I have a hard time telling people what the Limulus Systems web application actually does. I mean, I know what it does and what we plan for it to do in the future. The functioning of it is not especially complicated and it’s easy to demonstrate what it can do, but I sometimes find it a challenge to describe it.
“It’s a social media aggregator.” A what? What the heck is an aggregator? “It’s a platform for combining images from your social media posts with images from other people” That’s better, but it doesn’t say anything about why you would want to do that. And what’s with this “images” business? What images? “Well, it’s this thing where you can take your photos, the ones you’ve posted to Facebook, Instagram and other social media, and search for them using hash tags, and then invite other people, and then you can….” Now your audience starts to lose interest, as you drone on. Never as articulate as I’d like to be, I’m finding it hard to come up with that neat and simple verbal definition of our app.
What I need is an elevator pitch to describe our application. You know, a thirty-second description of what our app does and how it benefits the user. It has to be compelling and concise, short enough to deliver during an elevator trip and yet compelling enough to cause a potential investor to become interested in your product.
Writing an elevator pitch seems simple enough on the surface, but in fact can be quite hard to do. It’s easy to blather on at length on a topic, but when you have only a very short time to tell your story, your words have to be chosen with more care. What was that quote from Winston Churchill? “If you want me to speak for an hour – give me a moment’s notice; if you want me to speak for half an hour, give me a day’s notice; if you want me to speak for five minutes – give me a week.” It takes time to come up with a brief statement that says what you want, and says it well.
Hard as it may be to come up with, that elevator pitch is important. If you don’t catch your audience in the first few minutes, even seconds, you may never get them at all. Your audience may be investors or friends (or both), it doesn’t matter, if they don’t understand your offering you’ve lost them and they won’t come back. Therefore, it’s critical that you get it right the first time.
I’ve been inspired in this effort in part by reading The Agile Startup by Jeff Scheinrock and Matt Richter-Sand. The book is about many different aspects of a start-up, but the part that caught me was about selling your idea. They talk about the need to develop three different descriptions of your startup:
- The simple phrase or tagline to describe yourself (“We’re Zipcar for kids!” Hmm, maybe not).
- The elevator pitch.
- The ten-fifteen minute PowerPoint presentation for investors.
I’ve been focusing on the pitch, since that’s the description we most need right now. The tagline is great for marketing, but we aren’t doing that yet, and we’re not looking for investment, so the PowerPoint presentation is a little premature. However, everybody I run into is a candidate for the elevator pitch.
According to The Agile Startup, the pitch ideally contains:
- your basic offering,
- a description of the customer pain that you are solving,
- your market data,
- how much traction your product or idea has gotten, and
- a call to action (especially if pitching to investors).
That’s a lot to cover in thirty seconds. I find for me, the way to create an elevator pitch will be to create a long version and edit it down. Write up a description of the application, and then cut it in half. Then cut it in half again, until just the bare essence of the description is left.
So coming up with a pitch is one of my tasks in the near future. It will probably always be a work-in-progress, changing as circumstances and the audience change. Stay tuned – once I’ve got something, I’ll post it here.