If you’ve ever been to a formal networking event, you’ll have had to do a 60 second pitch about your business. I’ve delivered hundreds of these so-called elevator pitches, usually off the cuff and often, if I’m honest, a little garbled. It’s not easy summarising who you are, what you do, who you work with and what you’re looking for in a mere minute.
That’s why at Entrepreneurial Spark they’re so insistent about practising your pitch over and over and over and over again. I’m sure I wasn't the only person to feel like it was a bit much, having to start every meeting and mentoring session with a pitching session. But as I mentioned in my recent blog post about what I learned during my time on the programme, it turned out to be one of the most important things I did there.
So how exactly do you go about writing the pitch? Here’s how I constructed mine, following Entrepreneurial Spark’s format of Hook - Problem - Solution - Traction - Ask.
Pitch step 01: HOOK
“Just do it. Every little helps. Finger lickin' good. When it comes to creating powerful marketing copy for your business, you don't need many words, just the right ones.”
How you choose to open your pitch will determine if people keep listening or switch off. A clever question, interesting fact or statistic, or something else a little quirky that will make people take notice is what’s required here. Remember always to think about your target audience and what will resonate with them.
Pitch step 02: PROBLEM
“There are over 200,000 words in the English language and the average native speaker has an active vocabulary of around 20,000. So how do you find the right words to describe what your business offers and make your brand stand out from the crowd?”
Here again it’s important to put yourself in the shoes of your ideal client or customer and understand what the problem is from their point of view. I might be able to see that someone’s website copy has syntax issues or lacks clear calls to action, but for them the problem is more likely to be, “How do I make people notice my business?” So that’s the problem I need to be talking about in my pitch.
Pitch step 03: SOLUTION
“I'm Rin Hamburgh and I love words. I've been a professional writer for 14 years and set up Rin Hamburgh & Co last year when I saw the need for reliable, top quality yet cost effective copywriting services. By bringing in my team of freelance writers on a project by project basis, I can keep costs reasonable while also meeting the tightest of deadlines.”
This is where you get to talk about your business and how what you do can genuinely add value for your target audience. My solution starts off by explaining who I am and what I do, and then goes on to give a bit of detail about how I do it. This kind of insight is really valuable when it comes to differentiating your business from your competitors.
Pitch step 04: TRACTION
“We work with anyone who can’t write, doesn’t enjoy writing or simply doesn’t have the time, and since our launch in August last year we’ve helped over 80 clients ranging from small businesses to household name brands improve their marketing copy.”
The next step is traction. This is a particularly important step for a start up - especially if you’re looking for funding - and is your chance to show that you’re already up and running and having some success. But it’s also a valuable section for more established businesses. Telling people that you’ve been going for 20 years or have worked with a number of well known brands gives you credibility and helps build trust.
Pitch step 05: ASK
“Now we’re ready to increase our capacity, so I’m looking for introductions to keen junior copywriters who can join our growing team. And of course, if you know anyone who is struggling to find the right words to make their brand stand out from the crowd, we’re always here to help.”
Finally, it’s really important that your pitch has a clear ask, especially in a formal networking situation. My pitch was aimed at fellow ESpark entrepreneurs, so it was less about sales and more about support - hence the request for leads for new writers. But you might be looking for an introduction into a particular business, referrals from within a certain industry or people to sign up to your newsletter or join a focus group to help you test a new product. The more specific you can be, the easier people will find it to help you.
Once you’ve written your pitch, go through it and try to cut out any unnecessary words or even whole sentences. You’ll need the overall word count to be less than 180 words, which is roughly how many you can fit into a minute without rushing.
Then all that’s left is to practice and practice and practice some more, until the words roll off your tongue and you feel comfortable delivering your pitch in any situation, even at short notice - like if you should happen to get stuck in a lift with your ideal client.