The IT Marketing Crash Course

Written by Raj Khera
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Chapter 3: Elevator Pitch

"Marketing is too important to be left to the marketing department." — David Packard

Knowing What to Say

Once you know your ideal customer profile, or your buyer persona, coming up with your MSP marketing campaign becomes remarkably easier. Pretend your buyer persona is a potential client. You can have a make-believe dialog with that person and imagine how they would respond. This will give you insight into preparing for real encounters with people who match your persona's characteristics.

An Elevator Pitch that Leads to a Conversation

Could you convey the value of what you do in the time it takes an elevator to travel from the top floor of a building down to the lobby? If not, you need to develop and memorize your "elevator pitch," which clearly and succinctly answers the question, "So, what do you do?"

Abraham Lincoln used to say that it would take him two weeks to write a 20-minute speech, but he could talk for two hours without any notice at all.

In business, you need a brief elevator pitch as well as a detailed "follow-up." The brief version offers a nutshell view of your business, enough to whet the appetite of a potential customer and cause them to ask for more details. When they do, you are ready with your more detailed follow-up. Memorize both versions so you are never at a loss for explaining what you do.

The key to an effective elevator pitch is to be specific. Consider this exercise: In 20 seconds or less, state clearly the kind of service you provide or the products you sell. Be specific.

I don't mean something like, "We do computer programming and system design." That hardly gives insight into what you do best. I also don't mean, "We develop software for database management, systems integration, network management, Windows applications, and other custom applications." Small businesses that do everything under the sun lose credibility.

Remember the deck contracting example from Chapter 1? Most people prefer to hire specialists. Specialists can typically charge far more than generalists. More so, you will find that when you specialize, you create an opportunity to be known for your specialty, a trait that can generate a lot of business.

A repairman that once came to my house to fix the refrigerator told me that he used to install and repair all types of appliances. But as time went on, he decided to focus on a certain brand of products. His business grew. Later he focused only on that brand's refrigerators. It turns out that there is a big market just for this in my metropolitan area. He is booked every day and has lowered his overhead expenses dramatically because he only needs to stock a limited number of parts. He also reduces his ongoing training time and costs to keep up to speed with new products.

Successful lawyers, accountants, real estate professionals, and consultants all carve out niches for their businesses. Sure, you've heard of large companies that provide an assortment of services. But that's just the point: those organizations are large. They've got entire departments devoted to getting customers. Small businesses must think and operate differently. By specializing, your size becomes one of your biggest advantages.

Here are some examples of IT elevator pitches, including both brief and detailed versions.

Example: Software Product

Brief version

My company provides a low-cost, email newsletter management tool for organizations to communicate with their customers and generate repeat business.

Follow-up details

We've found that companies who keep in touch with their customers regularly increase their chances of repeat business dramatically. Our tool makes this process easy. You can create and send professional-looking newsletters in just a few simple steps without having to learn any programming. We provide live, reports that detail how many people — and who — opened your email campaign and clicked on the links within it. Our software runs over the Internet so there is nothing to download or install. Would you like to try it out for free?

Notice two key points:

  1. The service's key benefit: making the process of getting repeat business easy.
  2. The offer to try out the service for free at the end of the pitch.

Including a benefit highlights the value to a potential customer. Just saying what you do or sell isn't enough. Tell the listener what he or she can get out of using your service or product.

Always try to close with some kind of offer whether it is a follow-up phone call, a free trial or consultation, or even something as simple as sending a copy of an article you found or wrote on the topic. Of course, not everyone you talk to will be able to use what you offer so look and listen for clues that suggest your words will get lost in the wind.

If you find yourself at a networking event talking to someone who is more focused on getting that next beer, stop wasting your time and mingle. The more people you can say your elevator pitch to, the higher the chances of landing a new customer.

Example: Website Design Services

Brief version

My company helps people reach audiences online with smart design, straightforward navigation, and clear copywriting to educate their customers and effectively offer them their products, services, and expertise.

Follow-up details

While most web design companies focus on selling pricey graphics and other distracting design elements, our approach focuses on identifying our customer's needs for information and problem-solving. We create websites that help our clients be the answer to questions their customers are asking online. We do this without unnecessary bells and whistles, and instead, create a useful, relevant, visible website for our clients. What do you hope your customers do when they first visit your website? What do you think they actually do?

In this example, the question requesting a call to action at the end is not something like "Are you satisfied with your website?" or "Would you be open to a free consultation to explore options to manage your website better?" Instead, it is an open-ended question designed to engage the listener in a dialog. This gives you a chance to probe for areas in which you can find an opening to request a meeting, if appropriate.

Checklist: Your Next Steps

  • Now it's your turn. Take a moment. Think hard. Write down your elevator pitch. Edit it. Write something else. Check it. Test it out on a partner, colleague, or even your significant other.
  • After you write your own brief version, memorize it. Try to memorize as much of your detailed version as possible, too.
  • If you haven't taken the time to write it down, stop reading! Don't continue until you have written a concise description of the services or products you provide. With this statement committed to memory, you will be able to tell people what you do clearly, without stumbling — and in the time it takes the elevator to reach the lobby.