Someone asked me the other day what I do.
As I was about to blurt out my story… I paused.
I wasn’t sure if it was because I have been saying the same thing for soo long, or if it was because I felt inspired in the moment but I decided to say something different.
“Well what I actually do…” and I gave a new response after a brief moment of reflection. It’s easy for me to say that I am a energy engineer and entrepreneur but that doesn’t tell the full story.
This is a more surface level description.
This time I told my story of how I help engineers and scientists gain startup skills so that they can start their own clean-tech business. I had to explain that clean-tech includes eco-businesses from clean energy to sustainability.
So clearly although the new story was vastly better than it was, I found that it can always improve.
Since that moment, I’ve found that this story works well for people in our industry and for business or marketing people I’ll make sure to use “eco-business” instead of clean tech so to make my story easier for them to interpret.
You see, when you are an entrepreneur what you do and your company are one and the same. Although many people may find it easy to sum up their line of work… electrical engineer, consulting civil engineer or technical sales engineer, this description still only tells part of the story of what you actually do.
So whether you work for yourself or you work for someone else having a unique story is something that helps to stand out in the crowd of professionals and wannabe entrepreneurs.
The truth is, as you tell people about the work you do, and they will instantly categorise you. This is not necessarily something that we do consciously, it comes from an unconscious impulse to simplify things. So by telling a story you allow people to gauge more of the intangible aspects of your work.
In this post you’ll learn how to craft your own personal story and build a killer elevator pitch for your business. You’ll be able to stand out against in the crowd by allowing people to relate to you through the art of story which is something many engineers and scientists can overlook.
Why do we overlook these things?
Often we believe that the numbers will be enough and that if we provide more data and more evidence to support our case we will be more persuasive, but this is not the case.
People do not respond purely to data… but why is this? This is because if we provide data than we are asking people to determine the context, and the meaning of the data and make the same conclusions that we have.
We are asking too much. Why not make it easier for someone else to interpret by telling a relatable story that conveys the same information? This is the art of the crafting your own personal story and building an killer elevator pitch. It is to express the facts of what you do in an engaging and captivating story. Now let’s look at how we can actually do this…
Sharing your story, it’s an art!
Now we are going to look at how to make an pitch for you and then your company. The basic outline starts with including your name and the organisation you are associated with. It may be your own company or one that you currently work for. Let’s start by using a simple set of questions to help you shape your own personal story.
Create your own personal story
- Who are you? – Start with your name and company
- Who do you help? – Target Customers of your company
- How do you do it? – Primary Benefit to those customers
For example my personal story is “My name is George Gray from ECO founder and I help engineers and scientists gain startup skills so that they can start their own clean-tech business.”
In this example I have introduced myself, stated my company and the target audience and explained the primary benefit I provide. The personal story is something you want to have on tap so that you can use it often. Your personal story is important because it is part of your personal brand. You see, if I were to say this to the right people, then they might say… “oh I have a friend who is an engineer looking to start a solar business” and they’ll know that I help people like that.
These questions will help you to create your own personal story which you can use when people ask you what you do. You’ll be better prepared and you’ll find people will be more interested in you if you make a personal story like this. Also you can use your personal story as the introduction into your company elevator pitch.
Build and Killer Elevator Pitch
To start with you’ll want to create an outline of what you need to say in your pitch. Here are some questions to answer before you begin building your elevator pitch.
- Who is it for? → Your Target Customers
- What is the need? → The Customer Need, and the Market Opportunity
- What’s the name of the solution? → Name of Technology/Product/Service
- What kind of solution is it? → Category of technology/business
- What is the main benefit?→ Key User Benefit
- Why is it better than what’s already out there? → Differentiating factors from competition
- Why do you have what it takes? → Unique Advantages
Once you’ve jotted down these facts about your business, you must now craft a relatable story that you can use to engage people in your elevator pitch. But how do we tell a story that will engage?
A story is about a character who wants something and overcomes obstacles to get it. In business we have customer problem which we solve. So an effective relatable story looks at your customer and their struggles and the solution that you provide to their problems.
You want to focus on the contrast from problem and solution. The darkness then the light, the frustration then the revelation.
An example of an elevator pitch for the founder of a Smart Metering business might be…
“My name is Bill Meter (made up name) from SMARTX technologies (made up company) and I help home users become energy efficient. My wife and I struggled with trying to reduce our energy consumption for many years. We’d turn off lights when we left the room and we’d only use heating when it was soo cold that we could see our breath in our living room. Then I found a way that we could decrease our energy bill and stay warmer in winter. I created the SMARTX (made up product) which is a Smart Metering product which focuses on Energy Efficiency. The SMARTX helped me save 20% on my energy bills. Now when I go in to my house it’s warm and I don’t have to worry as much about our power bills because I know they’ll be manageable. As it turned there were 152,900 people (made up number) in the US that had the same problem and I found that 67% (made up statistic) of them would be willing to pay for my solution. Unlike other smart metering companies we focus on pay to use financing which makes our product accessible to an more customers. We have a diverse team with at total of 30 years of experience in the industry so we believe we have the right people for the job.”
Now why is this more effective than saying the surface level description of what the founder of a Smart Metering business does. This is because the story includes the struggle of the founder and brings the listener in by talking about how they solved the problem. It also includes information about the market opportunity and the business viability which are two things that business people, particularly investors, will be seeking for in a good pitch.
The other thing this does is give context for the product and it’s far more interesting to be told a story of someone’s frustration and resolution than it is to describe a product features. You should provide information about the problem how your technology solves that problem for other people.
Yes it is true that there is only one descriptive claim on the product in the pitch. This is because adding more data and statistical information about the product won’t actually help you explain it any further.
Warning: Be cautious when adding more stat’s to your pitch but as I’ve found the more you talk of story in your pitch, the greater the engagement of your audience.
Why does your solution matter and how is it unique and better than competition? I have addressed the question by explaining why we are not like other smart metering companies. I have also included the companies plan to compete against competition which is through a unique financing plan.
Finally, I have finished up with why the company has the right team to succeed. This is important as business people want to be sure that the team has what it will take to succeed in the market.
Like I mentioned in the beginning of this post… you can always improve. So start practicing on your family and friends. The very act of saying your personal story and elevator pitch will help you refine it. What you’ll need to do is to observe how other people respond to your pitch. Watch the response carefully and continually adjust your pitch so that you can learn from the responses and adapt it.
Practice, Observe, Learn and Adapt.
Getting feedback from friends and family is great, but in order to also get some ‘relevant’ feedback you must also talk to customers so to understand their language and their pain points.
So how do you find out the best way to talk about the problems that your customers face?
The first step is to clearly identify the problem, need or desire. Then it will be a good idea to ask customers what they are struggling with and use their language to feed it back to them in your pitch. In order to do this you must be careful about the language you use when crafting your questions. A good example for Bill from SMARTX would be…
“What could you do if you energy bills were more affordable?”
This question keeps it hypothetical so it is as if there is no wrong answer, but it will lead them to describe the benefits that your solution would provide to them.. in their own language. Listen carefully and you can use your findings in your pitch or in your marketing and sales material.
Step’s to creating a Killer Elevator Pitch
- First create your own personal story (structure it by answering the given questions)
- Then lay out the data for your elevator pitch (use the given questions as a structure)
- Craft a story of how you came up with idea and why it offers value to other people.
- Practice your personal story with friends and family
- Talk to customers and use their language in your pitch.
- Perfect and adapt your pitch from the feedback you’ve gathered.
You are going to have to accept that it is never going to be perfect. The more you learn about your business and your customers the more changes you’ll end up making to your personal story and elevator pitch over time. The key is to practice your pitch, observe the feedback, learn from the feedback and adapt your pitch for improvement. Now go out there tell your story and spread the message of your clean tech business to world!