The Elevator Pitch

by Ebong Eka, CPA

A good elevator pitch is easy to understand and gets straight to the point without a lot of fluff. Here's how you can create a clear and concise elevator pitch that will let customers know what you do and why they need your product or service.

Start Me Up!Excerpted from Chapter 9 of Start Me Up!


As you probably know, an elevator pitch is a short summary used to quickly and simply define a product, service, or organization and its benefits to customers. The term “elevator pitch” reflects the idea that it should be possible to deliver the summary in the time span of an elevator ride, or approximately 30 seconds to two minutes.

Your elevator pitch should be simple and concise. Make sure you avoid platitudes, excessive adjectives, and other filler. I’ve heard a lot of these kinds of elevator pitches from some of my small-business and start-up clients. Drop words and phrases like “innovative” and “one of a kind.” To me, the worst and most nauseating word is “revolutionary.” The railroad, refrigerators, and the Internet were revolutionary; your idea probably isn’t. Here’s an example of what I mean: “AquaFree is a revolutionary and innovative product that sanitizes clothes without water!” Don’t use this kind of hyperbole because as intriguing as your idea sounds, remember that you’re not impartial.

Here is an example of an elevator pitch that I recently received from a client named Rachel:

Elevator Pitch From Small Business Client: XYZ, LLC

Simple, straightforward, goal-focused Web design for trade professionals and service businesses, with a focus on helping woman- and  minority-owned companies. We also help businesses get started with foundational, long-lasting marketing strategies.

This example is horrible, and you’ll see why shortly. The goal of an elevator pitch is to give your audience a simple and concise summary of your business. It shouldn’t be difficult to understand or share. Your elevator pitch should also encompass simple principles that answer the following questions:

    • What is the name of your company or product?
    • What does your company or product do?
    • What problem does your service/product solve?
    • What is the major benefit your customer experiences by using your product or service?

By answering these questions, we can create a clearer and more concise elevator pitch.

Elevator Pitch That Answers the Previous Questions

XYZ, LLC is a Web design firm providing Web and marketing services to women and minority professionals and their service based businesses. Our turnkey services make it easier for these professionals to focus on their businesses and not IT issues.

The elevator pitch is only the first step. Now we need specifics. We’ll use these three major factors—Opportunity, Customer Benefits, and Timing—to expand your idea and determine if it’s workable:

  1. Opportunity: What problem(s) are you solving? Explain the current need or opportunity that your business will solve or capitalize on.

There is a void in the marketplace between very cheap Website solutions and very expensive solutions. The cheap solutions provide “drag and drop” options with little to no customizations. The other option includes hiring a high-priced design firm which isn’t feasible for most new or small companies. We make it easier for a minority professional (lawyer, CPA, doctor, plumber) or those in service businesses to build a customizable Website for a great price.

  1. Customer Benefits: What is your solution to this problem? How will your business solve the problem?

We created packages with the following solutions:

    1. Website templates that feature more customizations. For example, the client can customize the location of logos, Website content, and colors.
    2. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) consulting for one hour.
    3. Integration of e-mail/newsletter marketing and e-mail list manager (such as Constant Contact).
    4. Competing on price and customer service.
  1. Timing: Why does the marketplace need your business now?

Rachel from XYZ realized that there were a lot more women and minorities who were struggling with Website creation in Rachel’s community. In addition, Rachel has a background in Web design and marketing, so entrepreneurs in the community continually ask her questions about Websites.

Here’s another example that illustrates the importance of Opportunity and Timing. Opportunity and Timing played a tremendous role in another entrepreneurial venture I embarked on in 2008. As a CPA working for a number of large companies, I was required to dress professionally. Finding stylish clothes that fit wasn’t easy because I’m 6 feet 5 inches tall. As a former professional and college basketball player, I had a lot of friends who faced similar challenges. So I started a made-to-measure clothing line in 2008. I had the manufacturing and fabric sourcing but the idea was to feature a business model similar to Build-a-Bear.

After a brief online tutorial, customers could go online to enter their measurements, choose a style of suit, shirts and trousers and pay for them. Since the operation was “Just In Time” or “On Demand”, there was no inventory or other large fixed costs. Despite the tremendous amount of public support and media publicity, the company struggled for a variety of reasons, and I made the easy decision to close the business after two years.

Fast forward to 2013. I met a fashion entrepreneur at a social event who was a contestant of a fashion oriented reality show on a major network. He asked me about my experience in the fashion industry and why I closed the business. I was frank about the challenges I faced dealing with the fashion industry and how difficult it was to grow a brand. The entrepreneur continued to share with me that he had generated traction with his clothing line and several celebrities were now wearing his label.

Here are three important reasons Opportunity and Timing were important for my niche and idea:

  1. Customers were not yet comfortable with ordering expensive made-to-measure clothing online. More importantly, customers were not comfortable with their ability to accurately measure themselves.
  2. Less intricate clothing such as trousers and shirts work better online than suits. (Online clothing retailers such as Bonobos and Hugh & Crye are examples of this truism.)
  3. Reality shows serve as platforms for contestants and cast members. As of this writing there are several reality shows on a variety of networks that focus on the fashion industry.

Reprinted, with permission of the publisher, from Start Me Up! © Ebong Eka. Published by Career Press, Pompton Plains, NJ.  800-227-3371. All rights reserved.


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