The Anatomy of an Elevator Pitch

Elevator pitches are hard. Believe me, I have tried. I always had more success describing the product through examples of usage when I had more time. It looks as if the big CEOs have similar problems, as well. I smiled, when I saw this  –  Embattled CEO still unable to define her company.

“What is Yahoo?”:“I think Yahoo is a simple story: we’re a tech company, we’re content, we’re media, we’re innovative. We have that quality, and it allows us to really personalize the Web.”

What does any of that mean? “We’re a tech company”? Now there’s a differentiator. “We’re content”? “We’re media”? “We’re innovative”? If this were an elevator pitch for a start-up seeking funding, the VCs would have gotten off two floors early just to avoid the embarrassment.

I am surprised because Carol did much better at Nasscom Product Conclave in Bangalore. I thought she gave a pretty good interview.

How can you provide one consistent overall message when you do so many different things? Take Google for example. They are primarily known as a Search company. But they also provide Cloud based apps (SaaS or software as a service), an operating system that powers mobile devices like Android. Does their tag line “Organizing World’s Information” cover all of this?

For startups, though, it should be a bit simpler. You pick a niche where you want to be a market leader. Finding this niche is perhaps the most difficult thing. Once you do, expressing it would be much simpler.

I finally found a useful resource to create a pitch – a pitch builder.   It lets you break down your pitch into several segments and think about each. Here are the components of a pitch. It is slightly different from other pitch descriptions I have seen (for example, it does not talk about whom you compete with).

  1. Who? – Describe who you are
  2. What? –  Describe what you do
  3. Why? – Describe what you do that is different or better
  4. Goal? – Describe your goal

After a few iterations, this is what I came up with. It is not perfect but it is a lot better than what I had before. I just color coded the pitch for easily separating  the – Who, What, Why, Goal questions.

We are a leading vendor of information engines. Our products help you discover useful information. We help you obtain market intelligence that is hard to find through search engines. Our goal is to help your business create better products and services by providing tools to gather timely and relevant information.

The goal of pitch is to start a conversation. At the end of a pitch, people should ask several questions. In this case:

  • What are information engines?
  • What is market intelligence?
  • How is it useful for my company?
  • How do you do it?
  • How do you know what is useful for my business? etc.

If they just say, “that is nice”,  and walk away without asking you even a single question, you know, you have failed (assuming that you are talking to a potential customer). If they say “That is BS. You can’t really do stuff like that”, that is great too. That gives you an opportunity to explain and later refine your pitch.

So what do you think? Do you have a pitch? Do you want to jump in and increase the collective intelligence about pitches?

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