I’d often heard the advice ‘practise your elevator pitch’. But it was one of those things that kept getting pushed down my to-do list. To be honest, coming up with a rehearsed speech about who I am and why I’m great sounded quite frankly horrific.
But, after a bum-clenchingly embarrassing experience at the pub, I’ve reconsidered my opinion. And here’s why, as a small business owner, you should too.
An unprepared freelancer goes to the pub
A few couple of years ago, before I became a freelance copywriter, I went to the pub with some new friends. I only knew a few of the group. I ended up talking to a guy I’d never met before (not my favourite pastime), and the conversation went something like this:
Him: So what do you do?
Me: I’m just about to leave my job and become a freelance copywriter.
[Expects one of two usual responses: 1. “What’s a copywriter?” or 2.“Brilliant, well done. *yawn*”]
Him: Oh cool, I’m an app developer. What do you specialise in?
Me: *desperately fights to stop cheeks flushing* *loses* Umm…SEO. Umm…Small businesses…Ummm…Not really fussy…
Him: *looks at the ground*
Him: Right, I’m off to get a drink.
Me: *fights urge to run home and hide under duvet, weeping about never getting another client. Ever.*
Am still cringing as I type.
The thing is, whether you’re in the pub, at the supermarket or on the school run: There. Is. No. Excuse.
You have to be ready at all times. Someone, at some point, is going to ask what you do, when you least expect it. And as a small business owner or freelancer looking for clients you need to be able to deliver an awesome answer. Instantly. Or risk losing out on potential business.
Don’t get caught out like I did
Whether you hate the term elevator pitch and would rather call it an intro or an icebreaker, or something else entirely, doesn’t matter. What matters is that you have one.
What is an elevator pitch?
Lasting no more than a minute, an elevator pitch should explain clearly what it is you do. It should tell the listener what products and services you offer, and importantly, why they might be interested in them.
Imagine you’ve walked into a lift with a potential customer and the doors are closing. You have the time it takes to zoom up to the 15th floor to convince them to buy from you. What would you say to persuade them?
Why is it important?
Opportunities to do business are everywhere. And if you’re serious about finding new customers, you need to make the most of every chance you have. View everyone you meet as a potential lead and make it clear exactly what you can do and how it can help them.
A well-thought-out elevator pitch will give the best possible first impression of your business. It can stop you freezing and forgetting all your words when asked what it is you do.
Think how handy it would be to have a little speech at the ready when your nerves are jangling at networking events or presentations. Anywhere you need a short, sharp statement about your business, your elevator pitch can come up trumps.
But how do you write an elevator pitch?
I’m going to ask you a few questions (pretend I’m someone you’ve just met). You jot down some answers. Don’t think too hard about it to start with, just write what comes into your head. This is your business, after all, you’re the expert:
1. What do you do?
Eg. I write copy and content for small businesses and start-ups. I focus on SEO website writing, content marketing and eye-catching product descriptions. All of which helps companies stand out online and convert visitors to buyers.
2. What problem do you solve?
Eg. Smallbiz owners often find they waste a significant amount of time trying to write their own online content, when in fact their skills lie in other areas of their business.
Most business owners know the benefits of an optimised, regularly updated digital presence. They just don’t have the time and/or knowledge to make it happen. It is usually less stressful and more successful to simply outsource this task.
3. How is your product/service different?
Eg. I invest a large amount of time in research before I begin to write, learning about your business, your customers and your competitors. And I find this makes all the difference in terms of the quality of the writing delivered.
I pride myself on building long term relationships with my clients which leads to a greater understanding of their business and therefore harder working copy. The best copywriter/client relationships are based on trust and good communication.
4. How can you help me?
Eg, I’d be delighted to talk to you about how professional copywriting, content marketing and strategic social media could benefit your business.
How to deliver your elevator pitch without feeling like an idiot
I’m afraid there’s no substitute for practice.
Practise saying the words out loud so they sound natural and unrehearsed. You could do this in front of the mirror (hairbrush in hand), to a small child while you’re feeding them dinner, or even to a family pet.
You will have to say the words a LOT of times before you feel even remotely comfortable. But do it. Over and over again. Until you feel confident, empowered and ready to face the world…
Or at least ready to face a random app developer who may or may not be interested in hiring you. One thing is for sure though, by delivering a polished answer to the question, ‘what do you do?’, you’ll have given yourself every chance.
And remember, he may not need your services at the moment, but if you create a professional impression, he might just remember you in the future.
Right, I’m off to practice my elevator pitch… Now, where have those cats gone? I need an audience.