“The task of marketing is a never-ending exercise in reduction,” said Terry O’Reilly, the author of a new marketing book titled This I Know: Marketing Lessons from Under the Influence. From my 4 years of running a marketing company and working with over 50 clients, I can say that this is the truth. When it comes to a business, it’s about communicating the core of a business in one simple sentence. When it comes to the company’s advertising, it’s about simplifying the message or idea down to its essence.
O’Reilly writes in his book that North Americans are subjected to over three thousand advertising messages in a day. That’s a lot of clutter. Conventional ad wisdom says that out of those three thousand messages, the average person notices six and remembers two. The challenge for a business is how to stand out in the noisy and cluttered marketing world.
The answer is simplicity.
As an example, O’Reilly says that if he threw 5 apples at you, you’d probably drop them all. But if he threw you 1 apple, you’d probably catch it. That’s what it’s like advertising in today’s world. “Simple, clear messages always win.”
Does your business have an elevator pitch? An elevator pitch is a brief explanation of your idea that you can describe to someone from the time it takes for an elevator to go from the first floor to the second floor. How can you explain the heart of your business in a short and compelling sentence? An elevator pitch is about clarity. It’s understanding what the core of your business is and what you offer.
In my work with small business owners, I find most of them do not have a good elevator pitch. It’s not that they’re not good at what they do, they just don’t know how to explain it in a simple and memorable way. The problem with not having a good elevator pitch is that it leads to unclear, long-winded marketing which bores and confuses people.
In chapter 2 of his book, O’Reilly gives a few examples of compelling elevator pitches:
Wired launched their magazine in 1993 to report on trends and innovations that were changing the future of business, culture, and science. When they were pitching their concept to potential investors and were immediately funded because of their elevator pitch. It was this: “Wired was going to feel like a magazine mailed back from the future.”
The Bourne Identity
Hollywood executives gave the go ahead to make Bourne Identity when they heard this elevator pitch: “What if a man with amnesia has forgotten he’s the world’s most dangerous assassin?” The movie was based on a 523-page book, but the executives didn’t need to read it to decide to invest in the movie.
O’Reilly shares another movie story of two first-time screenwriters who got a lucky meeting with a studio executive. They pitched their idea and the executive said, “I hate it. What else do you got?” The screenwriters excused themselves to get their “other” idea, and went in a panic to the bathroom to come up with something. They remembered a past idea which they had not developed. Going back to the office they pitched, “Twins separated at birth meet later in life. One’s Arnold Schwarzenegger and the other is Danny DeVito.” After a pause, the executive said, “I’ll take it.” The idea went on to make into movie Twins.
Here’s another movie example (for those of you old enough to know). Clint Eastwood jumped into stardom following the success of Dirty Harry. What was this movie about? A rogue cop? A guy that broke the rules? No, all that describes dozens of movies. What made this movie stand out was that it was about “a cop that was more violent than the criminals he chases”. That elevator pitch is both memorable and compelling.
When Cheer made a name for itself in the laundry detergent business, their main selling point was that you could use the detergent in hot or cold water, leading them to create the tagline “All Tempa-Cheer!” It was unique because no other brand was doing this.
If you feel like you don’t have a good elevator pitch for your business, it’s not too late to start thinking about it. Having crystal clear clarity in your business will not only help your potential customers remember you and choose you, the clarity will also help your team to focus their efforts, which will lead to better results.
You can think of an elevator pitch as an attempt to get more attention for your business. Or you can think of an elevator pitch as a way to serve others, to give them a simple and clear explanation of your business so they can more easily decide whether to find out more (or not).