The dreaded elevator pitch.
You know what I’m talking about. The 60-second or less response to the question(s) regarding what your company does. In business this is one of the key messages you develop very quickly so you are ready at the next industry event, dinner or business meeting. Because let’s face it— we’ve all experienced the response that droned on forever only to leave you even more confused. And no one wants to be that person. Then there is the other end of the spectrum where the response is so specific, short and loaded with buzzwords that you feel stupid for not knowing what they are talking about. We don’t want that either.
Unfortunately, I’m embarrassed to say, I became the person in the latter scenario. After several months of using my tight and too-honed response (“We provide both an HTML5 Viewer as well as an Imaging and Conversion SDK”) I realized that my elevator pitch was the equivalent of a bad first date. The person I was trying to engage was not interested, mostly because they were confused. I might as well have been speaking a different language. At this moment, I realized I needed a new elevator pitch that could be flexible and tailored to the specific date I was on. Over time, I would need to take this pitch on not just one, but many first dates.
The misstep I made was assuming that because I was talking to colleagues at technology-focused industry events and dinners that my lingo resonated with them. I mean, why wouldn’t it? These are smart people in technology and everyone knows the terms SDK and HTML5. Right? Wrong. Before I knew it, I was quickly becoming the person who was doing a full blown powerpoint presentation to explain my quick pitch.
It wasn’t until I had the opportunity (ahem…challenge) to communicate what our products did to my non-industry colleagues that my pitch went on an impromptu first date. I was at a marketing conference where terms like ABM, Marketing Automation, and KPIs were common, but HTML5 and SDK were not. When I was asked the question “What does your company do?” I was about to give my standard elevator pitch response but quickly improvised and framed it in a way that would be relatable to my colleagues and the programs they typically use.
I simply said, “Our technology enables you to view, annotate, redact and work with various files directly in your web browser without ever having to download and convert files or open programs like Word, Adobe or Photoshop.” I never said the words SDK or HTML5 but my marketing colleagues got it. They got it to the point of asking more relevant questions and actually understanding it in the context of their applications.
After this experience, it dawned on me then that I needed to take my elevator pitch on a first date with each new delivery. Before I launch into a canned response, I put it in context for the recipient of my message. I understand, at a minimum, their industry, role or potential pain points and modify the response to make sense. It is akin to asking a person on a first date, “Tell me a little about yourself.”
Now when I get the question, regardless of whether I’m on a trade show floor, at a dinner meeting or even just a get together with friends, I turn the question around and ask what they do so that my response is tailored. And hopefully this leads to a “second date” (business meeting).