I Don’t Believe in Elevator Pitches

One of the marketing concepts that I think is highly overrated is the idea of an elevator pitch.  Wikipedia defines an elevator pitch “as a short summary used to quickly and simply define a product, service, or organization and its value proposition. The name ‘elevator pitch’ reflects the idea that it should be possible to deliver the summary in the time span of an elevator ride, or approximately thirty seconds to two minutes.”  For the past few decades companies have trained their sales organizations and sometimes the broader employee base to memorize their elevator pitch so that it can be repeated on demand to customers.

Whenever I talk to an outside consultant or marketing agency they ask me what my elevator pitch is.  I tell them I don’t have one.  The pitch I would deliver on an elevator depends upon which building (industry) I am in and who the other passengers (personas) are.  A generalized and consistent message like an elevator pitch is never as compelling as a targeted and customized message that relates to specifically to your situation.  This is the primary reason why I don’t believe in elevator pitches.

Today’s marketing requires targeted messages directed at specific buyer personas.  If I am speaking to an IT professional I would provide a different pitch than I would to a Line of Business (LOB) manager.  Of course, different LOB personas require a targeted message that is specific to human resources, finance, marketing, sales or customer service.  In addition to having different pitches for your primary buyers, I also recommend having specific targeted messages to use with industry analysts, venture capitalists, equity researchers and technology journalists.

I also think the pitch varies depending upon what industry your buyer works in. A customer in financial services needs different messages from those in health care, industrial manufacturing or the public sector.  I also recommend having unique targeted messages for small businesses, middle market companies and channel partners. 

Most marketing professionals will disagree with the approach I am recommending above.  How could we train the sales organization in so many messages?  But if you have a large sales organization chances are that your account executives only focus on one or two customer segments or buyer personas.  The sales representative that is focused upon selling to very large financial institutions only needs to understand the positioning for insurers and banks.   The application vendor that sells back office products only needs to understand the messages for human resources and finance. 

Non-sales organizations are easy to train as well.  For example, there are only a handful of people in the corporate communications department talking to analysts and press.  The CFO and CEO are the primary spokespeople with venture capitalists or equity analysts. 

So while the development of with a diverse set of messages creates more of a burden for marketing organizations, the issue of sales training is not as complex as it might seem.

  One thought on “I Don’t Believe in Elevator Pitches

  1. John Radko
    February 4, 2012 at 5:19 AM

    Good point Steve! I was all set to disagree with you, because I’m a fan of concise statements of value proposition — but then I realized you were really taking a stand for targetted concise statements, which I absolutely agree with.

    • Steve Keifer
      February 5, 2012 at 4:15 AM

      Yes, we had this debate before. I am simply arguing that marketers should develop targeted pitches fine tuned for a specific audience – versus using one generic statement.

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