February 19th, 2013
No entrepreneur can get through a day without someone asking, Do you have an elevator pitch? This, for the unenlightened, is a company description so concise that one can deliver it effectively and persuasively to a fellow elevator passenger before he exits to his floor.
A few questions to ask yourself: Is the journey one floor or 100? Can your ad-hoc prospect focus in an elevator? Do the other riders want to hear you talk? Are unknown competitors or journalists present to take advantage of your comments or the way you deliver them?
The elevator pitch is a total farce. Stop trying to create and perfect it.
Articles abound on elevator etiquette. Why? Because riding in an enclosed box with strangers makes people feel awkward and unsure how to act. Some are claustrophobic and fear a service breakdown. They want space, silence, anonymity. They stare at their shoes, at the ceiling, at the floor indicators. Mostly, they want to get the hell out of there, as soon as possible.
Simply, nothing about an elevator is conducive to persuasion — ironically, the point of the elevator pitch. The very word elevator causes discomfort. Why would one use it, then? Words matter. To visualize yourself describing your company in an awkward, success-limiting situation is to defeat your confidence and creativity.
Why is visualization relevant here? It’s the key to success. Author and businessman Harvey Mackay, in a recent article, wrote that high achievers — including himself, Jim Carrey, Oprah Winfrey, Jonas Salk, and top Olympic athletes — always visualized success before realizing it. To visualize a dysfunctional scenario, therefore — pitching your company in an elevator — is a losing concept. Failing in your imagination is a bad start.
I don’t know the origin of this flawed metaphor, the elevator pitch. Although its objective, speedy persuasion, is well-intentioned, it fails miserably: Most homepages, where company descriptions (brands) are supposed to shine, are totally unfathomable. Yet, unwitting people enroll every day in elevator-pitch seminars. Waste of time and money. Seriously.
Elevator + pitch is a bad combination. Ditch it.
Instead, what you should be creating/perfecting is your brand — the unique, concise, pithy, jargon-free, memorable, repeatable articulation of your value proposition. You’ll know you’ve created a strong brand when people “get it” in 15 seconds, without videos or white papers. Your brand must succeed where you need it most: on your homepage. If it fails there, it fails everywhere.
Who, If Not You?
The question is, Who should create/perfect your brand? If you are not a proven wordsmith, whose words are memorable, repeatable, and evocative, you’re not the right person. Don’t wing it. Hire a qualified professional. Mediocrity is expensive. As Dirty Harry Callahan (Clint Eastwood) said in Magnum Force: “A man’s GOT to know his limitations.”
In an episode of Seinfeld (“The Beard”), Jerry met a pretty lady cop, who asked whether he’d ever watched Melrose Place. Jerry denied it. She knew he was lying and challenged him to a polygraph test. Jerry accepted, knowing he’d fail, and became increasingly nervous as the hour of judgment drew near. He asked his friend George Costanza (Jason Alexander), an expert liar, for advice:
JERRY: So, George, how do I beat this lie detector?
GEORGE: I’m sorry, Jerry, I can’t help you.
JERRY: Come on; you’ve got the gift. You’re the only one that can help me.
GEORGE: Jerry, I can’t. It’s like saying to Pavarotti, “Teach me to sing like you.”
JERRY: All right, well I’ve got to go take this test. I can’t believe I’m doing this.
GEORGE: Jerry, just remember: It’s not a lie… if you believe it.
By the way, Jerry did take the polygraph test. He failed it.
Rx from the WhiteNoise Doctor™
About the Author
Marc Rudov is a branding advisor to CEOs,
producer of MarcRudovTV, and author of the book,
Be Unique or Be Ignored: The CEO’s Guide to Branding.
© 2013 Marc H. Rudov. All Rights Reserved.