Going Up? The Elevator Pitch

In the last couple of weeks, I’ve been trying to figure out how to apply many of the lessons presented at the Etsy success symposium. There was a lot of great information, but one thing that I found myself coming back to again and again was one of the simplest: The 30 second “elevator pitch” that almost every speaker mentioned.

Choose Wisely
(photo by flickr user will*refuse)

I know I’m not the only one who makes the mistake of figuring that if someone wants to know what you do, they’ll ask. Beyond that, we’re all just so inundated with marketing pressure and social media promotion that sometimes I get paralyzed with the fear of being just another spammer on the long list of people who get quietly ignored.

However, real life is different, and an elevator pitch is especially crucial if you make something you can wear or carry that people might notice and ask you about. I was never a Boy Scout, but their motto (Be Prepared!) is a really good one in this instance.

That said, I started looking and asking around about people’s “Elevator Pitches” and really thought about what the successful ones had in common. Here’s what I’ve found so far:

The most successful pitches all seemed to start by focusing on their customer’s problems, and followed up with how their product or service solves those problems.
For instance, one pitch I listened to talked about how people might really want to be more adventurous and locally supportive of their food choices, but were nervous about making expensive mistakes or not knowing where to find really good options. The solution was an “underground” food market where subscribers could pay a small fee to come discover and sample a wide range of options.
The best thing about this pitch was that she actually had TWO. The other one was aimed at local gardeners, bakers and chefs who wanted to get their produce and creations out to the public, but couldn’t afford the code requirements of public kitchens and/or didn’t want to commit to making huge batches of anything. The solution was to vend at this underground market where small tastes could be provided to a wide range of potential customers.

The least successful one, on the other hand, was one that honestly sounded a lot like my own. “I make jewelry”. That was it, just a “what”, not a “why”. My reaction to it was probably pretty typical, which was basically NO reaction, because there was simply nothing to lead me to want to know more. What an eye opener!

Even with that simple lead in, the woman could have still drawn me in if she’d talked about why she made jewelry and what made hers different. Was she successful? What drew her to the craft? Was anything she had on of her own design? Who knows?!
What a wasted opportunity that was, and what a lesson I learned from it. I’ve vowed to be more prepared with something more like the first example, and here are the steps I laid out for myself in order to come up with a pitch I felt more comfortable delivering:

1. define the problem I solve with my craft
2. articulate why my solution is unique
3. always carry something with me in case the person I’m speaking to wants to know more

I’ve got the pitch mostly down, and now I’m working on practicing it.
I’m still the sort of person who has a hard time speaking out to a stranger, but I’m working on it! In the meantime, bits of this same pitch can be used in lots of other places. Have to write a bio for a website or proposal, or even your facebook fan page? Use the pitch! I’ve even heard about people printing them on the otherwise-empty backs of their business cards.

How about you guys? What’s your pitch? Any tips for the shy-er ones among us? What other places do you use your pitch?

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  1. This is something I’ve recently begun struggling with as I gain more confidence to even open my mouth about what I do. I really like how the first suggestion is to define a problem, and I’m going to try to work on that. I don’t have a problem with how my products are unique, but I often don’t have a sample with me. Great points, and thank you!

  2. Hmm Lila, well I am thinking about your super creative postcards and your pincushions. Maybe you could make a bag/purse, and maybe a little cloth business card case. Or how about a computer sleeve? Or if you have guests over, you could make individual name banner/flag cards. But for the elevator… hmm, do you mail your own handmade cards to people? For some reason cupcakes pops into my head. I don’t know why.

  3. Great article ! Perfetc mtiming with the RIGHT BRAINERS IN BUSINESS VIDEO SUMMIT that I discovered 2 days ago and been following their (free) videos.
    I will post links and everything on the forum later today. Anyway, elevator pitch was mentionned by one of the speakers ( the one with the “Box o’ Business Brilliance” : a really cool idea.)
    Now I have a question : What are you supposed to carry around when you make home accents…?? ☺

  4. This is great to read, the comments too. I have struggled with my elevator pitch, mainly because I feel like I am bragging when I talk about why someone might want to buy my product. I also realize now that I hardly ever wear any of my reconstructed clothing, since I mostly do kid’s stuff. That being said, I do have an adults shop on Etsy, and I could easily make more things for me, I just never thought of it that way. So this is great info! I love what your husband does Heather. I’m envisioning myself making some little wooly things or stuffed toys and stuffing my pocket with them so I can work on provoking some smiles too! Thanks!

  5. I just recently attended a networking and marketing meeting that was focused on the elevator pitch. Before going to that I used to tell people that I’m a faux finisher but the 80’s & 90’s gave a bad rap to faux and most people just nod a look of pity in my direction then walk away. Instead, now, I tell people that I splash excitment onto the walls of their home or business through decorative treatments or commercially accessible artwork. They never fail to ask the follow up of ‘oh what’s that?’ which allows for further explanation where I simply ask what their favorite color is and tell them they could be hugged by it every day. 9 out of 10 times they ask for a business card now. I’m VERY shy about approaching strangers but forcing myself to go to networking mkeetings like this one made me realize no one is really “good” at it, some people have just been practicing longer so it comes more naturally. We all have to do it at some point so I’m out there trying to practice every day!

    Great article :-)

  6. My husband, Earnie, wears vests with LOTS of pockets whenever we’re in public. He keeps these pockets filled with our wood baby rattles & spirit shakers. If he sees a baby crying he will offer one of our baby rattles or if he sees someone who needs a kind gesture he will give them a spirit shaker. This always provokes a conversation and a smile. He does it out of generosity of the heart – I think of it as great advertising as well! Fabulous article! Thanks so much, Heather

  7. Real is different and I can’t tell you how many times I have stumbled through this type of pitch. It really takes practice (like you’re saying) and getting it down pat without sounding like it’s down pat. I’m working on it always.

    Waiting for someone to ask me why I’m talking to myself! ha~