In this new Tuts+ series on business planning, our aim is to help you strategically inject energy into your business. Your passion for your business is an amplifier to your success, without it even the best plans will fall flat. That's why we're unleashing articles on falling in love with your business and unlocking your business superpowers, with more on the way.
Typically, business plans are full of dry, uninspiring jargon where we talk about strategy, risk management, competitor analysis and long-term goals.
A business plan is a formal document, but that doesn't mean it needs to be boring. On the contrary, if you're running your own business, your business plan is what you'll spend most of your time implementing. It must matter to you. If it's not compelling and inspiring, then it's not doing its job.
This is true of your whole business plan, but it's especially true when it comes to distilling your business plan down to its essence.
Distillation is a process where liquids are separated from one another to make them pure. Distilling your business plan is about pulling out the pure energy.
Bottled Super Powers
Once you've captured the distillation of your business, you can keep the special liquid bottled in your pocket, then use it as a magic potion to give you business superpowers when you feel stuck, or to uncork when you're trying to find a new way forward.
This magic is found in a short statement on what your business is all about. It's what gives you a reason to get up in the morning. You can use this statement to inspire others who have a stake in your business. Investors, business partners, employees and sub-contractors will all benefit from you getting clear on what your business is all about — its purpose and essence.
But Isn't That Just An Elevator Pitch?
Confession time. This article is all about writing an elevator pitch. That bottled passion you'll be putting words to is an elevator pitch.
The whole concept of writing an Elevator Pitch was an attempt to make business planning more exciting and compelling, as we're doing in this series.
That said, it is vital to have at hand a short, pithy, engaging summary of what you do.
The elevator pitch has a simple story behind it. Imagine you're in an elevator with the person who has the potential to make your business dreams a reality. You've got one opportunity to pitch your business idea to them. And you'd better make it quick, because you've only got thirty seconds in the elevator.
It's exciting, right? There's certainly an energy to the idea of being stuck in an elevator with someone who could make your dreams come true. The trouble is, most entrepreneurs have forgotten the original story behind elevator pitch. So "elevator pitch" has become business jargon.
What's more, I don't know about you, but I find small spaces like elevators stressful. The idea of breaking the social convention of elevator silence to pitch my business would feel awkward. So although the concept behind the elevator pitch is compelling, it fills me more with dread than genuine hope and excitement.
That said, it is vital to have at hand a short, pithy, engaging summary of what you do.
You can call it an elevator pitch because you plan to use it if you're ever taking an elevator ride with a billionaire.
Or you can call it your elevator pitch, because knowing what you're about elevates your business above the rest of the crowd.
Or, you can call it your little magic bottle of distilled passion.
Call it whatever works for you, and I mean that. Words are powerful tools. That's why you're writing an elevator pitch in the first place. Words can inspire you, put you in a good mood, give the energy you need to do the job you need to do.
Chicken or Egg?
Your elevator pitch is a distilled version of your business plan that captures the essence and energy of what you want to do. That doesn't mean you must write your business plan before your elevator pitch.
In fact, I recommend writing your elevator pitch first. Then, when you write your business plan, you'll already knows what matters most. You can use your elevator pitch as a key ingredient of your business plan, that infuses everything you write.
Also, bear in mind that elevator pitches, like business plans, are a work in progress. Your elevator pitch will grow and change with your business. You're not stuck forever with what you write now. So try to get something down, even if it's not exactly what you want it to be. Remember, a business is a work in progress. The moment a business believes it has reached perfection is the moment it stops growing and enters decline.
How to Write Your Elevator Pitch
There are a ton of different ways to write an elevator pitch. Your elevator pitch can include anything you want it to.
However, to get your potion distilled down to the most magical essence, I recommend focusing on two questions. We'll come to them in a moment. First, a handful of critical writing tips:
- You're writing for you. Before anyone else, you're writing your elevator pitch for yourself. It's all about selling your business idea to you. If what you've written makes your soul sing and your eyes sparkle, then you've got it. When you love an idea that much, others will want part of your magic.
- This isn't about finding your life's purpose, so you don't have to take it too seriously. Have fun with it! You're not looking for the meaning of the universe. You're uncovering the purpose of your business in a way that's meaningful and significant to you. You're drilling down to find what drives you in business.
- If at first you don't succeed, keep writing. You may stumble across the perfect idea right away, or you may have to keep trying for a few days. If you've worked on 50 ideas and still no luck, keep trying. The more you push through bad ideas, the closer you'll get to a breakthrough. And if it's taking you too much time, try speedwriting your ideas.
- Keep it short and focused. Under ten words is ideal. The shorter you make it, the easier it is to remember, and the more impact it has.
- Use concrete, everyday language. Write the way you talk, so it connects with who you are. Opt for punchy verbs. When you're choosing your nouns, take the wheelbarrow test. Ask yourself "can I put this in a wheelbarrow?" If you can't, then you're not using concrete language. Hint: You'll never find "solutions" or "performance" in a wheelbarrow.
The Two Questions
Your elevator pitch answers two questions:
- What do you do?
- What makes you different?
What you do is exactly as it sounds. It's the essence of what your business does. A web designer builds websites. A potato farmer grows potatoes. An eCommerce gift store sells gifts.
Focus on the core of your business. The web designer might have a side gig doing children's illustrations. The farmer might have a small field of carrots. The gift store may also sell greetings cards. But these aren't the key to what they do. Your elevator pitch should focus on the core stuff.
Another way of answering the question of what you do is looking at who you help and how you help them. If what you do for others is important to you, this could be a better focus for your elevator pitch.
Ask what makes you different. This is how you figure out what makes your business stands out from the crowd. Questions that help here include: Why would a customer choose you over your competitors? What are your values? Where are you located? What community do you serve?
Your answers to these two questions give you your elevator pitch.
Sample Elevator Pitches
To finish off, let's take a look at a few examples of elevator pitches, and what makes them work.
I transform backyards into havens of calm.
This elevator pitch from a landscape gardener features powerful verbs and paints a vivid picture of the results the gardener achieves.
I serve the best damn hotdogs in Salem.
Being the best in your area is always a great goal, especially if you're a local business. The colloquial language of this elevator pitch reflects the down-to-earth values and approach of a hotdog vendor.
I make people's day with hand-crafted gifts.
Here's a pitch that focuses on how a yarn craft business owner helps people. It has a lovely feel-good factor because it gets to the heart of what makes the business owner want to create crafts.
I write stuff that makes people go "Aha!"
This is my elevator pitch as a freelance writer. Whatever I write about, I go the extra mile to make sense of things for my readers. I love making people think, so it's in close alignment with my values.
I code eCommerce stores that sell more products.
I'd say this web developer's pitch is perfect for catching the attention of any eCommerce trader. What's especially interesting about this pitch is it shows how the coder is interested in what drives sales. My guess is he'll set up his own online store pretty soon.
What's Your Magical Potion?
Why not take a stab at writing your own elevator pitch right now? Share it in the comments. You never know who's reading and may want exactly what you're offering.