Develop an Elevator Speech for Your Business Plan
When you’re in business, you need to be ready to talk about your business or business plan at any moment with an answer to the question, So what do you do? Marketers and investors call your response to this question your elevator speech because if you craft it correctly, you can deliver it in the time it takes to ride an elevator through a high-rise building.
In that short span of time — which is just as apt to take place at a conference or a networking event — you need to
Introduce yourself and your business in a way that makes other people want to know more.
Tell what you do in terms that someone outside your business or industry can easily understand.
Describe your product or service and the benefits that it delivers.
Define the market for your offerings.
Set yourself apart by highlighting your competitive advantages, your unique business model, and the people behind your business, such as prominent investors, board members, associations, or business partners.
Generate interest, prompt questions, and begin to develop a relationship.
This list is a tall order for sure, and for that reason, practicing is the only way to perfect your response. Before you write your elevator speech, however, you need to keep in mind what you shouldn’t do or say:
Don’t begin with a dull, generic introduction, such as I sell insurance, or I run a social service agency. Start by inspiring interest and prompting questions rather than evoking stereotypes.
Don’t dive into a sales pitch. Remember, you’re presenting your business here, not the bells and whistles included in each of your products.
See which of the following two elevator speeches reels in your interest.
I’m a health-information specialist. I produce a world-class newsletter, send e-mail updates, and establish client relationships in an effort to support health and wellness for people 50 and older. Working with individuals, HMOs, physicians, and health and fitness centers, my business is a leading player in helping people maintain healthy lifestyles by providing summaries of medical advances and practical lifestyle advice, as well as access to leading medical professionals.
Our business translates medical breakthroughs into people language for the fast-growing, 50-plus age group nationwide. Basically, we shrink the latest medical findings into news capsules that we feature in a monthly newsletter. Our subscribers include HMOs, clinics, and fitness centers — plus 15,000 individuals who receive targeted e-mails addressing specific health conditions. We’ve won advertising commitments from more than 50 marketers who want to reach our audience of health-conscious older Americans.
The first description starts with a bit of a clunker. The term health-information specialist must mean something, but the listener probably isn’t quite sure what and likely cares even less. The jargon continues throughout the presentation. Plus, the first two sentences start with I — too self-centered to ignite a conversation.
The entrepreneur doesn’t include a single word that indicates that she has a business with a revenue stream. We hope the listener isn’t a potential investor!
The second description starts with a sentence that describes the company’s innovative product and target audience. The second sentence tells how the business works. The third sentence references the business model, or where revenues come from. And the fourth sentence builds credibility by presenting proof of market acceptance. The whole message is delivered with enthusiasm and in easy-to-understand language, making it the best option of the two.
A good way to start working on your elevator speech is to imagine that you’re talking to a group of friends. You’re apt to relax, get right to the point, and explain your business — or your new business idea — in the simplest, most persuasive language possible.
Answer the following questions as you develop your elevator speech. You won’t include all your answers in your short business description, but by answering the questions in advance, you see which aspects of your business are worthy of spotlights.
What business are you in?
What is your product or service? Give a broad-brush answer without getting hung up on details.
Who is your target customer? How large is your market?
What benefits do your customers receive, or what problems do you help them solve?
What sets your business apart? Think about unique technologies, special expertise, marketing potential, and the strengths of your management team, investors, board members, and industry associations.
Who are your competitors and how is your business different and better?
Jot down a first draft of your elevator speech (or use a voice recorder and transcribe it later). Your early thinking comes in handy when you sit down to write a short, compelling description of your business in the Company Overview and the Company Description sections of your plan. As you finalize your draft, use language that expresses enthusiasm and excitement (without gushing).