I read an article recently about how the elevator pitch is dead. About how is is an obsolete business practice in today's world. But I couldn't disagree with this more. The elevator pitch is alive and well, handy to have in assorted business situations and even with family and friends. I am a graphic designer and marketer by trade and I often get the question "what do you do?" I'm sure you can relate. You say you are a designer and people say, "Oh!" smile and nod. But do they really understand what I do? Probably not. Graphic designer in our day and age is an all encompassing title that can mean anything from "I do brand identity" to "I write copy, design marketing materials, design t-shirts, design social media graphics and business presentations." I don't know about you, but if I was at a networking event, I would want to know what exactly this person and I have in common so that we might potentially help each other down the road. This is where the elevator pitch comes in. No, you won't be rolling it out every time those doors close and when you have your own business, there are no big wigs to rub elbows with between the third and fourth floors. So why do you still need one? Because it is a valuable part of what you do and who your business is.
Quick Back Story
The elevator pitch started out as a way to get in front of the people you normally wouldn't get in front of. Scenario: Robert has a great idea of how to take his company to the next level, but he gets coffee for the financial director at his firm. One morning, after a nod to the gentleman that smiled at him, Robert notices that that man is the marketing director accompanied by the CEO. This would be Robert's chance. This would be his time to shine. He could pitch his idea and get it directly to men that he would not under normal circumstances have access to. Wish Robert the best of luck.
A Small Business and a Three Floor Walk-Up
So you don't rub elbows with people in the elevator at work because well, your desk is set up in your living room in a corner about the size of a standard filing cabinet. But that's ok. Because your elevator pitch is still relevant and still super important. The human attention span is believed to have fallen below that of a goldfish. That's right. Flipper the goldfish has a bigger attention span than the average person nowadays. You have eight seconds. Eight seconds to get what you need to get it out and clear to the person you are speaking to before they are wondering where you got your shoes. That's pretty insane. But with this information, we can see that a prepared what you do statement is a huge asset. You don't want to be blabbering on in a crowded room about the nitty-gritty of what you do to a person who just asked about the gist. And that is what you need to give them. The gist. Hello, elevator pitch. This concept isn't used like it used to be. The fact is, we don't have to pitch to our superiors when we run a business. That was kind of one of the biggest reasons to go into business for ourselves. So below I have listed [number] places that you still need your elevator pitch.
- Networking events
- Social events
- Pretty much any business introduction
- Social media
As you can see, though you may not need it in an elevator anymore, the elevator pitch is still important in 2016.
The First Steps to a Wicked Elevator Pitch
There are three bits of information that you have to know about your business before you can build your pitch. First and foremost, you need to know who your target audience is. Not sure? Check out this post on building that profile here. Already know? Awesome. You're going to need that inside info about who they are, what they need and how you can provide it because those are the parts you need to make a great pitch. Your elevator pitch should be a snapshot of what you do, not details. Do they need to know that you work primarily on Squarespace or in Adobe products? Then don't include it. It's not that important. That's what follow up questions are for. The formula for an elevator pitch really is just as simple as who you work for, what you do for them, and how you do it.
My elevator pitch is usually something along these lines.
"I create visual solutions for companies and individuals that enhance and embody their brand and products, providing them with marketing materials and strategies for their current and future needs."
Can you see it? I broke it down pretty simple. I do graphic design for companies and individuals. I provide them with marketing print work and strategies. I do this by anticipating what their future needs may be based on where they want to be. It's pretty cut and dry. I usually get some follow-up questions about where I work and what kind of strategies I can help with, but nobody really asks for clarification on what I do because, BOOM. They got it all in eight and a half seconds. Yeah, I've timed it. And I know that if they do need clarification, they don't need a whole lot and probably just want to know what some of the finer points are.
By following the formula, you can hit that eight second window you have, clear up any confusion, and rock the crap out of your introduction.
Practice Makes Perfect
This is going to sound mean. I know it is. Sorry in advance.
I kind of always giggle at the robot pitch. The one that might as well be delivered with a "bee boop boop beep" right after. Yes, you want to know what works and what doesn't, but this isn't a script to follow. It's a guideline. And because you're awesome and know your target audience, you know what you do for them, and you know exactly how you deliver your amazing to them, you don't have to memorize your lines. You can make it conversational and to do this, practice. You can do this by sitting in front of a mirror and making yourself say it five different ways. Or when you end up at a party where you don't know everyone, walk up, introduce yourself and wait for the no longer dreaded "What do you do?" question. Do this with as many people as you can. They don't know you. And best of all, that's practice that you don't have to worry about messing up in front of someone that can impact your business. Better to mess up at Ashley's party than to mess up at a networking event, where you need to have your confidence flag flying. Don't be a robot. Practice.
Get Out There and Pitch
Because you know your stuff, this shouldn't be difficult for you. You know who your target audience is, you know what you do, you know how you do it. Bam, baby. Simple as that. Follow the formula and practice on every unsuspecting person that you possibly can (I've practiced with the cat) and you'll get more and more comfortable telling people what you do and more confident knowing that if you did have to do what Robert from paragraph two did, you could knock it out of the park. Comment below with your elevator pitch. I'd love to hear them!
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