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Jul 12, 2017

The Elevator Pitch is More Than You May Think

Developing a new business concept is hard work.  Figuring out who is the most likely customer, what do they want, what are the features of the product or service, what skills, people, and costs are necessary.

All these questions often lead to developing a surfeit of options and possibilities. While this expansive set is good for creativity and innovation, it is not the path to developing a business.

A startup business needs to start with a focus, one that centers on one target customer and one set of product or service specifications.  It is almost always true that, after launching sales, the learning curve will suggest other customers and other product/service specs.  Post-launch will provide plenty of opportunities to test additional customers, products, and features but the time for that is not at the launch stage.

The other day I watched a handful of entrepreneurs present two minute elevator pitches.  An elevator pitch is a shortened version of the standard investment pitch, which is often seven to ten minutes.  The entrepreneurs tried to fit the 10 minute talk into two minutes by talking fast or breezing over more points than my ears could process.

The short pitch was not successful because it couldn’t convey the essence of their idea and why the product was viable and the market promising.  It was successful, however, because it revealed their need to tighten their focus:  which customer was the most likely and which product specifications would provide the best value to that customer? What was the brand image they wanted to convey and did their product/service definition correspond to that image?

The lack of focus revealed a lingering uncertainty of who the best customer was so that they were aiming at too many customer profiles.  The lack of focus revealed an uncertainty about what the customer wanted to buy so that they were designing a product/service that tried (unsuccessfully) to be all things to all customers.

The elevator pitch is a vivid and transparent way to reveal how well focused is the definition of product and customer.  The pitch can be helpful in responding to an outsider’s question “what do you do”, but its real value is its role in revealing to entrepreneurs whether they have done enough work to create a customer/product/attribute/brand focus that warrants the next step of building a business plan.

If you will be in Columbus Ohio on August 15 and haven’t yet registered for Positioned to Prosper, you should do so quickly.  This free event is the largest gathering of the social enterprise community in Central Ohio.  And this year the event will feature several major announcements for the coming year.

Allen Proctor, President & CEO

Center for Social Enterprise Development