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Talking to Yourself in an Elevator

  |  January 21, 2000   |  Comments

The elevator pitch is something most small-business folk only get to dream about - it's those few precious words that can unlock big bucks from a VC group. In just 20 or so seconds, you've got to paint a compelling picture of your business model and its potential. But what if you're unlikely to ever make that kind of pitch? Learn to do it anyway. Because the process of compressing a description of your business into 20 seconds can be very revealing.

The elevator pitch is something most small-business folk only get to dream about.

It's those few precious words that can unlock big bucks from a VC group.

Of course, history may not be terribly complimentary about the elevator pitch as a reliable means of identifying a great business.

But I digress.

One really great thing about the whole concept of the elevator pitch is that giving a good one is very hard to do.

Twenty or so seconds is not a very long time in which to paint a compelling picture of your business model and its potential.

I know this to be true. I've been working on a project over the last year that has taken up most of my time - and it took everyone longer to write a one-page executive summary than it did to write the original, 164-page business plan.

(Hint: the one-pager or elevator pitch is not a replacement for a full plan. It's the heart and soul of that plan. It's the shining core that brings the plan to life. But you still need the plan.)

But I digress again.

After all, what has all this got to do with small-business site owners who are unlikely ever to make that kind of pitch?

Go find a mirror somewhere.

Now deliver an elevator pitch to your reflection.

Sell your company to yourself as if you were selling it to a VC group.

Really, you should try it.

Chances are, the first time you try this, you'll make a terrible job of it. Lots of Umms and Ahhs. Pauses. Repetition. Bits left out. Key issues missed.

So try again.

Then maybe print out the first three levels of your site and ask yourself, "Hang on, what really is the 'shining core' of this business?"

I'm suggesting this because the process of compressing a description of your business into 20 seconds can be very revealing.

You may discover that you don't know what the core of your business really is.

You may realize that since you started, X months or years back, you've begun to deviate from the original plan.

You may recognize that you really have a couple of things happening at the core of your business - and they're not pulling together very well.

My point is this.

When we create a business idea and deliver that first elevator pitch, we apply a laser-like focus to the process.

But as the business develops and grows, we can get a little sloppy with our thinking. We may add things on, form unplanned alliances, drop ideas that once sounded great.

If we never again apply the discipline of the elevator pitch to our business, we may never notice that the shining core has somewhere along the line turned into a messy glob.

Try it. Write out a 20-second pitch for your business. It may take you weeks. Hopefully, it will reveal a great deal to you.

And when you've finally got a pitch that describes your business model and plan perfectly, there's something else you should do.

Start again.

But this time, instead of writing the plan for your business model, write it to describe your marketing model.

More on this next week.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nick Usborne

Nick Usborne speaks, writes, and consults on strategic copy issues for business online. For Web sites, e-mails and newsletters, he crafts messages that drive results. He is the author of the critically acclaimed bookNet Words - Creating High-Impact Online Copy.

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