How to refine your elevator pitch

How can you create a good elevator pitch? Come up with your value proposition, build around that, then refine, refine, refine. That’s what we’ve been doing in the NVTC FastTrac TechVenture incubator. One element of the program is giving your 30-second elevator pitch to classmates and coaches nearly every week during the ten-week session.

Before and after

We’ve been working on a customer elevator pitch, where our customer is a retailer. Here was an early version:

Retailers are looking to increase sales to shoppers, but shoppers have tuned out most of the impersonal, irrelevant ads in stores. So retailers need to reach shoppers in a personal medium they trust: their smartphones. White Glove Apps targets coupons to the items on shoppers’ lists, so they get suggestions of additional products that are relevant to them. We also help stores promote private-label brands and limited-time offers around the store, like hot French bread at dinnertime, increasing sales on these high-profit margin items.

After several iterations of feedback and refinement, here’s what we’ve come to:

Right now, shoppers are walking into your stores with mobile apps that don’t let you show them your promotions. White Glove Apps will make you a customized app that will boost your sales in three ways: by

  1. promoting your high-margin items,
  2. increasing market basket [sales per shopper visit], and
  3. increasing customer loyalty with a better shopping experience.

In your store, your customers will receive targeted promotions -- your weekly specials, your private-label products, and your limited-time department discounts -- based on your customers’ shopping lists and profiles. Let’s talk about how we can create your mobile app; in fact, I can show you a demo of what it would look like right here [on my iPhone].

The revisions highlighted the value proposition to the retailer (boosting sales in three ways), made it personal (“your”), and offered to back up our talk by showing them our working demo. In terms of delivery, I found it helpful to pitch to a particular person rather than the entire room of listeners. Here are some other tips on elevator pitches we picked up during the course:

  1. State your audience
  2. ElevatorFor the benefit of your critics and yourself, preface your pitch by saying who your audience is. It may seem obvious who you’re pitching to, but your critics might not be sure if you have in mind individual end users, corporate decision makers, or investors. If your critics don’t know, they’ll spend the first few sentences wondering whose shoes they’re supposed to be in. While your core concept is the same for all those audiences, you may need to tweak your value proposition for each.

  3. Start with a formula
  4. If you need an opening sentence, try this “Mad Libs” formula suggested by a coach in the incubator:

    My company makes (product name) which is a (product or service) that solves (problem) for (customers) with (special sauce).

    For example, Google might have said about their search engine:

    My company makes the Google search engine, which is a product that solves finding relevant sites on the Internet for web users with our PageRank algorithm.

  5. Listen to feedback
  6. How to Win a PitchWhen you get feedback on your pitch, don’t argue with it unless there are genuine factual misunderstandings. More often than not, the critics are right, and what they get out of it is what a potential customer would absorb. If you argue with them, it’s probably because you’re unwilling to change your mindset to accommodate listeners who are hearing your concept for the first time. As unique as you think your business idea is, your critics have probably heard similar ideas and can help you pitch yours analogously.

  7. Remember the pitch is just an invitation to learn more
  8. Your goal in an elevator pitch is to get the potential customer interested in learning more. You‘re not going to sell them your product in an elevator pitch, so don’t try to cram in everything they might possibly want to know. In fact, it’s best to leave them wanting to know more so they ask you follow-up questions. The ensuing conversation is when you’ll really gauge their interest and see how you can help them.

Image credit: Elevator buttons - Suat Eman /