Why your small business needs more than one elevator pitch 

- November 20, 2019 2 MIN READ

Everyone needs an elevator pitch – that pithy summary of what you do and what benefit it brings to your customers. Don’t think because you run a small business you don’t need one, it’s more competitive than ever and being able to explain the value you provide, and your point of difference quickly is essential. In fact, you need a quiver full of those messaging arrows that you can shoot at different targets.

That’s the thing about great messaging; it’s tailored for each specific audience. I could tell you a story about someone who wanders past a vacant house, steals food and squats for a while before being caught. Or I can tell you a fairy tale about Goldilocks and how she tried different beds and food in a stranger’s home. To the police, the first is a crime story. For kids, it’s a cute fairy-tale. The facts are the same, but the storytelling is very different. 

Every small business fighting to compete and grow and secure talent needs an elevator pitch that they can adapt to different situations.

The elevator pitch you use for prospective partners, suppliers, investors and staff should be a little different from the one presented to customers and different again for media. You could even have another version to use in social situations when people ask what your business does. 

The common pitfall is thinking an elevator pitch must be a summary of everything you do, with lots of technical details. It doesn’t. It needs to be just enough so the person listening wants to know more. It needs to be succinct, easy to understand and engaging. Think of the movie Philadelphia and tell me like I’m a three-year-old. 

As an example, we’ve been working with a boutique retail store that sells locally sourced ethical goods. One version of their elevator pitch could be:

“We help local artists and ethical suppliers reach customers with unique gifts and products to cherish.”

That message is simple, gets the idea across and opens the door for someone to ask how that’s done, why it needs to be done and for examples of what they sell. 

But, if they’re talking to potential new suppliers, then their elevator pitch might be more like: 

“Our store(s) promote local artisan goods and we only sell ethically sourced, environmentally conscious products. We want to make it easier for consumers to find items they can cherish that help the local community and are better for the planet.”

Again, the point isn’t to bombard the listener with technical detail. But it tells the potential supplier that you a viable distributor and recognise the uniqueness of their goods. It also enables them to align with a store that isn’t also selling mass-produced brands, that can be bought anywhere.  

There are thousands of small businesses competing to stand out and make the leap from idea to perhaps a pop-up, then online store and then multiple bricks and mortar stores. First you need a great idea, then you need to create a desirable product or service and then you need to hone your messaging so that you can convey what you do and its value to different audiences. 

Writing and practicing different elevator pitches for different audiences allows you to target what you say so you can get maximum value from limited opportunities.

Elevator pitches are like clothes – you need one for every occasion. And remember you might only get 30 seconds, so be ready to make the first impression count. 


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