Do you remember the scene in Office Space when the consultant, Bob Slydell, is interviewing employees to figure out who they should keep and who they should fire?  Bob asks the squirrely employee, Tom Smykowski, “What would ya say you do here?” and Tom simply could not articulate how he provided ANY value to the company.  And eventually Tom flipped out and yelled at Bob, “Well look, I already told you! I deal with the goddamn customers so the engineers don’t have to!”

It’s a hilarious scene and it illustrates an important skill every business owner must master – how to answer the question, “What do you do?”

It sounds so simple, but those 4 words can wreak havoc on your business if you haven’t spent enough time thinking through your answer.  Many people refer to this concept as an “Elevator Pitch” because you’re supposed to be able to complete your answer within the time it takes to go up or down the elevator with a prospect.

Crafting a great elevator pitch is similar to defining your unique selling proposition, or USP.  Both require a complete understanding of your business, your competitors, and your target customers.  And both will evolve over time as you test and refine your message.

If you think you already have a solid elevator pitch, please share it in the comments below. And if you need help, then here are 3 exercises to get you started.


1. Define Your Ideal Customer

The most important step is to first define your ideal customer.  It’s impossible to create a great elevator pitch if you skip this step because you won’t know who you’re trying to attract to your business.  Trying to be all things to everybody is one of the fastest ways to failure.

Don’t just define a type of customer.  Try to think of one real existing customer and list everything you know about him or her.  If necessary, survey this customer over the phone, in person, or via an online questionnaire.  The goal is to get as many details as possible so you can clearly define who your customer is and what she’s thinking.

For example, here are some questions you may want to ask or research on your own:

  • Where do you live (city or suburbs, house or apartment, east or west coast)?
  • Are you married? Any children?
  • How old are you?
  • Where do you work (blue or white collar, industry, self employed, or unemployed)?
  • What books or magazines do you read?
  • What do you do for fun outside of work? Or what are your hobbies?
  • What are you trying to accomplish by using my product or service?


As you gather more information you will start to develop your ideal client avatar, which will be used in your elevator pitch.  For example, a dog trainer might determine her ideal customer is a frustrated new puppy owner living in the city.  In this case, the elevator pitch may start with “I help frustrated new puppy owners who live in the city…”


2. List Customer Problems

The next set of questions are geared toward identifying the #1 problem your customer is trying to solve.  So you should ask:

  • What are a few of the problems you’re trying to solve with
    [insert your product/service]?
  • How do these problems affect your personal life, relationship, and work life?
  • What other solutions have you tried in the past?


For many new puppy owners, the #1 problem is housetraining.  So based on these answers we might tweak our elevator pitch to be, “I help frustrated new puppy owners quickly housetrain their dog…”


3. List Benefits of Your Solution

The final step is to identify and list all of the benefits of your solution.  Questions to ask include:

  • What will your life be like when you solve this problem?
  • How will solving this problem affect you and your family?


In our example, a housetrained puppy means less cleaning and no more worrying when the dog is left alone for a few hours.  So our elevator pitch can be refined even further to be, “I help frustrated new puppy owners quickly housetrain their dog so they stop wasting their free time cleaning and spend more time playing.”


So What Would Ya Say You Do?

If you just went through the 3 exercises above and you want to get feedback, then post your elevator pitch in the comments below.