While the prior posting presented an overview to the importance of the pitch, this blog-post develops a pragmatic approach to the construction of the Elevator Pitch.
The Elevator Pitch capsules’ development, step by step
It is much harder than you think to describe a complete business with multiple moving parts in a brief rapid fire sequence of statements that display your enthusiasm and commitment (a.k.a., passion) for your venture. My proposal is first to organize the script as a written set of perfectly crafted sound-bites that you can reuse multiple times in different settings to communicate your venture. By reusing the same, highly refined content adapted to the requirements of selected media campaigns: web presence, company brochures, venture one-pager, e-mails, product descriptions, etc.; you will ensure the consistency of your message and enhance your productivity.
Step 1: WHAT IS THE PAIN? HOW BIG IS IT? AND HOW DO YOU SOLVE IT?
What are the opportunities emerging from alleviating such a pain?
Think of headaches… migraines would be even better, and show me that every person on the planet gets one at least twice a week!
- The problem you solve
- Why you?
- Why now? Too early or too late?
- Key opportunities
- Key challenges
- Any dominant force in the market?
- Current or future competitors?
Step 2: HOW DO YOU INTEND TO DEVELOP THE SOLUTION AND CAPTURE THE OPPORTUNITY?
Tell me about your “improved” new aspirin and how you intend to reach the billions of people who get migraines twice a week.
- Product/Service development status,
- What follows to the initial offering — v1.0,
Product road-map — Note: no one invests in one-trick ponies,
- What is your “unfair” advantage,
- Competitive differentiation,
- Current sales and sales potential,
- Market size and growth,
- Target customers: initially and later,
- Customer anecdotes,
- Distribution channels
Step 3: EXPECTED BENEFITS
How this “improved aspirin” will benefit all the stakeholders of the venture?
Cheaper, faster action, no side effects, easier pill to swallow, easier to manufacture, higher margins, cleaner process, etc.
- For the purchaser
- For the user
- For the payer (a, b, and c may be the same or different people)
- For the employees developing/manufacturing the product
- For the shareholders
- For the community
- Identify all the benefits across all product dimensions:
- Initial cost as well cost of ownership. Quantify savings
- If used as a tool. Quantify productivity increase.
- If used as part of a process. Quantify the improvements in term of time, throughput, maintenance savings, energy savings, etc.
- Identify sustainability and community benefits.
- Are all benefits delivered at once? Or phased over time?
Step 4: THE IMPLEMENTATION PLAN
Great ideas are a “dime a dozen”. It is all about superior execution.
Manufacturing billions of aspirins every day with the quality and cost targets are not an easy task. Persuade me that you can and will deliver superior results.
- What are the key activities required to launch the business. Can you distinguish the trees from the forest? Every business is complex and new ventures cannot address all of them. Can you simplify and prioritize the few essential ones.
- Who are the stakeholders and their needs? Do you know their needs? Are their interests aligned?
- Which are the key partnerships you need to develop? How do you intend to leverage each one? What type of partnerships? Are they sustainable?
- What are the critical success factors? Can you obtain them? Is it realistic?
Step 5: SHOW ME THE MONEY:
Will your aspirin make all of us richer?
- The selected business model? Why?
- Funds you need to launch your venture,
- Cash you will generate
- Founding sources? How many rounds?
- Total funding required to break even?
- Profitability of your business
- Expenses you will manage
- You confidence that you will never ever run out of cash!
Step 6: WHO IS IN YOUR TEAM? CAN YOU BUILD AND DEVELOP A GREAT ORGANIZATION?
- Founding/Management team & track record
- The extended team (mentors, advisers, board members. etc.)
- What critical positions are you missing? Can you recruit them?
- How have you and the other members of the management team built great organizations before? Do you have the management strength required?
- Have they performed at peak over sustained periods of time?
Step 7: HAVE YOU IDENTIFIED THE RISKS AND THREATS?
- What are the key risks you will confront?
- How do you intend to manage them?
- Contingency plans?
Step 8: THE EXTRAORDINARY CLOSING REMARKS
Do not over do it! Please.
- How do you intend to sustain your “Unfair Advantage”?
- Your Grand Vision about the industry/the world and how you will dominate!
- The “greed” factor: Appeal to it, most investors are greedy!
Step 9: THE ASK
Build momentum to ASK:
- If customer, for the PO,
- If investor, for the $$$,
- If a relationship, for the intro. or the referral,
- If a future employee, for coming on board,
Step 10: PRACTICE, PRACTICE AND MORE PRACTICE.
- With your family, friends
- With C level executives,
- In coffee shops, noisy bars, over Skype, in board rooms, etc.;
Until you feel confident that you can deliver in every situation the perfect pitch in the eyes of the audience.
Manage the audience; anticipate most questions and every question must be answered, even if it means “I will mail you the answer in 24 Hrs.”.
Remember again the onion metaphor described in Part I. Pursue your discussion layer by layer, each one completely self-contained. The challenge is starting at the outermost layer and keeping the explanation whole while also consistently at the right level of abstraction. You might find it difficult to resist the temptation to dive deeply into the heart of your idea and go all out. You’ll want to show how brilliantly you can take deep conceptual dives into the heart of the business or the underlying technologies and then return safely to a more surface-level discussion.
How long is the perfect pitch? It should be few seconds less than the allocated time. Sometimes the allocated time is fixed by external circumstances out of your control. If it is within your control, it has to be a bit shorter than what you think would feel like a monologue. Just say enough for your audience to ask for more.
Perfect Pitch = Content + Structure + Delivery
After everything is done, through your script away and let it flow naturally. Deliver a personalized message, customized each time to your audience. Keep it brief and clear. Time yourself to the 15 seconds you may only have to the 90’ or so when it starts feeling like a monologue. Keep in mind that this is NOT a lecture, but a conversation. Hence, keep it concrete and consistent. Furthermore, you are establishing your credibility. There are few things more emblematic of credibility than an impeccable synthesis of complexity, layering, dividing and conquering, through a sequence of sound bites of neatly assembled building blocks.
Entrepreneurs DO care about the first impressions, and your elevator pitch is one of the key tools at your disposal to make the positive impact you seek in the first 30 seconds.
Keep on pitching until you master the art! And do not forget the ASK! The responses you get may surprise you, and you will never know unless you ask.
Until my next blog-post – Carlos