What is an elevator pitch? Why do you need a great one?


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An elevator pitch is a simple way of explaining what your product or service does. It’s called an elevator pitch because you’re supposed to imagine that you get into an elevator with another person, they ask what your company does, and you only have that brief moment in an elevator to give them a meaningful response.

Elliot Loh, a 500 Startups mentor, wrote in a guest blog post on the 500 blog examples of elevator pitches that he uses to describe his own projects:

“For Geni, I used to say, “We solve the problem of genealogy by matching possible relatives, to help genealogists create one accurate world family tree. We make money by charging enthusiasts for enhanced search and other premium features.” For Yammer, the pitch might be, “We make companies more efficient by providing a live feed of comments and questions, so employees can find answers more quickly. We make money by charging companies that want administrative control on their employee networks.'”

Loh’s examples are great because they simply describe the products he works on and how they make money. Simplicity is the key to crafting a great elevator pitch because in an elevator or at a conference, you’re likely to only have a quick moment to explain what you do and why your product or service is useful.

If you have your elevator pitch honed in already (or even if you don’t), it’s a great idea to be prepared for follow up questions to your pitch that will help you demonstrate your companies value. Think about some of the follow questions you might get asked so that you’re prepared to answer them when they’re asked to you. Here are a few questions that you might get asked:

  • How are you different than your competitors?
  • How much traction does your product have?
  • What makes the market you’re pursuing so valuable?
  • Are you the first to do what you’re doing?

Not having an elevator pitch crafted that successfully describes what your company does is one of the biggest missteps an entrepreneur can make. If you stumble on your startup pitch, you’ll come off as unprofessional, unprepared, and not passionate about what you’re working on.

If you need a hand preparing an elevator pitch, I previously created a template for writing an effective pitch. You can download it here.

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