biz ladiesLife & Business

biz ladies 09: the 30-second elevator pitch

by Grace Bonney

today’s first biz ladies post is quite simply a MUST READ. i know that personally, i am horrible at selling my own business. i get uncomfortable when i have to pitch myself in any situation and choose instead to avoid that sort of conversation all together. but if you run your own business or are thinking of starting your own business- describing and selling what you do is an essential part of the job.

so today we’re extremely lucky to get a detailed, easy to follow plan from the master of elevator pitches (a simple, 30-second introduction), barbara lopez. barbara is an elevator pitch coach and president of brightfarm introductions, which helps professionals introduce themselves with high impact. so if you’re looking for someone who knows how to pitch a business well- barbara is your gal. whether you’re a new business owner or just interesting in learning to network more effectively, this is a must, must read. i have already re-read this two times this morning and will be implementing these tools the next time i have to describe what i do at a trade show. i can’t stress enough how helpful this plan is. so, read on!

CLICK HERE to read barbara’s full post after the jump!

Introducing yourself in a 30-second elevator pitch

Years ago at a conference for home based businesses, I heard the following quote: “When your mouth is OPEN, so is your business. When your mouth is CLOSED, so is your business.”

The speaker was pointing out that if we wanted people to know we were open for business, we needed to talk about our business. Five and half years ago when I started my business I considered myself a pretty outgoing person, but I did notice that (especially in the early years) when it came to talking about my business in my daily travels, I tended to hold back a little. When I think about why, I think that I assumed people didn’t want to hear about my business; that maybe they wouldn’t be interested, or that I’d somehow be bugging them.

Yet, as I searched for ways to grow my business, I realized that I did in fact need to talk about my business. And not just a little, but a lot.

An elevator pitch is simply what I affectionately call an “old school” business term that is used for giving a 30-second introduction. If you were in an elevator with someone, and they turned to you and asked you “What do you do?”, you’d have the length of the elevator ride to tell them, usually about 30-seconds. Nowadays, especially with home based businesses, the likelihood of being in an elevator with someone and that question being raised is pretty unlikely.

Instead, while the term is still popular in the business world, it’s more important to think of an elevator pitch as a 30-second verbal commercial; an introduction of your business. After all, in most cases when you meet someone new, your elevator pitch is the first information they learn about what you have to offer. Other terms for the elevator pitch you might be familiar with are: elevator speech, networking commercial, or personal commercial.

The four goals of an effective elevator pitch:

There can be some anxiety associated with an elevator pitch if you’re not used to, or are shy when it comes to talking about your business. The biggest challenge can be taking everything that’s great about you and your unique product or service, and shrinking it down to ONLY 30-seconds. Most business owners think they need to tell people EVERYTHING that they have to offer, but this is not the case.

What you really want to focus on are the four goals of an effective elevator pitch:

* Make a good first impression – knock their socks off in that first introduction.
* Be clear and concise – make sure they understand what it is that you do quickly.
* Stand apart from your competition – let people know what makes you special and unique.
* Make the person you’re talking to want to know more about what you have to offer – this is the most important goal, as it’s the purpose of an elevator pitch.

Enticing people to want to know more is the big one. Your elevator pitch is really just an opening to a conversation, it’s not about telling them every single thing about your business. What you really want is for the person to ask, “HOW do you do that?” – or, “Wow, I’d like to see!”, which opens up further dialogue.

The four key ingredients of an effective elevator pitch:

If you’re ready to start writing an elevator pitch, grab a piece of paper and apply these four key points to your business – you’ll find that your elevator pitch will bubble up to the surface.

We’ve put together a tried and true four-step process for creating an effective elevator pitch. It’s called the F.A.R.M. System™, which is obviously a little play on words for our business name, but when we really thought about what professionals are trying to do when networking, we felt farm was a good word. Why? Because when you’re promoting your business, you’re planting little seeds about your business everywhere you go or have a presence. And then hopefully, you will cultivate those seeds and harvest new customers and opportunities.

To help you through this process, we’ll use an example with a fictional character named Molly, who has a custom wedding invitation and stationery business.

Let’s use the F.A.R.M. System™:

F: Find their pain point

Now, that might sound like I’m asking you to go around poking people or twisting arms, but I’m not. To pique someone’s interest, it’s easier to identify a problem that your product or service solves. You want to be as general as possible, because the person you’re speaking to, or who may be reviewing your website, shop, or marketing materials, may not have the pain point you’ve addressed, but there’s a good chance that they might know someone who does. Or, will recall that pain point you address if it comes up, in the future.

Chances are you went into business because you saw a need that you could fill. Maybe it’s an actual answer to a problem that people have or maybe it’s a little less direct than that. If you’re a designer, and you know that people may not NEED what you offer (as far as being in pain), there are still many reasons people buy your products. If you’re an artist, you might take an honest look at why you create what you do and the reason might be as simple as adding beauty to life or home. While it might not be a traditional solution to a problem, it’s why you do what you do, and that’s a great reason.

Ask yourself:

What does your product or service do to ease or eliminate a pain people struggle with?

Molly’s customer’s pain point: Molly understands that there are brides out there that want one-of-a-kind wedding invitations and stationery – something that no one else has created. She knows that brides have ideas about what they really want to see and can’t find them in the market.

If you have trouble coming up with the solution you provide, take a few moments to consider what you have done for past or current customers. What are they saying about you? What have they thanked you for? Why do they buy from you?

A: Answer their problem

Now you’ve got their attention. They DO have the problem or pain point you just addressed, or they know someone else who does. How do YOU specifically reduce or eliminate that pain? This is your chance to relate them. You’ve certainly helped others ease their pain. This is how you’re going to help them.

Ask yourself:

How are YOU specifically going to reduce or eliminate their pain?

Molly’s answer to the problem: Molly partners with brides to design the wedding invitations and stationery they’ve always dreamed of. No templates, custom designs from start to finish.

R: Reasons you are different

You’ve told them how you can ease or eliminate their pain, and that’s great, but why should they choose you? How are you different? This is your chance to set yourself apart from the competition—you’re not just providing a way out from their pain, you specialize in…what?

Ask yourself:

Why should someone choose to work with/buy from you? Why are you different? What is your specialty? What are you “known for”?

Molly’s reasons she is different: Molly is an award winning designer, her designs have been featured in (mention various press). OR, Molly has been designing wedding invitations for over 10 years (adding credibility). OR, Molly’s customers love working with her because she is with them in every step of the design process. OR, Molly’s turn around time is incomparable, etc.

M: Make them want more

You’ve hit a pain point, you’ve answered their problem, you’ve let them know why you are different, now is the time to call for action. They’ve only received a teeny tiny taste of what you do. As mentioned in the fourth goal of an effective elevator pitch, you want to encourage the listener to want to know more or to take action. It would be a shame if you piqued their interest and they weren’t encouraged to take it to the next step.

Ask yourself:

What do you want the prospective customer to do? Do you want them to ask you for more information? Do you want them to go to your website to see samples/portfolio? Do you want them to set an appointment with you?

Molly’s call to action: Molly has an extensive portfolio on-line. She has her business card with her (at all times) and gives it with an invitation to look at her portfolio.

Working with the F.A.R.M. System™ as the four key ingredients and the answers to the questions, now it’s time to put your elevator pitch together. One very important thing to do is to start with the pain point. Remember, you want to capture their interest from the very beginning, so you want to start with the problem that either the receiver has, or possibly knows someone who does.

Let’s take a look at how Molly would put together her elevator pitch, based on the answers to her questions.

(Pain point) “Brides want original, custom made invitations and are frustrated because they can’t find exactly what they’re looking for.

(Answer the problem) I’m Molly of Molly’s Custom Wedding Stationery, and I love nothing more than partnering with brides to create invitations and stationery that truly capture the bride’s vision and style.

(Reasons she’s different) An artist for over 10 years, my customers love my one-of-a-kind designs – and they especially love the fact that my turn-around time is incomparable.

(Make them want more) If you’d like to see some of designs for yourself [handing business card], I have an extensive on-line portfolio – so many fun pieces to look at! [If they are a bride] Of course, if you an idea in mind now, I’d love to chat with you about it.”

Of course there are many different ways to apply the four key ingredients, the important thing is to use language that is most natural and comfortable for you.

Once you have your elevator pitch written, practice it as often as possible. Practice it first with either co-workers, partners, spouses or family. They will be very honest with you as to how it sounds and whether they get a clear understanding of what you do.

What if you don’t have the luxury of 30-seconds?

Let’s face it, sometimes people don’t want to hear a 30-second commercial about your business. Sometimes people are just asking what you do as a polite conversation starter, especially in social settings.

Here’s a quick formula to answer the question, “What do you do?”:

“Well, you know how some people have [insert problem]?”

[pause for them to agree/say yes]

“Well, what I do is [answer the problem]”

Let’s look at how Molly would use this quick formula. Molly might say:

“Well, you know how some brides are looking for custom crafted wedding invitations, but they can’t find what they want?”

[pause for them to agree/say yes]

“Well, what I do is partner with brides to design customized invitations and stationery that truly captures the bride’s vision and style.”

This will hopefully naturally encourage the person to next either ask “How do you do that?” or “Wow, I’d like to see what you do!”

An elevator pitch isn’t just for networking:

While an elevator pitch is commonly used when out networking on behalf of your business, there are several other places you can use either parts of it or all of it:

* Your email signature line: Why not include it with every email you send out? It doesn’t have to be your full pitch, even just one or two sentences that clearly identify what you do.
* Website welcome/about page: Your home page is the first place people land, why not welcome them with your new introduction. Or, use it as an additional description in your about page.
* Backside of business card: Handing someone your card means they’ll be walking away with the introduction they just heard. Having it on your card will help them remember what you do.
* On-line networking profiles: If you’re using social networking to promote your business, it’s a great idea to have your elevator pitch in your profile so that people “get” what you’re all about right away. And if you’ve piqued their interest, will lead them to your website.
* Marketing pieces (brochures, flyers, etc): If you’re sending promotional material out into the world, you might as well tell them a little bit more about your business – even if it’s just in a sentence or two.
* Outgoing voicemail message: If your business requires a lot of phone communication, consider adding a line or two from your pitch in your outgoing message. This will reassure the caller that they’re calling the right person who can help them. For example, in my own outgoing message I simply say “I’m currently helping professionals introduce themselves with high impact – either visually or through their networking commercial.” Simple, and not bogging the caller down with a 30-second out going message.
* Introduction letters/phone calls: You’re making an introduction anyway, why not start off with your elevator pitch – you can always elaborate.

Remember, your elevator pitch is simply an introduction. It’s your 30-second verbal commercial, and it’s crucial to have one. After all, you never know, you might just be talking to your very next customer.

Barbara Lopez, The Elevator Pitch Coach and President of Brightfarm Introductions, helps business professionals introduce themselves with high impact. You can sign up for free weekly tips on how to keep your introduction fresh as well as boost your networking at www.brightfarm.com.

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  • This is great info, Grace. As a custom wedding invitation designer, it was especially on-point! I just hope I remember to call myself Autumn and not “Molly” when I make my pitch. :)

  • This is a great article! I’m always going to networking events and having trouble describing what I do in a brief but notable way. Thanks!

  • wow, hot post! the best free advice I’ve heard in a while! saying ‘freelance copy editor’ won’t be so flat anymore. thanks!

  • Great advice – thanks so much! I guess my pitch would be “you how when you eat garlic you smell like it for days? well, I make a product that gives you long lasting fresh breath!”

  • I’ll echo that this is good advice. Jim and I have been in business for 10 years and have done countless trade shows and meetings with clients and potential clients. The elevator speech is crucial. And it still trips me up. My best advice is “practice makes perfect”. You want to make it sound natural and conversational even after a glass of wine!

  • This segment has been my favorite of the series! I am often asked what i do and give some shot answer that doesnt leave a whole lot of room for dialogue. Now i am going to work on really talking myself up, hey i think what i do is pretty cool, why wouldn’t someone else!? Thanks Grace!

  • We’re just revamping the home page, and this dovetails beautifully. I’ve used other coaching for elevator pitches, and this one truly does make it bubble up! Thanks

  • Thank you so much for this fun and on-point article! I hadn’t thought to start my explanation with a pain point and it makes so much sense. I also really like the different conversational scenarios. Thank you; will be rehearsing tonight!
    – Johanne

  • This is great. I’ve seen so many outlines of why it’s important to have an elevator pitch telling you that you should have a 30 second statement, but never broken down so thoroughly. Very easy to digest and to figure out how to apply to my own situation. Thanks!

  • The Biz Ladies articles are so informative, this one particularly so, and each one leaves me hoping a Biz Ladies handbook is forthcoming. Thank you!

  • this is wonderful advice – and free no less! I think it’s going to help me not only introduce myself (no more trying to skip over the question of “what do you do?”) but also help me to define what my business is all about for myself. many thanks :) bess

  • oh wow! inspiration is on the way! i always hand out my business card and hope that does the trick, mostly because what i do most people dont get! so my bet was that the ones curious by my card were the audience i was going for. this will help out for SURE!

  • I have done the 30 sec. commercial for 15 years. It works!
    Now with so many unemployed…how do you spin it when you are looking for employment??

  • Hello everyone! I’m so glad you have found this to be helpful – I sure had fun thinking about you creative folks while writing this!

    SueEllyn: Great question – you can still use the FARM system to spin it towards looking for employment. Instead of a business, you’re basically selling YOU and what you have to offer an employer. So spin it as YOU, and not a business:

    Pain point – what pain points can you ease for companies/organizations?

    Answer their pain point – how are you *specifically* going to help ease that pain point?

    Reasons you are different – throw in some strengths and experience

    Make them want more – have a resume/portfolio/calling card ready to go!

    Also, I’m hosting a free teleseminar tomorrow (Thurs May 14th) at 4:00 p.m. Pacific Time called “The 5 Biggest Mistakes Professionals Make in their Elevator Pitch” if anyone would like to listen in. You can register at: http://5mistakeselevatorpitch.eventbrite.com/

    Thanks again to lovely Grace for having me here!

  • Well done – this is a very useful guide. I have read plenty of articles about elevator pitches before, but none which go into nearly as much depth as this one. I’ve gained a lot from reading this and I will be bookmarking for future reference.

  • OUah! Really interesting.
    I will apply the FARM System NOW!
    I agree, a biz ladies handbook with that type of high quality content would be fantastic… and for sure a best seller! Thank you so much for sharing.

  • “when it came to talking about my business in my daily travels, I tended to hold back a little. When I think about why, I think that I assumed people didn’t want to hear about my business; that maybe they wouldn’t be interested, or that I’d somehow be bugging them.” Exactly!

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