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So, what do you do?

The elevator pitch for the one-floor ride

"So, what do you do?" The answer is what people sometimes refer to as the "elevator pitch". What can you say about your job, product, service, or company in a short period of time, so your audience is actually interested AND generally understands what you do? Often, companies hire engagement and communication experts to help them navigate this sometimes challenging yet important task. A project designed to communicate a clear value proposition and highlight truly distinguishing features. The essential benefits described in 20 seconds or less. Yes, 20 seconds or less…

So, what is the secret to a winning elevator pitch?

What do you do when faced with the question, "What do you do?"

A Harvard Business Review article I read recently provides the following tips:

  1. Start with a "firework" statistic. Say something that breaks expectations rather than a single predictable sentence stating your job title. "I am a marketer" does not exactly grab your attention. "I talk 1:1 with over 10 million consumers every single day" does.
  2. Ask a question. Pose a question that you think will be relatable to them…a question so interesting that they might actually answer. "Do you have any idea how many marketing messages you saw in the last 7 days?" No, I don't know, but can you tell me?
  3. Go to the noddable (something that gets just about everyone nodding in agreement). "It seems like we now see more marketing messages in 12 hours than we used to see in 12 months!" I agree with that!
  4. Finish with a curiosity statement. HBR outlined the curiosity statement as "I help/teach ______ (ideal client) to ______ (feature) so they can ______ (benefit)."

All 4 are key elements of an elevator pitch, although in today's world of greatly decreased attention spans, we may only have time for 1 of the 4 elements.

If that is the case, I suggest that #4 is where we should start. Pique the curiosity right away so they stay around to listen to the rest. "I help the best brands in the world have a conversation with millions of consumers on a daily basis, so they can increase sales by at least 25% in the first quarter they work with us." Okay, that's more compelling than "I am a marketer."

At a recent leadership event I attended, the speaker described how Google measured how much time people spend on a message before they swipe to the next…how long do you think it is? HINT: It's not even enough time to get on the elevator, press the button, and watch the doors close. I learned that it was an average of 9 seconds a year ago and this year, moved to 8 seconds! Gone are the glory days of 20 seconds.

At this event, our speaker moved around the room asking several CEOs and leaders to tell him what they do, getting results like "I keep companies compliant, I make sandwiches, I deliver large-scale event planning, I provide on-demand technology resources," etc.

Not surprising, he challenged the audience to create statements more in line with the HBR curiosity statement. The results were quite different and quite engaging. Definitely worthy of a reflective pause instead of a swipe, an elevator pitch that would make you ride for one more floor.

So, as you think about your next sales call, networking event, product launch, digital media message --- think about the new "digitally influenced" version of the elevator pitch, an even shorter version…that piques curiosity, interest, and communicates how you are going to change the world? Or at least an industry!

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