An elevator pitch can make or break your business. With an elevator pitch delivered at the right time and to the right person, you could land the financing you need to take your business out of the basement of your house and into the front pages of the local newspaper. You might also land the client that will refer you several more clients that will eventually turn your business into a profit-making machine that creates green jobs and helps the transition to the green economy.
The elevator pitch summarizes your business in an exciting, intriguing way that gets clients, the media, investors, and your employees excited about your company and ready to find out more. And quite simply, it’s your chance to make a good first impression. And we all know how many chances you get to do that.
The name derives from the legend of an entrepreneur unable to get an appointment with a venture capitalist, so instead he waits outside the VC’s office until he has the chance to jump on an elevator with the man. Now a ‘captive audience’, the VC listens patiently to the entrepreneur as he pitches his great idea….for 3 floors. At the bottom, when the doors open, the VC raises an eyebrow and says, “I’ll have my secretary schedule you for next week.”
Elevator pitches are not just used for potential investors. They are crucial for networking gatherings, trade shows, cocktail parties, and any other event where a potential client, employee, volunteer, partner, investor, or journalist may be willing to give you 30 seconds of their undivided attention. Grab enough of these peoples’ attentions, and your business may benefit greatly….all because you’ve honed a 30 second ‘elevator pitch’.
As a green business, your elevator pitch is quite useful. It not only will help you directly make sales to potential customers, it will engage people to be excited about your company. It’s one of the best aspects of being a business whose mission contains sustainability. With a good elevator pitch, people who appreciate sustainability will be more likely to tell other people. Even if someone is not a potential customer, they may know others who are, and if they believe in your company, they might make it a point to pass the word on.
The ride up or down the elevator may only last 15-20 seconds. But if you’re good, and have practiced your pitch well enough, it may well be enough to make the sale. Consider the following fictitious examples of good and bad elevator pitches (fictitious examples):
Fictitious Example 1–Cafe Organique
- Not So Good: At Cafe Organique, we serve pastries, croissants, specialty coffees, and desserts. We try to source organic as much as possible, but it’s difficult sometimes. We have outside seating on the sidewalk, and do some select light fare for lunch, as well.
- Good: Cafe Organique has delicious French-inspired cuisine like pastries, sandwiches and croissants that absolutely melt in your mouth. People hang out in our cafe or out on the veranda on sunny days and sometimes people just stay all day and eat several times. It’s a really fun environment.
Fictitious Example 2–EcoGardens, LLC
- Not So Good: EcoGardens offers a much more environmentally friendly alternative to other landscape maintenance companies. Two of my competitors, Martin Works and Blue Field Maintenance, both use large applications of chemicals to treat garden areas. Martin Works actually uses genetically engineered seeds that are unnaturally resistant to chemicals, so that they can put extra chemicals on everything and not kill the grass they’ve planted.
- Good: EcoGardens works with clients who are concerned about their children and their pets getting exposure to toxic chemicals traditionally used in landscape maintenance but who still want a beautiful landscape. We create elegant designs with native plants and organic treatments that are both gorgeous and environmentally friendly.
So what makes a successful elevator pitch? What are the differences in the above examples? What are the key characteristics that an elevator pitch should have? How can you build a dynamite one for your business?
Green Business Village sells a tool (excerpted above), created by Scott Cooney, author of Build a Green Small Business: Profitable Ways to Become an Ecopreneur (McGraw-Hill) that will walk you through the process and allow you to build your own based on our experience working with hundreds of green entrepreneurs. There is no fee for an initial consultation, so drop us a line at Info [at] GreenBusinessVillage.com.