An elevator pitch is the fastest way to describe what your startup venture is about and what makes it so special. It’s the pitch you prepare for when you only have a short moment of a minute or even a few seconds to catch someone’s attention—like when you meet him in an elevator or see him on a street waiting for an Uber or at a startup event.
The secret to all great pitches is to combine the somewhat familiar with the highly intriguing. You must start with something your audience has some idea about. Then, surprise them with a twist that captures their interest and makes them want to know more.
I’m here to tell you that the elevator might be hypothetical but the situation is real. Although you may not be trapped in a small ascending room, the entrepreneur’s life is full of sudden moments and: brief opportunities to shift the destiny of your company. And a proper pitch is essential to take advantage of such situations.
In fact, the elevator pitch is only a simple, basic example of a much more powerful tool: the pyramid pitching technique.
The pyramid Pitch
The pyramid pitch is based on Abraham Maslow’s famous hierarchy of motivation. Maslow stated that people had many “needs,” but some were more fundamental than others.
Until fundamental needs like food and water were met, people would not be able to strive to achieve needs that were higher in the pyramid, like belonging, morality, spontaneity, and self-actualization.
So the concept is simple:
When you pitch your venture, talk about the most urgent matters first. What those are will vary depending on your company and the person you are pitching to. Here, a useful tactic is to know the elements of your lean startup canvas (see image below) by heart.
My pyramid pitch for Tactyq usually starts with someone asking me what we do.
“We are making the world’s first AI powered business coach.”
This is the first line of the pitch.
It addresses the most urgent and pressing matter in the investor’s mind at this point in the conversation: “Do you do something that an investor finds even a little bit interesting and have some idea of?” So for example, if you are talking about revolutionizing an industry via blockchain and the listener has no idea about blockchain, you are not going to make an impact, irrespective of how game-changing your startup might be.
If they seem to be somewhat interested, my next line could be
“We are replacing business consultants with digital assessments to solve the top 20% problems of 80% of business, bringing convenience and saving time & money of entrepreneurs. “
There are now two possibilities. The first is that the person, for whatever reason stops the conversation and leaves. The second is that the other person is thinking, “Hmm, sounds interesting, so tell me how do you do that?”
Ok, so I say,
“We are using pattern recognition to identify why most businesses succeed or fail and have turned these patterns into DIY assessments for entrepreneurs to evaluate their business and take key decisions.”
You get the idea. The pitch goes on from there, but the philosophy is incredibly simple.
- The most important things goes first.
- If you stop at any point, the listener walks away with an idea of what you’re doing.
It basically follows the pattern:
- What? – bring attention to the listener
- Why? – state the importance and size of the problem
- How? – make it believable
This may seem simple and obvious, but too many people mess it up by going for one of the following types of pitches instead:
The story pitch
The story pitch is when you talk about your startup as if you’re telling a story. You lead the conversation with a backstory on how the idea came to you, how you met your cofounder, why you care so much about this business, or how you plan to change the world.
There are times when this works—like when you’re having coffee, a beer or dinner with someone, and you know the story’s good—but it’s usually the wrong move as an elevator pitch. Because, if they cut you off at any moment, they know only parts about you, your life, your company, etc. Also, investors are a bit too familiar with startup storytelling and hope that you’ll just get to the point. And, if you’re not a great storyteller (and it’s not a great story), they, instead of listening to your story, try to figure out how to escape.
The standard business plan demo day pitch
You lead o with the standard pitch deck speech covering market sizing, competitors, and business models. This works when you are either doing demo day or doing a standard pitch to an investor. Not so good for an introduction. This helps investors develop confidence in an idea that they already think is exciting, but you can’t lead with it—you have to start with the excitement.
The feature pitch
You start listing all the features your product has. This strategy probably only works for colleagues or friends. But no one else cares about features, especially at the early stages of a conversation.
Elevator pitch formats
You are going to pitch your business to various stakeholders along the way- customers, suppliers, venture capitalists, banks, etc. Your business should be clear to you and clear to them. If you can’t explain what you do in a single short sentence, your stakeholders might be confused about what your business actually does.
According to a study by Microsoft, the average human being now has an attention span of eight seconds.
Clear and short pitches are memorable and stay in the minds of your customers. Short pitches help you get attention from reporters, VCs, potential hires.
If people don’t understand what your company does,
Investors will not invest. Reporters will not promote. Consumers will not buy.
With a clear one-sentence pitch, Investors can describe the business they’ve invested in. Your customers can share it with their friends. Team members can describe the company they (hopefully) love to work for.
One place that forces this clarity is a growing community on Product Hunt. To submit a product to the daily flow, you have 20 characters for the name, and 60 characters for the description. This format works the same way, when you are tweeting or placing an ad on Google or Facebook.
There are a few formats you can use to come up with short and memorable pitches for your business.
Format 1: (Our product) solves (problem) for (target customer segment).
Format 2: We are building (“Uber”, “Netflix” or “solution”) for (target customer segment).
Format 3: Our company/startup, (name of company), is developing/making (product offering) to help (customer segment) (solve a problem) with (the secret sauce).
Format 4: We help (your customer) do (your solution) by (your product).
Format 5: We are a (your product) that helps (your customer) do (your solution).
Elevator pitch examples from successful startups
- Slack—We help businesses and organizations communicate with a simple chat interface.
- Uber—We help individuals get from A to Z with a simple ride-sharing app.
- Amazon—We help people buy and sell things online.
- Facebook—We help individuals stay connected and share experiences online.
- Netflix – Never visit a video store to rent a movie and never pay late fees again.
- Google – Organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.
FAQ: Elevator Pitches and Pyramid Pitching Technique
Q: What is an elevator pitch? A: An elevator pitch is a concise and compelling description of your startup venture that can be delivered within a short timeframe, typically in the time it takes to ride an elevator. It aims to quickly capture someone’s attention and communicate what your venture is about and what makes it special.
Q: Why is an elevator pitch important for startup entrepreneurs? A: An elevator pitch is essential because it allows entrepreneurs to make a strong impression and take advantage of brief opportunities to shift the destiny of their company. It helps communicate the value and uniqueness of the venture, attracting the interest of potential investors, partners, or customers.
Q: What is the pyramid pitching technique? A: The pyramid pitching technique is a powerful approach based on Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of motivation. It involves structuring your pitch by addressing the most urgent and pressing matters first, similar to the fundamental needs addressed in Maslow’s hierarchy. By focusing on the most critical aspects of your venture, you capture the listener’s attention and build a foundation for further engagement.
Q: How does the pyramid pitching technique work? A: The pyramid pitching technique follows a simple philosophy:
- Start with the most important aspect of your venture to bring attention to the listener.
- State the importance and size of the problem you are addressing to emphasize the relevance.
- Make your solution believable by explaining how you are tackling the problem effectively.
Q: What are some common pitfalls to avoid in elevator pitches? A: Some common pitfalls to avoid in elevator pitches include:
- Using a story pitch that focuses too much on personal details instead of quickly conveying the value proposition.
- Leading with a standard business plan demo day pitch, which may be more suitable for formal presentations but lacks impact in initial introductions.
- Engaging in a feature pitch that lists all the product features, which may not be relevant or interesting to the listener at the early stages of a conversation.
Q: Why is it important to have a clear and concise pitch? A: A clear and concise pitch is essential because it helps stakeholders, such as investors, reporters, and customers, quickly understand what your business does. In today’s fast-paced world, where attention spans are short, a memorable and concise pitch increases the chances of attracting interest and generating engagement.
Q: What are some formats for creating short and memorable pitches? A: Here are a few formats to create short and memorable pitches:
- Format 1: (Our product) solves (problem) for (target customer segment).
- Format 2: We are building (“Uber,” “Netflix,” or “solution”) for (target customer segment).
- Format 3: Our company/startup, (name of company), is developing/making (product offering) to help (customer segment) (solve a problem) with (the secret sauce).
- Format 4: We help (your customer) do (your solution) by (your product).
- Format 5: We are a (your product) that helps (your customer) do (your solution).
Q: Can you provide some examples of successful elevator pitches? A: Certainly! Here are some elevator pitch examples from successful startups:
- Slack: “We help businesses and organizations communicate with a simple chat interface.”
- Uber: “We help individuals get from A to Z with a simple ride-sharing app.”
- Amazon: “We help people buy and sell things online.”
- Facebook: “We help individuals stay connected and share experiences online.”
- Netflix: “Never visit a video store to rent a movie and never pay late fees again.”
- Google: “We organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”
Q: How can I make my elevator pitch more effective? A: To make your elevator pitch more effective, consider the following tips:
- Tailor your pitch to the specific audience or listener you’re addressing.
- Focus on the most compelling aspects of your venture that will capture attention.
- Practice your pitch to ensure it is concise, clear, and delivered confidently.
- Use language that is easy to understand and avoids technical jargon.
- Highlight the value and benefits your venture brings to customers or investors.
- Be prepared to adapt your pitch based on the feedback or questions you receive.
Q: Should I memorize my elevator pitch word-for-word? A: While it’s important to be familiar with the key points and structure of your elevator pitch, it’s generally better to avoid sounding overly rehearsed. Instead, focus on internalizing the main ideas and adapt your pitch naturally to fit the conversation and context. This allows for more genuine and engaging communication.
Q: Can the pyramid pitching technique be used in other types of pitches? A: Yes, the pyramid pitching technique can be applied to various types of pitches beyond elevator pitches. Whether you’re presenting to investors, delivering a formal presentation, or engaging with potential customers, starting with the most important and compelling aspects of your venture can help create impact and generate interest.
Q: Are there any resources or tools to help craft a compelling elevator pitch? A: Yes, there are several resources and tools available to help craft a compelling elevator pitch. Some popular ones include online pitch generators, startup pitch templates, and pitch deck guides. Additionally, seeking feedback from mentors, peers, or pitching competitions can provide valuable insights and help refine your pitch.
Q: How long should an elevator pitch be? A: An elevator pitch should ideally be delivered within 30 to 60 seconds, capturing the listener’s attention and leaving them wanting to know more. However, it’s essential to be flexible and adapt the length based on the situation and the level of engagement from the listener.
Q: Can an elevator pitch be used in written format? A: Yes, an elevator pitch can be adapted for written formats, such as email introductions, website taglines, or social media bios. The key is to maintain the same concise and compelling nature of the pitch while adapting it to fit the medium and context in which it will be presented.