“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.
And that’s when I discovered I needed to learn how to create an elevator pitch.
As a fellow small business owner, I’m sure you’ve been asked more than once what it is that you do. And for those of you who work in more-recognizable fields, maybe you won’t have to learn how to create an elevator pitch, because you don’t necessarily need one.
But for the rest of us, we need to be able to explain what it is we do in just a few short sentences.
So whether you’re here because you need to practice pitching your business ideas to investors or you just stop worrying about explaining your business to folks, I hope you get some use out of my guide on how to create an elevator pitch!
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.
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.
If you want even more help answering the above questions, stay tuned - I’ll introduce you to a really neat template that can help you answer them without the hassle or headache.
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. It’s full of advice on how to simplify your language to make it easier for non-industry folks to understand you.
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.”
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.
One of the biggest mistakes that people tend to make when crafting a pitch is that they don’t think about what actually matters to their audience.
And that’s a big deal - especially when you’re creating an elevator pitch for an investor, potential employee, or anyone else you want interested in your business.
So when learning how to create your elevator pitch, think about what truly matters to your audience, and find ways to sneak it in without making the pitch too long.
For example, if you’re starting a remodeling business that specializes in farmhouse renovations, your pitch could look something like this:
“I’m starting a licensed and insured remodeling business that aims to restore farmhouses without sacrificing the qualities and charms that make them such highly desired real estate.”
Notice in that pitch that we touched on a few different points? Let’s go through each one and talk about why someone else might be interested in that information.
“Licensed and insured”: This little fact drops two huge pieces of information over the span of just one second - it’s telling the other person that your business has met its legal requirements, and carries insurance to protect both your business and the customer.
Both items matter, especially if you’re starting a business in an industry with risk for property damage, client lawsuits, and more. Investors and customers alike want to know if your business takes itself seriously - and nothing demonstrates that more than being licensed and insured.
By the way, if you want to get your business license, check out our state-by-state guide on how to get a business license.
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“Without sacrificing the quality and charms”: This little nugget sneaks in the USP of your remodeling business, which essentially communicates to the other person what makes your business so unique.
Remember, your elevator pitch is all about explaining what it is that you do, and what makes you so different from your competitors.
“Highly desired real estate”: This part will be music to the other person’s ears, especially if they’re an investor or loan advisor. In just four words, you’ve communicated that your business is in a lucrative market - and you stand to capitalize on it.
As you can see, while the above elevator pitch was short, it communicates volumes about what it is that you and your business are all about!
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.
Here’s another related tip: When practicing your elevator pitch, make sure you’re trying it out on someone who isn’t in your industry. Better yet, find someone who doesn’t know anything about what you do.
Here’s why: Elevator pitches only really work when it’s easy for everyone to understand. And if you’re practicing your pitch on people who don’t blink when they hear jargon, you’re probably not building the most effective pitch possible.
In other words, you need to practice your pitch on someone who has absolutely no problem saying, “I have no idea what you just said” to you. That kind of honesty can help you dive into what’s working - and what’s not working - with your elevator pitch.
Remember in the beginning of this article, when I mentioned that I used to be caught off-guard by people asking me what a copywriter did?
It took me a little while to get used to the question, but using the above tips, I finally mastered how to do it.
“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.
In addition to the tips I listed above, I wanted to call out one specific tip that really worked for my elevator pitch - creating a business plan.
You see, a business plan is a document that captures all of the important information about your business. It’s typically used to convince investors and financial professionals to sink money into your business, but a more informal business plan can also help you summarize your business in a thoughtful, meaningful way.
Because, after all, sometimes writing down what your business is all about can make it a lot easier to figure out what your pitch is!
Luckily, you don’t have to go through the hassle and headache of creating a business plan from scratch. Download our FREE business plan template, which contains all the prompts you need to start creating a powerful business plan.
Want some help creating your best business plan? Download our FREE business plan template here!
I hope this guide on how to create an elevator pitch helped break down some of the mystery involved in the process.
With the tips in this guide, you can transform your pitch into something that actually gets people excited and interested about your business - which is good news if you’re talking to an investor or potential employee!
Above all things, remain authentic to who you are as a business owner. Even the best elevator pitch won’t work if it feels forced or overly practiced. Remember, people also want to get involved with your business because of you.
So find the elevator pitch that paints your business in a good light AND lets your authenticity shine!
* Monthly payment calculations (i) do not include initial premium down payment and (ii) may vary by state, insurance provider, and nature of your business. Averages based on January - December 2020 data of 10% of our total policies sold.
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.
This content is for general, informational purposes only and is not intended to provide legal, tax, accounting, or financial advice. Please obtain expert advice from industry specific professionals who may better understand your business’s needs. Read our full disclaimer
*Harborway Insurance policies are underwritten by Spinnaker Insurance Company and reinsured by Munich Re, an A+ (Superior) rated reinsurance carrier by A.M. Best. Harborway Insurance is a trade name of Simply Business, Inc., which is a licensed insurance producer in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.