“Copywriting…what’s that? Is that legal work?” Sure, it’s just “small talk,” but my stomach has flipped.
This is an important moment — it’s time for me to explain my business and why someone might want to hire a professional writer.
“No, I don’t do legal work…that’s copyright,” I say. (You’d be surprised at how many people ask this.) Then I explain how many businesses need help communicating to their customers. I write website content, blog articles, social media posts, brochure copy, and much more. In short, I help businesses tell the story of what they do and why someone might want to buy their services.
But 10 years into owning my business, I still get anxious at giving an elevator pitch. For some reason, talking about myself gives me goosebumps. But why is that? I should be proud of what I do. If you’re anxious too, I can identify. But, after some thought, I’ve realized that giving an elevator pitch doesn’t have to be scary. It’s actually quite easy to do.
Together, let’s ditch our anxiety and talking comfortably about our businesses. To help, I’ve put together 5 tips for crafting an elevator pitch — plus a few examples. Anyone can master this skill, and to keep their business thriving, they probably should.
Answer the 5 Ws, plus one H.
Get a piece of paper and start answering some key questions:
These are the key questions that need to be answered when you give an elevator pitch — whether it’s at a first sales meeting or during a casual encounter at a coffee shop. People want a full understanding of what you do, and that includes covering the basics.
For example, I could say my business offers professional marketing writing, including brochure copy, website content, social media posts, and more. I love what I do because it allows me to help local businesses sell their products and grow. It also gives me a flexible work-life balance and the ability to work at home. That said, I’m always available to clients whenever they need me to come on-site, and I find most people appreciate my ability to work remotely and at all hours. I’m very responsive, offer a quick turnaround time, and can nail content with minimal edits.
Okay, that’s enough about me. Now it’s your turn. Spend an hour answering these key questions. They’ll be the basis for your elevator pitch. Make sure to answer all of them. If you miss even one question, you could leave someone confused.
Remove business jargon.
Lead flows. Lead generation. Remarketing. Smarketing. Top and bottom-of-the-funnel. Say what?
These are terms I purposely avoid. They’re “marketing speak” and confuse potential customers. Instead, I replace jargon with a clear, succinct explanation. For example, I say, “I create social media content that quickly attracts someone who isn’t familiar with your brand.” That’s top-of-the-funnel marketing.
What’s the jargon in your industry? Write those words down, tape them to a wall, and vow never to use them with someone outside your industry. Jargon is meaningless to most people, and avoiding it isn’t “dumbing it down.” It’s actually more difficult to come up with a clear, relatable explanation for what you do.
If you’re still struggling to cut out jargon, check out this article.
Say what you’ve accomplished.
Even if you’re just starting out, you’ve already accomplished something. Maybe you’ve drafted a business plan. You bought your first piece of equipment. Or maybe you have your first customer. In your elevator pitch, share what you’ve accomplished. I like to tell people about my favorite clients and how I’m proud that some notable brands have trusted me with their marketing.
Then add in your unique selling proposition (USP). What makes your business different? Why would someone want to choose you over another similar business? For example, if you run a landscaping company, you might write:
“We’re a family-owned landscaping business that’s been helping residential customers for more than 30 years. We’re passionate about making your lawn green and weed-free. So passionate, in fact, that we’ll give you your money back if you’re not completely satisfied with our work. Plus, our customers love that we’re experts in native plants. We can recommend the best perennials for your yard, so you’ll enjoy beautiful blooms throughout the year.”
Add a fun and interesting fact.
Grab their attention by sharing something unique — about you, your business, or by asking your prospect a question. In writing, we call this a hook.
I might start my elevator pitch by saying, “Do you have a website, and if so, have you tried writing its web content?” Another friend of mine shares why she started her company. In short, her brother was having trouble getting his medications quickly — and so she created software to help patients get their medicines faster.
A hook should relate to what you do and draw people in at the beginning of an elevator pitch. You don’t want a prospect’s eyes to glaze over when you jump into a lengthy explanation of your business model. Think about your hook, get creative, and remember to stay professional too.
Practice! Record it. Talk to a friend.
Practice makes perfect. Write your elevator pitch down and practice it in front of a mirror, or to a friend or coworker. Use a stopwatch and time how long it takes you to give your pitch. Try recording it and listening to it over and over. Your pitch should only last 20 to 30 seconds — or you’ll risk losing someone’s attention.
If you practice with a trusted friend, ask for tips. Is anything confusing? How’s your body language? You want to sound and look natural — not recited, memorized, or forced. And remember, the more you practice, the better you’ll be at giving your pitch and reeling in customers.
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I earned a B.A. in Journalism from the University of Wisconsin at Madison (go Bucky). After realizing my first job might involve carrying a police scanner at 2 am in pursuit of “newsworthy” crimes, I decided I was better suited for freelance blogging and marketing writing. Since 2010, I’ve owned my freelance writing business, EST Creative. When I’m not penning, doodling ideas, or chatting with clients, you’ll find me hiking with my husband, baby boy, and 2 mischievous mutts.
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