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I’m finding it hard to sum up the proposition of my business in a short, snappy way. Help!

Thursday, 9 December 2010 | By Michael Fox

I’m trying to work out my elevator pitch for potential investors. I’m finding it hard to sum up the proposition of my business in a short, snappy way. How can I get around this?

 

The elevator pitch is important to any start-up. You'll need to use it with investors, potential partners, customers, prospective employees and even your friends when you're telling them about this crazy idea that you're working on.

 

Keeping it short, snappy and to the point is critical for getting your message across and getting buy-in from these key groups of people you'll be working with.

 

A great elevator pitch does four things:

 

1. It sets out the problem.

2. It sets out the opportunity.

3. It sets out how the business is going to solve that in a way that's valuable to customers.

4. And most importantly, it inspires the listener.

 

Not all of those four points should be explicit in the pitch, but each of them must be implicit and easy for a listener to arrive at and understand.

 

It doesn't have to and shouldn't give all the detail - you don't need to describe the features you're building. The goal of the pitch is to inspire the listener to want to spend time with you to find out more.

 

Here are some questions to ask yourself before putting your elevator pitch together:

 

What do you and others find inspiring about the business?

 

What are your key selling points?

 

If you had to describe it to your grandmother what would you say?

 

In my view the ideal elevator pitch is 10 seconds and at most two sentences long. Here's what I imagine the elevator pitch to be for three of my favourite companies:

 

Google

We're the fastest, most relevant search engine on the web. We'll monetise the results by showing useful, relevant ads to users.

 

Apple

We design and manufacture aesthetically amazing, highly desirable, easy to use consumer electronics products.

 

Facebook

We connect everyone in the world with their friends online, and make it easy to communicate with them.

 

Your elevator pitch will evolve over time. Larry and Sergey, the founders of Google, didn't know how they were going to monetise their search engine when they were pitching to investors back in 1998. When he started Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg was only planning to connect everyone at Harvard.

 

Our elevator pitch at Shoes of Prey is:

 

Shoes of Prey allows women to design their own shoes online which we then hand make and ship to them.

 

Talking to the four key points of a good elevator pitch above, ours:

 

1. Implicitly describes the problem - the difficulty in finding the perfect pair of shoes.

2. Implicitly describes the opportunity - lots of women find this to be a problem.

3. It explicitly says how we solve this problem - you design your shoes online and we make and ship them to you.

4. As it's a new and unique idea, our hope is that it inspires the listener.

 

Depending on their perspective the listener’s mind will ideally jump to one or more of the following thoughts:

Customer - wow, I want to try this, my friend X would love it to, I should tell her!

 

Investor - this is a global online retail opportunity. It has low capital requirements as they don't need to hold stock.

Partner - this product would excite our customers, perhaps we can partner with this business.

 

Prospective employee - this sounds like a unique and fun start-up to work at.

 

The best way to put together your own elevator pitch is to practice. Practice on your friends and family, try out different ideas to see what works. Like your business, it's going to evolve.

 

The great thing about an elevator pitch is that it can be a great tool for helping you determine if your product or business idea is going to work, and defining what it should be.

 

If you're having trouble distilling what you're doing perhaps you're trying to do too much and you should simplify your proposition, or perhaps your value proposition isn't something customers are looking for and you need to adjust it.

 

If you're working on a start-up at the moment what's your elevator pitch? Feel free to share in the comments below.