Crafting the Perfect Elevator Pitch

Perfect Elevator Pitch

by Joanne Gore, Director of Marketing, Avanti

This article orignially appeared in PrintMediaCentr’s News from the Printerverse


Picture yourself in an elevator on the 15th floor. The doors open and in walks Kevin O’Leary, from Shark Tank (US) and Dragon’s Den (Canada). You catch his attention and offer to shake his hand. He extends his, says hello, and says: “Nice to meet you. What do you do?”

How would you answer? Think about it. You have about 2 minutes to spit it out, with enthusiasm, while engaging him, and hoping that the conversation continues after the doors open up on the ground floor.

What would happen if one of your co-workers was in that elevator instead of you? Would the pitch be the same?

The name “elevator pitch” reflects the idea that it should be possible to deliver the summary in the time span of an elevator ride, or approximately thirty seconds to two minutes and is widely credited to Ilene Rosenzweig and Michael Caruso (while he was Editor for Vanity Fair) for its origin. The term itself comes from a scenario of an accidental meeting with someone important in the elevator. If the conversation inside the elevator in those few seconds is interesting and value adding, the conversation will either continue after the elevator ride, or end in exchange of business cards or a scheduled meeting. (source: Wikipedia)

When written, the typical elevator pitch is 25 to 50 words. It offers information about what your company does, the customers you serve and, most importantly, how your company is unique. It seems simple, after all, it’s only 25 – 30 words. But I’ve seen (and heard) many that go something like:

I run/work at Acme Printing. We produce high quality print at a great price with exceptional customer service. We have the latest presses and equipment and our shop runs 24/7. No job is too big or too small. (38 words)

Although factually, all of the above may be correct, it really isn’t unique. Granted there is the statement of being open 24/7. But really, isn’t that the expectation (regardless of the reality)? Because chances are you are running far more jobs through your shop than ever before. And you’re doing it with fewer resources, smaller margins, and in less-than-ideal timeframes. All because the customer wants it “right away”.


What if instead of the “vanilla” pitch, above, it was positioned as follows:

I run/work at Acme Printing. We specialize in full-colour digital print solutions for education, training, and sales professionals who demand quick turnaround times, often overnight. (25 words)

To help you get from Vanilla to Chocolate Explosion (yes, I’m a chocoholic), I’ve outlined eight questions for you to contemplate. Once you’ve answered them, you can whittle them down until you’ve crafted your perfect pitch. This might prove to be one of the most daunting tasks you face…but the end result will far outweigh the challenge.

  1. What do you do?
  2. How are you different or unique?
  3. What are the key benefits? (aka: What’s in it for me the customer/user?)
  4. Who are the target audiences? (note: if you say “everyone” go back to #1 and start over)
  5. What are their characteristics such as demographics, education, habits, etc.?
  6. Who’s the competition, and what are the competitive alternatives? (note: if you don’t think you have any competition then ask yourself “why not”? Then go back to #1 and start over)
  7. What are your customers’ pain points or needs?
  8. How could you make their lives better (happier/easier/more profitable, etc.)?

Finally…be sure to test your elevator pitch out. Not only with your executive and marketing teams, but with your staff. And your neighbours. And your friends. The more the better, especially if they’re outside the industry. Give the pitch to your mom (or dad). If they “get it”, chances are you’re good to go.

Now, go out and ride some elevators! And treat yourself to some ice cream while you’re at it!

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