Your Elevator Pitch Only Needs to Accomplish One Thing

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Your Elevator Pitch Only Needs to Accomplish One Thing

There’s a reason it’s referred to as an “elevator pitch” – it must be expressed in a couple of sentences and no more than 10 seconds.  And that might even be a little generous.  Psychologist Michael Formica reported that the average non-task-oriented attention span of a human being is about 8 seconds.  What is important to remember is the only thing your elevator pitch needs to accomplish is to cause enough interest on the part of the recipient to ask you any question that lets you expand a little further.  But also be careful about abusing the permission you’ve been given to continue.  Now you have 2-5 minutes to generate enough interest for a full-blown conversation, either then or separately scheduled.

I mention this because I see a lot of startups way over thinking the elevator pitch.  Start with two sentences that answer the following questions:

  1. What do you do?
    My Capital Factory colleague, Mikey Trafton, teaches startups to simplify their answer to this question using the following format:  “We help (customers) (solve problem) so they can (benefit).”  Easy, right?  Just fill in the placeholders with your info.  Actually, it truly is pretty simple.
  2. Why should someone care?  (aka – so what?)
    The answer to this might be a little different depending on whether you’re talking to a prospective customer, business partner or investor.  But it must complement your first sentence describing what you do and it must be compelling enough to give the other person no choice but to ask a question.  Make a bold claim.

Here is a made up example:  “Shockwave Innovations helps startups navigate the chaos of fundraising so they can stop worrying about having enough money to make payroll and instead continue their focus on running the business.  We’ve been so successful in past few years that three companies we’ve helped were voted Startup of the Year and five others had profitable exits that gave their investors a 25x average return on investment.”

Obviously, what I’m hoping for is a response like “Wow, what is your secret?” or “Very impressive, might I know any of those companies?”  It really doesn’t matter what they ask because it buys me 2-5 minutes of additional valuable time.

For those that are refining their elevator pitch for fundraising purposes, keep in mind that a great elevator pitch alone won’t get you funded because it’s just a door opener to a longer conversation.  You’ve got to be fundable to get funded.  However, I will also say that a crappy elevator pitch can severely impact your ability to get funded even if you are fundable.  In other words, it can be a prerequisite to having the needed follow-on conversations with an investor prospect.

What about the one-line pitch that you use like a tagline?  Check out this blog post by Chris Eleftheriadis who analyzed almost 2,000 listings on AngelList to identify the most common approaches to the one-line pitch, specifically those that reference other established companies.  LinkedIn, Pinterest and Ebay were the most commonly referenced and the Top 10 referenced companies accounted for almost half of all one-line pitches that included a company reference.  You can check out his full blog post here:http://www.visionmobile.com/blog/2013/06/the-art-of-one-line-pitching-a-study-of-angelist/.

Now it’s time to refine your elevator pitch (and possibly also your one-line pitch) and give it a test drive.  Are you getting the response you want?  If not, adjust and try again.  Keep iterating until you start getting follow-up questions that allow you to explain more.

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