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September 17, 2019

3 Tips on Brushing Up on Your Elevator Pitch

BY Tony Treadway

That chance moment when you are asked “what makes your company (or yourself) different?” is what we all either dream or have nightmares about. Whether it’s 30 seconds or a 5-minute exchange, we can all use some advice on how to nail the opportunity.

Teresa & Tony Treadway inside the P&G Elevator have 5 minutes to pitch their agency.

We recently had a 5-minute opportunity at Ad Age’s Small Agency Awards Conference with a Fortune 50 company, Proctor & Gamble (P&G). Top agencies were invited by P&G to participate in a 5-minute elevator pitch for a shot at some of the CPG giant’s marketing. To our surprise, the pitch was inside a mock elevator in the middle of the conference area (Yeap. Press a button and you are inside facing nothing more than a camera, microphone and a countdown clock to zero). All of the agency pitches were recorded with the promise that P&G executives would take a look later with a hopeful call for additional one-on-one discussions about future work.

The P&G Elevator is the brain child of Pete Carter, Brand Position and Advertising Specialist for the company.

While pitching to a camera is a bit extreme, it was a sobering way to have your say in a sterile environment. No facial expressions, no decks or even a handout or business card to lean on. Just say it and go. The experience leaves me with three tips as advice:

Build Your Pitch Like A Pyramid – Whether you have 5 seconds or 5 minutes, you want to build your pitch like a pyramid with bridges that enable you to tell your story in an intriguing way. For us it was, “We build cult brands and let me tell you why that’s important. Cult brands are 25–95 percent more profitable and our insights can take a company to greater profitability. Here’s how.” Get it? Make a memorable statement, then string together bridging statements that makes the listener want to hear more. Think of the technique as a string of pearls that makes your pitch more memorable.

Be Memorable – For our P&G pitch, my wife, Teresa, who is a co-founder and agency VP noted that she and I were “T&T – we’re dynamite. We started Creative Energy 27 years ago in the back of an old steakhouse with three months of working capital. Today, we are serving clients worldwide.” Rags to riches stories are a great way to connect with even a camera and microphone. Listeners are looking for something fresh, authentic and unique in a crowded business world of sameness. What makes your story memorable and unique?

Know the Jungle That You Are Entering – Aside from a chance meeting at a restaurant or dry cleaners, you typically know when you are entering the opportunity to pitch your company. For us, our invitation to a P&G pitch gave ample time to study up on the company’s priorities, recent initiatives and the decision makers who we might meet. A little time spent on P&G’s website, investor relations site and LinkedIn helped us consider some hot buttons to push inside our elevator. Next time you head to a trade show or industry event, take the time to carve out your top 5 or 10 targets and take some mental notes on their company’s initiatives and the people you might meet. By layering in some knowledge, you can tailor in some specifics that tell your listener that you’ve done your research about them. Strategically, you can add some points that can be more relevant to the target’s needs.

You build your business in lots of ways. Whether it’s the first few words on your e-commerce site, the first few words of your brochure or menu or the first few words of your elevator pitch, your target has the ultimate control in pushing the up button for your next sell or down button to irrelevance.