Two people in an elevator icon

We like to help businesses with a whole range of different marketing techniques.  This article takes a close look at one of the oldest marketing techniques in history, and one which is never going to become outdated.  Yes, your elevator pitch may change over time, but you are always going to meet people who ask you what you do!

So, what is the concept of the elevator pitch.  As you can imagine from the name, it originates in the US (the “Lift Pitch” wouldn’t have sounded as good).  It is the practice of being able to succinctly present your business in a positive light, within less than a minute, to a complete stranger (typical of the amount of time you spend in a lift with someone).

Now, in reality, they don’t have to be a complete stranger. You may well know who they are.  However, it is best practice to work on the basis that they will be. Why? Because you are assuming that they know nothing about you. 

Every single interaction you have with another person could create the biggest business opportunity.  So many business deals have originated purely from a meeting of chance.  Now if you are a quick-thinking opportunist with the gift of the gab, these marketing techniques may come second nature to you.  However, if you, like the vast majority of the population, stumble and stammer when put under unprepared pressure, then you really need to work on your 60 second pitch in advance.

There is a famous quote from Seneca, the philosopher, statesman and dramatist, which says “luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity”.  Similarly, South African golfer Gary Player was famous for saying “the harder I practise, the luckier I get”.  Guess what, if you master this marketing technique, you may just seem to get a little luckier in your business.

Crafting the Pitch – the introduction

The first thing you want to do is communicate effectively who you are and namecheck the company you are representing.  For example:

“Hello, my name is Ian, Ian Kirk of Opportunity Marketing”

So in the first 10 words of my pitch I have mentioned my first name twice.  It may feel a little “James Bond” at first but it is a technique which works.  People forget names quickly, so my repeating it early gives you a much better chance of it being remembered.

Quickly into your company purpose

What we mean by company purpose, or what Andy Bounds calls the “Afters” is the benefit or value that you deliver to the people you provide your product or service to.  It is probably the most important line of your 60 second pitch because if this doesn’t hook them, then they will probably switch off and your 60 second pitch has become a 5 second statement.

So it could be something like:

“I help SME businesses exceed their growth aspirations by maximising their returns from marketing investment“.

Obviously, this statement can vary greatly depending on what you do, and how you position yourself within the marketplace.  You need to select your words carefully because you won’t get a second chance at this.  So looking at my purpose statement you can tell the following:

I help – that is what I do, help businesses make sense of the marketing minefield

SME business – this is my target audience

Growth aspirations – this is what my clients have

Maximising returns – this is the value I add

Investment – There is a commitment on the other part to invest.

My statement is very “Ronseal” in that I am just plainly saying what I do and the value I add.  Again this is deliberate because I try and simplify marketing for my clients – so they understand it better.  However if what I was selling was more of an impulse purchase, I may use more emotional or aspirational language.  So an estate agent may “help people find their dream ‘forever’ home”.

Very often, when in a networking situation, now is the natural time to break, pause and smile.  Why?  Because it provides the other person with an opportunity to express a genuine interest and ask for more information.

You will hear phrases like:

“That sounds interesting, tell me more about that”

“How do you do that?”

“who do you work with”

If you just say what you are, rather than the value you deliver, then you can find that conversation can end rather quickly as you have just provided a “fact”.  For example someone could already think they know what a marketing consultant does, or even have a negative view on “consultants” (which a lot of people do).

Part 3 – A little more information

The key to this part of your pitch is to elaborate further on your previous statement, if prompted to do so (remember – not everyone is going to be interested).  How you present this further information will largely depend on the previous question they ask after the smile!

It would be here that I explain that I focus initially purely on the fundamental marketing strategy and start with a blank sheet of paper.  If the underlying strategy is not right, then all marketing techniques and activity is just wasted investment.  I would also get in that, because we look at the “bigger picture” we do not favour any specific marketing channels so we are completely impartial (which is one of our USPs).

This is where you need to figure out what elements are key to your marketing messaging, what makes you different from other suppliers in the market.  When people are networking, they tend to carry around with them a subconscious filing system.  When they meet you, there will be one or two things that you say, which will determine where they file you!  This could be something niche and specialist about what you do, or perhaps a particular problem you solve, or the target audience that you service.  However, you need to decide where you want to be filed and adjust your pitch accordingly.

I know from experience that I usually get filed within “strategy” and “return on investment / results” or “analytical”, and this is deliberate.  I want to be associated with these elements because I am not a creative marketer or marketing agency, I am more about the science and maths of the discipline.

So now you have used these marketing techniques so that your audience understands more clearly what you do and the benefits you bring, you now want to move on to who you work with and the types of opportunities you are looking for.

Comic style drawing of lady holding a "why?" placard

Part 4 – Who you work with and why

If you are a regular reader of our bog articles you will know that one of the marketing techniques we are always banging on about understanding your target markets.  Now is the prime example of why.  If you can’t communicate clearly and succinctly the type of customers you are after – how is the other person ever going to be able to refer you.  They will simply file you in the “anybody & everybody” file, which, by the way, is the “nobody” file.

The brain is an amazing tool, and it is only when things have been brought into our consciousness and become of interest to us, that we start to notice them.  If you are really specific about the types of companies you would like to work with, the chances are that the name will crop up in conversation over the next few weeks (and present a possible opportunity). 

Now, the key in this part is not to stop when you have named your ideal target audience(s), but to explain the why!  However the “why” must be from the customers perspective.  Why is it in their best interests to have a conversation with you?  This can then, potentially, reiterate some of the messaging from “the company purpose”.

If you can provide a compelling reason why your target audience may benefit from speaking to you, then you are much more likely to get a referral.  You have made the referrers life much easier.  Suddenly they can see how you may benefit their contact, rather than them deciding whether they want to try and help you.

Part 5 – How to introduce you

So let’s recap on your 60s pitch marketing techniques. Your immediate audience know who you are, what you do, the benefit you bring and your ideal target customer and why they may want to speak to you.  So you could have nailed it up to this point, but if they just don’t know how to introduce you, the likelihood is that they won’t.

Some people will ask.  Others won’t.  In this situation you need to take control.  You need to help them to help you.  Mechanisms you could use include a “free Audit” or some useful information you may be able to provide them to send on, or a case study of a similar business, or a specific question to ask them.  I know on previous occasions, when I have been the audience, I have asked the person whether they could provide me the words to best introduce them.  On some occasions you may get a direct introduction there and then – either in a networking environment or they may call their contact there and then.

The close

So, if you have followed the structure shown you have given yourself a really good chance of sowing a seed which could cultivate over time.  However, there is one problem.  People will only work with and refer people that they like.  So none of the content has actually helped them like you!

Of course you may smile throughout the conversation, and you may have remembered and used their name a couple of times (people like hearing their own name).  But how do get people to like you?  For some this is easier than others.  Some of us are “people” people and some of us aren’t.  Some of us love networking environments and some of hate the social pressure of interacting with a room full of strangers.

However, everybody likes good manners and being listened to.  So firstly, make sure that you flip the conversation and ask them about themselves – and listen to them.  Ask them questions, engage with them, take an interest.  If you can help them in any way, help them.  Commit to helping them in any way you can and follow through with it.  People will always want to help those who have helped them.  It may take a while, but you will associate positive feelings with your name in that “virtual filing system”.

Finally, when the conversation has run its course, thank them for their time and express what a pleasure it has been to meet them.

So, now you are equipped to start using these marketing techniques to sow some seeds for your business. Like farming, you will not necessarily see immediate results, but over time, following this practise will cultivate the seeds and eventually you should benefit from a bountiful harvest.

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Ian is the founder of Opportunity Marketing marketing, with over 18 years of experience in successfully setting up marketing departments, creating marketing strategies and implementing these strategies across a wide number of SME companies in both the B2B and B2C sectors through a variety of channels.