The 6 pillars of an effective business pitch

Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes

What will you learn?

As a small business owner, it’s often difficult to quickly summarize what you do. You wear so many hats and carry out so many different tasks. The inevitable ‘So, what do you do?’ can be hard to nail down in just a few sentences. But, every time you’re asked that question, you have an opportunity to create more interest in your business. The following tips will help you give a brief introduction that highlights the benefits of working with you.

What’s an elevator pitch?

A business pitch is your opportunity to quickly and clearly summarize the problem your business solves and the benefits of using you over a competitor.

You’ll often hear it referred to as an elevator pitch. The idea being you can communicate and convince someone during a short elevator ride – typically less than a minute.

We’re going to focus on creating a short but well-structured conversational pitch that will clearly communicate the problem your business solves and why the person you’re talking to will want to find out more. This is intended to help when communicating with potential customers who are unfamiliar with your business or sector.

According to Virgin founder Richard Branson, “The most important thing is to be concise. My own feeling is that a good idea can be written on the back of an envelope.”

After all, any more than what you can scribble on the back of an envelope is going to drag on when you say it out loud. People want to understand the problem your product or service solves for them. And the sooner they start chatting and asking questions, the better.

Ask yourself this: could you condense your business idea into a tweet? Sounds like a strange question, but this exercise is very effective in defining your purpose as a business in simple terms.

For example, a childcare mobile application might summarize their business as: “We are a parent-to-parent referral network for finding reliable childcare providers and experts.”

For example, a childcare mobile application might summarize their business as: “We are a parent-to-parent referral network for finding reliable childcare providers and experts.”

If you’re struggling to summarize your business idea as succinctly as the example above, these six steps will help you articulate your business idea in a structured and thought-provoking way.

  1. Describe the problem people faced before your business existed
  2. This is essentially your reason for being. Often referred to as your why. Did you directly suffer from the lack of a service or product in your area and decide to do something about it? Maybe you heard from others how difficult it was to find skilled professionals in a certain field and realized someone with your experience would be the ideal person to tackle their problem.

    Not all businesses are born out of identifying a complex problem. Problems can be simple, and that’s fine. It could be something like this: “There were no decent bakeries in my area offering fresh gluten-free bread. As a coeliac, that often made it hard to prepare quick and easy lunches for work.”

    Take two minutes to write down every problem your business solves. Set a timer. You’ll be surprised just how much you write when you take two minutes to capture every single one.

  3. Introduce the solution
  4. Many people make the mistake of starting their pitch by diving right into talking about the solution their product or service offers without first describing the problem it solves. This approach doesn’t offer the person you’re talking to any context of what your business is trying to achieve. Or its overall purpose.

    It’s also easy to talk about features when you go straight to the solution. The danger of talking about features is that you assume the person you’re talking to is familiar with your business area. This often isn’t the case, and you run the risk of alienating them if they don’t have much understanding of similar products or services to make a comparison.

    A solution to the previous problem might be: “We’re an artisan bakery that provides fresh gluten-free bread daily.”

  5. Back it up with benefits
  6. There’s an old saying that goes “Features tell, but benefits sell”. People need to know why they should choose one product or service over another.

    Here’s an example of the difference in the context of a modern kitchen appliance:

    Feature: High-temperature self-clean cycle

    Benefit: Never clean your oven again

    Nobody enjoys having to scrub baked-on grease from a dirty oven in their free time. If a particular model can relieve us of that horrible task, then most of us are sold. Only we probably wouldn’t derive that benefit from just reading high-temperature self-clean cycle. Sure, we’d be impressed that an oven could do that, but it’s not as clear at assuring us we’ll never have to undertake that messy chore again.

    Benefits answer “what’s in it for me?” One chore less means up to thirty minutes saved that can be spent doing something else.

  7. Demonstrate what makes you unique
  8. Showcasing something unique about your business helps you stand out. But finding something special to say about your business is not always easy. If you’re stuck, try to think about your business in different terms:

    Heritage: Is your product made using a secret family recipe or process?

    Efficiency: Does using your service cut waiting times for users that switch to your products or services?

    Convenience: Do you relieve people of a tiresome chore?

    Exclusivity: Are you the only business that offers this product or service in your area?

  9. Create a reason to believe by describing someone who has already benefited
  10. We love stories because the language used to tell them is usually simple and easy to understand. Bear this in mind when talking about how your product has benefitted someone else. It’s best to avoid talking about yourself and trying to impress the person you’re talking to. Rather, talk about how somebody else’s situation changed for the better from using your business and try to spark conversation by following up with questions to maintain their interest.

    That might sound something like “Since installing our reflective insulation panels behind the radiators in the living room, hallway and bedrooms, a client of mine has already seen a 20% reduction in their heating bills.”

  11. Practice your pitch out loud
  12. Whether it’s watching yourself back on your phone or getting feedback from someone who isn’t too familiar with your business, speaking out loud is an important step in polishing your pitch. If you get the opportunity to do this with different people, then even better. Your choice of words and style of talking will change for each person, and this is great practice for memorizing variations or recounting different customer anecdotes. Remember to take note of the questions you’ve been asked so you can anticipate them the next time. It’s a good idea to write these questions down if you have the time and to try to think about best way to articulate your answer in as few words as possible.

    Now it’s time to sit down and apply this to your own business story. With this downloadable worksheet, you can make sure you don't miss any steps in creating a well-structured pitch for your business.

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