Serendipitous moments are at the core of countless success stories. The secret to turning a random instance into a lucky break is preparation. Through his years of experience advising and growing companies, Station Co-founder & CEO John “JR” Reale, has created a framework for crafting an elevator pitch that sticks. Get prepared to talk about your business to anyone at anytime by following JR’s eight steps to an effective pitch:
Step 1: The Hook
“The hook is your chance to get someone’s attention. You want them to think, to be curious and to want to listen to what you have to say next.”
While stating your name and company may seem like a logical starting point, putting basic information front and center may mean you’re missing out on an opportunity to lead with impact. Instead, try painting a picture for your audience by activating their imagination. Ask questions or state facts that spark involvement and interest.
Step 2: The Problem
“The biggest question for all startups to answer honestly is: Are you solving a problem that matters?”
Why are you doing what you’re doing? And, why are you the best person to be doing it? When describing the problem, back your statements up with data and studies that support your solution. Use hard numbers to demonstrate potential impact and incorporate unique personal experience that highlights your expertise.
Step 3: The Intro
“Make it simple, easy and clear. Now isn’t the time to go into your life story or super in-depth about your team.”
The reason for leading with the hook and problem is simple: After you’ve offered or demonstrated value, your audience will be engaged and more likely to recall your name and company. Once you get to this point, don’t get caught up in the details. Your name, title, company, and concise mission are all you need for a strong intro.
Step 4: The Solution
“When speaking about your solution, focus on benefits versus how it works.”
The elevator pitch isn’t the best time to dig in on the technical aspects of your solution. Rather, it’s an opportunity to concisely and effectively communicate the value of your product. When describing your solution, focus on benefits and outcomes. Phrases like ‘my solution reduces X by X,’ or ‘increases productivity of Y over Y,’ are good examples of describing your solution in a practical, tangible way.
Step 5: The Competition
“There is no such thing as having no competition. Even if you’re creating an entirely new category, someone out there is solving the same problem in a different way.”
Acknowledging your existing competition shows that you have a deep understanding of the problem, and more importantly, your customer. If you’re customer isn’t buying something today to relieve the pain point you’re working to solve, then your solution may not be a valuable one. When reviewing your competitive landscape, emphasize how your solution is both different and better.
Step 6: The Business
“Talk about your traction, your business, your customers. Do you know how you’re going to make money? If not, talk about what you’re doing to figure it out.”
Even if you don’t have your business model, financials or forecasts fully fleshed out, you can discuss what steps you’re currently taking to get there. What are you pushing on to better understand your target market? How are you testing different revenue models? When is your next major business milestone, and what are you doing to get there?
Step 7: The Ask
“Every pitch has to have an ask. If you’re not raising money, there other things you can ask for — mentorship, feedback, services, expertise, a pilot, criticism, whatever will help get to the next step.”
A strong understanding of your business needs will help you tailor your ask for different audiences. If you’re at a demo day, your ask may revolve around talent. Whatever the ask is, it’s important to communicate the “why” behind your request: For example, “I’m looking for a front-end developer SO THAT I can build-out an MVP to launch a seed round.”
Step 8: The Stamp
“This is where you go back to your hook and tie everything together — bring it all back, tighten the story and stick the landing.”
Using these steps, you should have developed a loose narrative for your pitch. The stamp serves as the conclusion to your story. Did you share a personal experience, an interesting data point, or ask a question during the hook? Close out your pitch in a neat and clear way by referring back to these points and invite people to join you in reaching your mission. Lastly, all pitches should end by thanking your audience for their time and attention.
Building an effective pitch is more of an art than a science. There isn’t one magic formula that works for all businesses in every type of situation. By following these steps, you’ll create a framework that you can tailor based on your needs, the situation and audience.