By Ryan Kuder, Managing Director of Techstars Anywhere Accelerator
If you are reading this, you have probably been asked to give an elevator pitch once or twice in your life. You know what makes your business idea special, but do you know how to quickly and effectively communicate that to others? This blog will walk you through the steps you need to take to sell yourself and your business effectively.
There are two core steps to creating a great pitch.
Step one: Build a great business. An effective pitch will come naturally to the founder who is excited and inspired by a strong business model. You’d be amazed how many people skip this step!
Step two: Tell people about it—and make it interesting. That may sound like a given, but you would be surprised how much ground you can cover in a swift, 30-second pitch that leaves your listener wanting more. Your pitch should answer the following key questions:
Who’s the customer?
What problem are you solving?
What’s the product?
Why should I care?
What’s your traction?
Why are you the best team?
Your audience will not remember the facts, figures or details you share beyond the 30-second mark. Instead, answer the above questions clearly and concisely, engaging your audience just enough to create the desire for the audience to want to know more. Follow-up will come because they found you and the way you presented your idea interesting and will want to continue to talk to you, not because of a fast-fact or statistic you shared. Instead, they will be impacted by how you made them feel through the tone of your voice, the cadence of your pitch, your body language, and your clear messaging in describing your company.
Assuming you have accomplished step one, let us break down step two—making your pitch interesting—into four key elements: Introduction, Pitch, Sticking the Landing, and “What’s Next?”
This is the easiest step, but that does not mean you can forget it. Make sure you introduce yourself with your name, title, the name of your company, and any relevant credentials you may have right away. It is as true in speaking as it is in writing: a strong hook can save the day.
Example: “Hi, I’m Ryan Kuder, Managing Director of Techstars Anywhere. I’m a former founder and investor who works with hundreds of early-stage companies a year to help them grow their businesses.”
This is my go-to formula for building an impactful business pitch:
For (customer segment), who (have a problem), we (make this product), so they can (do rad stuff).
Your customer segment is a group of people who share the same problem, and your identified customer segment should not be vague. The closer you can get to knowing who your true target segment is, the better your pitch is going to be—and the better your business is going to be. Then ask yourself, “What’s the super power your customers get from using your product?”
Know your pitch backward and forward, and be ready to adjust it based on your audience. Think of the parts of your pitch as building blocks that can be traded in and out if you are speaking to an investor or a customer.
After you have told your listener who you are and what you do, it is time to stick the landing. By “stick the landing” I mean giving people something to remember you by. One easy way to do this is to share something impressive or important about your company.
If your business already has impressive traction, highlight your momentum here (e.g. “We just signed up 1,000 new customers last month.” or “We’ve grown our sales 50% month-over-month for the last 12 months.”). If you are still working toward traction, make it clear why your idea is important now and what impact it will have in the future.
At Techstars we strongly believe in Give First , the idea of simply trying to help others without expecting anything in return.Before asking yourself how the person you’re speaking to can help you, ask yourself how you can help them. When you proactively help others, they will see it in their best interest to give back to you. This can take the form of an industry insight or information you think might be helpful to your audience. Once you have done that, you can ask them to help you by investing in your business.
Remember that this is just a framework. You’ll need to take these components and move them around, switch them up, change the order, and make your pitch your own. Maybe you start with traction and save your credentials to the end. Feel free to play around with the order of these elements to create the best pitch for you and your business.
The most important thing I recommend is writing all elements of your pitch down so you can iterate on it. Think of it like version control for your pitch: once it’s written in a way that you really like, practice it until you can’t get it wrong.
Now that you know the steps to creating an impactful 30-second pitch, it is time to get out there and give it.
The absolute key to success is practice. Do not practice until you get your pitch right; practice until you cannot get it wrong. It does not matter if someone interrupts you, or if you are juggling knives—master your pitch and deliver it with confidence. The more times you pitch to others, the more questions they’ll ask and the more feedback you’ll receive. When receiving feedback or questions, tweak your pitch in writing first, and then get back out there and try your new version. Over time, your pitch will feel natural and it will answer all of your audience's’ questions. Just keep pitching.