Elevate Your Elevator Pitch

On a recent Wednesday, I spent the day working with 10 different non profits. This was an opportunity for them to work on their most pressing, aggravating, ulcer-inducing marketing challenges.

Guess what topped the list? Elevator pitches. 9 of the 10 identified their elevator pitch as a trouble spot.  This didn’t surprise me too much since elevator pitches come up a lot under the heading of  ‘things that we know are important, cause us consternation and yet we wish we could just ignore’. 

What was striking was that most organizations were struggling with the same thing: diving right into what they do vs why they do it. We’re human: we’ve gotta get the why before we care about the what.

Let’s do a comparison:

Example #1:  We provide clothing, scholarships and other services to people in need.

Analysis: It’s technically accurate, yet vague and uncompelling. It’s also a mish-mash that doesn’t quite make sense, i.e. I don’t expect clothing to go with scholarships, so I’m not likely to remember exactly what they do. It’s also passive because they used the word ‘provide’. Never good and always avoidable.

Example #2: Do you remember being a teenager? What you wore mattered, right? It still does. Yet a lot of low-income kids have to wear clothes that make them feel embarassed. That’s why we’re on a mission to make sure all kids feel cool when they go to school.  If you have the chance, stop by our Thrift Store and you can see what I mean.

Analysis: Does this tell you everything the organization does? Nope. But it gives you a taste of what they do and, more importantly, tells you why they do it. And then it takes you to a place you can easily remember–the awkward teen years–so you can feel the importance of what they do without having to think about it. Emotion is memorable and compelling.

If you believe what they believe (i.e. if you’re someone who would rank high on their Belief-o-Meter), you’ll ask questions and learn more.  And that’s what an elevator pitch is all about: starting a conversation. It’s a door opener, not a deal closer.

For more tips on elevator pitches, check these out:

Are you stumped by your elevator pitch or do you have one you love?

Do you communicate as effectively as you think?


Do you communicate as effectively as you think?