevator pitch.
Bonus (Add a CTA):
It’s well worth your while to have an elevator pitch (or two) for yourself and your company, because you never know when they will come in handy – from communicating your next big idea to a friend, a friendly new contact, or a key investor.
You might also want to use a quality project management software to manage all these contacts and monitor the potential far-reaching effects your pitch can have.
Practice makes perfect, and with a perfect pitch you could easily end up with the business opportunity of your dreams.
Stephanie Lennox is our resident funding & finance expert here at Startups: a successful startup founder in her own right, 2x bestselling author, the nation’s #1 holistic writing coach and creator of revolutionary, immersive experiences that help aspiring writers become authors and thrive in the creative industry. Her works have been featured in The Bookseller, The Guardian, TimeOut, The Southbank Centre, and ITV News as well as several other national publications.
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