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The Perfect Elevator Pitch: In 20 Seconds or Less, Tell Me What You Do

By My Say | Forbes

The following guest post is by Craig Malloy, cofounder and CEO of Bloomfire.

As simple as it sounds, one of the most difficult challenges I’ve experienced as a CEO of a new technology company is figuring out our elevator pitch.

I get to test this quite often talking to my wife’s friends, neighbors, golf buddies or guys on the Saturday morning bike ride. Actually my 8 year-old daughter is a good test as well. She’d actually be more impressed if we developed Barbie.com. If I say “um, uh,” stutter, or their eyes start to glaze over, I know we don’t have it quite right. To complicate matters, markets, technologies, competitors and customer expectations change very quickly in the world of cloud software, so what worked 6 months ago might not work today. Explaining your product to get someone to that ah-ha moment in 20 seconds or less is not easy in the first place.

We recently did some thinking about our elevator pitch at Bloomfire, and here are the questions we asked ourselves:

What other products are similar to ours?
It’s important that people have a reference point, otherwise you’ll spend all day trying to avoid the most obvious answer and end up confusing people more than helping them understand your business. For example, if you sell a new mobile device that does some groundbreaking thing that current mobile devices don’t do, simply start with “We’ve developed a new mobile device.” Don’t say things like, “We’ve developed a way for people to connect with one another virtually regardless of time and space.” Wha…? That sentence requires MORE explaining and once you start explaining, you’re in trouble. In a world of magical technology, that reference point is a critical place to start.

What’s different about what we do?
Now that you’ve given a reference point and people know that you develop some kind of mobile device, you can give one or two points about how your particular mobile device is different and better than any other mobile device. An example might be: “Our mobile device has a 3D screen and built-in projector.”

Why is our unique invention or improvement important?
In other words, what would I use this thing for in the real world? Again, keep it simple. How does it help me instantly summon a pizza to my house, reconnect with my high school girlfriend, make my employees dramatically more productive, or help make my company more money? Come up with the simplest and most compelling use case you can for your elevator pitch. What important thing do you do that is different than the others and is also something that those in your target audience can easily understand?

Are we being genuine?
This is THE most important thing. Don’t use jargon or big words to sound impressive. Shoot straight, be real, and keep it simple. People will appreciate this more than anything.

Once you’ve answered these questions and come up with a number of different messages that you think could work, it’s time to test them out. Fortunately, it is easy to do that as well. A/B testing on your website, landing pages, conversion rate analysis through your free trials and sales funnel, and banner ad click through rates are all low cost and quick ways to start to hone in on your ideal message and elevator pitch.

Continue to test, measure, refine and test again and you’ll be well on your way to making a sale on your next elevator ride.