Every week as @SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wed on Twitter from 8-9pm ET. This is excerpted from my recent interview with Barbara Lopez @Brightfarm who is President of Brightfarm Introductions. Her company originally started out as a video production company specializing in writing :30-second and :60-second commercials. In 2008, she turned her process for writing videos into a simple process for creating elevator pitches. For more details www.brightfarm.com.
Smallbizlady: What is an elevator pitch?
Barbara Lopez: It is your verbal commercial. Usually 30 to 60-seconds. It’s designed to effectively answer the question, “What do you do?”. The term was coined years ago as a business term. It originated as the time it takes someone to ride an elevator and “pitch” what it is that you do to someone else. Other common terms are elevator speech or networking commercial. Nowadays, there are MULTIPLE places to use an elevator pitch, not JUST in an elevator. Obviously it’s used mostly in networking situations. But really, your elevator pitch is the VERBAL commercial that you’re going to use about yourself every single day, which you’re going to share with every single person you meet.
Smallbizlady: Who needs an elevator pitch?
Barbara Lopez: I truly believe that EVERYONE needs an elevator pitch. Think about how often we’re all asked, “What do you do?.” It’s a very common question, especially in social situations. People ask that question because it’s a good way to get to know someone. It’s a safe place to start a conversation. In that case, I think everyone needs one.
Smallbizlady: Why is it so important to have an elevator pitch?
Barbara Lopez: It’s crucial for business owners, entrepreneurs, and anyone looking to promote their business and career to have an elevator pitch. After all, “when your mouth is OPEN, so is your business.” “And when your mouth is CLOSED, so is your business.” That means, if we want people to know that we’re open for business, we need to TELL them. We can’t just assume that people know that we are. An elevator pitch is the perfect tool to do just that. Everything in business STARTS with a bright introduction. It’s your verbal commercial that you use in introducing yourself to every new person you meet. It could be in a professional networking situation. Or in line at the grocery store or post office. Or at a social event. You never know when you might be talking to your next customer.
Smallbizlady: What are the key benefits of having an elevator pitch?
Barbara Lopez: It gives us an opportunity to start out with a GREAT first impression when meeting someone new. Has this ever happened to you? Someone asks, “What do you do?” And your mind just goes…..blank? Having an elevator pitch saves us from those types of awkward or embarrassing situations.
When we have a polished and professional elevator pitch, we also set ourselves apart from our competition in a BIG way. It’s one thing just to say, “I’m a realtor”. But it’s more important to tell more to engage conversation. Being able to clearly and concisely describe what we do allows us to show that we are truly professional. We’re not fly-by-night business people, but that we can easily explain what we do. We can get the other person’s attention MUCH easier. We are respecting their time by being concise. It’s a conversation starter.
Smallbizlady: What are some common mistakes professionals have toward elevator pitches?
Barbara Lopez: Not knowing what to say. Resulting in “flying by the seat of their pants”. Which is never the best impression. Also, thinking they have to list everything that they have to offer. That’s not the best thing to do, because it can be overwhelming. Some people also get anxious when it comes to pitching to entire groups at once. Speaking to a group in a round-robin scenario is basically public speaking. And that can add a lot more pressure or anxiety.
Smallbizlady: What are some goals people should strive for when it comes to their elevator pitch?
Barbara Lopez: It’s best to keep these four in mind: 1) Be clear and concise. People want to know what you do in the shortest amount of time possible. 2) Make a great first impression. Deliver it well, so that the person continues the conversation. 3) Stand apart from your competition. Don’t just be pegged as someone in your industry. Be the best in your industry. 4) Attract them to want to know more. Again, it’s just a conversation opener, so have a call to action to move the conversation forward.
Smallbizlady: What are the critical components of an effective elevator pitch?
Barbara Lopez: It basically boils down to 4 key points that other people WANT to know about you. 1) What problem or pain point you solve for people. 2) How you solve it. 3) Why you’re different from your competition. 4) How they can learn more about you and/or your service or product right away.
Smallbizlady: Is it really that simple?
Barbara Lopez: Yes. The key is to focus the elevator pitch on YOU and not so much on your company/product/or service. You want to position yourself as the expert or specialist when it comes to the problem you solve. In networking, people want to connect with people, not businesses. So it’s important to introduce yourself as the person to go to when they have that problem. Or when someone else has that problem.
Smallbizlady: Where are some places professionals can use their elevator pitch?
Barbara Lopez: Most people think it’s strictly for networking. But there are so many other places you can use it. Especially since it’s such a concise message about what you do and offer. You can use the whole elevator pitch or even just parts of it in other areas of your marketing. The back of your business card is great. That way you’re sending people off with your pitch after they’ve just met you. On your outgoing voicemail message. That builds confidence when people call, to know you’re going to help with that specific problem. On your website — especially your About page. In your social media profiles. As a starter for a sales letter or introductory email.
Smallbizlady: What is the biggest piece of advice you can give professionals who don’t have an elevator pitch?
Barbara Lopez: Be prepared. Take some time to focus on at least a 30-second elevator pitch. You’ll feel much more comfortable and confident at networking functions. And in your daily travels. It can make a huge difference in the first impressions you’re making. After all, you never know when you might be speaking to your very next customer.
Melinda Emerson, known to many as “SmallBizLady,” is a Veteran Entrepreneur, Small Business Coach and Social Media Strategist who hosts #SmallBizChat weekly on Twitter for emerging entrepreneurs. Her first book Become Your Own Boss in 12 Months is out in March 2010.