Written by Nate Wright

January 5, 2021

How to Give Your Elevator Pitch a Health Checkup

Clear and simple elevator pitches can lead to more business.

For your company’s story or messaging to work well it needs to be clear and simple. Long and complicated elevator pitches filled with jargon often fail because they fail to connect with the other person.  

You can quickly tune-up your company’s elevator pitch with two simple exercises. Before we start here’s a brief reminder for why clear and simple messages are so important. 

[Download the exercise materials here as a PDF or a Word doc]

Everyday we’re inundated with messages. Email, television, YouTube, direct mail, text messages, flyers, chats, in-app messages, phone calls, billboards, radio… and the list seems to grow everyday. 

Marketing messages surround us. It’s a noisy environment leaving us feeling like we’re numb to the many messages we see everyday from so many companies.  We’ve become so good at quickly parsing messages we hardly recognize it happening.  

Daily, our brain helps us interpret messages. Our brain helps us quickly decide which message we need to pay attention to or dump.  Messages that have our best interest in mind, otherwise known as messages that help us solve problems, are prioritized.  Other messages that make  us work hard to understand how it can help us are dumped.  We do this without even realizing it is happening.  

Your company message is just one of the many thousands of messages available to people every day.  Delivering a clear and simple message will help people more easily listen to, understand, and connect with you.   

For company’s struggling to break through this noise, it’s getting harder.  Budgets are squeezed and more of us work remote and are connected and disconnected at the same time. How do you make sure your message is effective?

Have you ever read or heard an advertisement and realize you have no idea what the company actually does?  This is painful to our brain and our brain quickly helps us dispose of the message. 

We inherently do not want to tax our brain to figure out what another person is selling or how they can help us.  Clear and simple messages are easy to absorb and understand. The easier your message is to understand, the more effective your message becomes.

The more effort a person has to apply to understanding how you can help them solve a problem the less likely they are to interact and engage with you. The same applies to your brand. Remember, the brain likes simple and easy.  

Donald Miller, a virtual mentor of mine, business author, and educator, uses a great phrase to describe this succinctly, “If you confuse you lose.”

This doesn’t mean your company can’t solve complex problems.  It means companies need to simplify their messages to help establish meaningful connections faster.

 So how do you know if your elevator pitch is connecting or disconnecting? 

 It’s easy and it doesn’t have to cost your company a dime. Here’s a great way to do it with two simple exercises.

Exercise 1: Survey Your Leadership Team. 

Why should you start with your leadership team? Your leadership team is a reflection of the rest of the company. If your internal team isn’t using a consistent elevator pitch it’s an indication the rest of your internal team doesn’t yet know your company’s story or the value you are working so hard to deliver to customers. If this is true, your leadership team is missing out on an enormous opportunity. 

“We’ve found that when people care about and believe in the

brand, they’re motivated to work harder and their loyalty to 

the company increases. Employees are unified and inspired 

by a common sense of purpose and identity.”

Colin Mitchell

Excerpt from 'Selling the Brand Inside', Harvard Business Review

One of the first steps to getting people to care about and believe in your brand is to share with them your company’s story. This isn’t anything new. Companies have been doing this for many years.  

Your company’s story, often referred to as its core message, is a great tool for helping your employees understand what your company is about and how your products are intended to connect with your customers. 

A company’s story has long been a powerful marketing tool used to shape the external perception of ideas and to encourage desired internal employee or partner and external customer behavior. 

Ultimately, every company story is intended to connect your products or services with specific customer problems. Your elevator pitch is a mini-version of your company story. 

Educating and arming your employees with your core message – your elevator pitch – is powerful.  

When all your employees know and understand your core message you amplify your team’s efforts. Instead of only using a small group of marketing and sales professionals to focus on your story you can now help everyone in your company share your message and contribute to your success.   

So are you ready to tune-up your company’s elevator pitch? Let’s get started.

You can use the following two simple exercises to better understand your elevator pitch, collect how your customer perceives what you do and, if needed, give your pitch a tune-up.


EXERCISE 1 – Leadership Team

Start with your leadership team.  At your next meeting take a few minutes and ask your team to share their version of the company’s elevator pitch with the room (or group on a video call).  Avoid making this an embarrassing moment for any one person by downloading this worksheet ahead of time. Post it to your internal share drive where everyone can access it and enter their information. 

Your worksheet will look something like this at the start of the exercise.

[Download the exercise materials here as a PDF or a Word doc]

Step 1:

Using this tool helps you clearly see how well your team understands and is able to use your core message.  Each entry is anonymous to provide everyone with an objective view of your team’s thoughts. 

Give yourself and your team 5 minutes for everyone to enter the pitch. It’s an elevator pitch, so if it takes longer than 5 minutes for everyone to enter it, the message isn’t known well enough by your team. 

Step 2:

Next, read the elevator pitches out loud.  Ask yourself or your team these questions to determine how well each pitch passes the clear and simple test.

Does your pitch sound like normal, conversational language when you say it out loud? Think: is this how you talk when speaking with a friend?

  • What can be changed to make the statement sound more conversational?
  • Does your pitch give someone clarity about the problems your company can solve?
  • Is it easy for your staff and customers to memorize?
  • Are all the parts simple but give enough information that nobody would need to ask the question “What does that mean?”

How well did everyone do?  How well do the elevator pitches match your core documented messaging framework?  

If your results indicate the team is mirroring your messaging framework give your team a pat on the back. Well done. 

If your results leave you feeling a little depressed or you see areas that need work then it’s time to move on with the next exercise. 

Step 3:

Next, schedule time with your team to go deeper.  Here’s a few questions to get the conversation rolling. Ask your team:

  • What is the problem our company solves?
  • What are the most common business outcomes we deliver to customers? 
  • What are our company’s top 3 benefits?

This exercise can be revealing. It’s likely to help you gain insight into how well your team and by extension your sales, marketing, and customer success teams are helping to create a consistent perception of your company and its products in the marketplace. 

Think of this exercise as a beginning point to tuning-up your messaging. If you are like many companies, try not to feel down about your internal messaging results. Many companies struggle with creating simple and clear messaging. 

Messaging frameworks are often created for a new product launch, event, or other important matter.  A lot of money and time is spent creating new messaging before being tucked into a drawer never to be used again. 

This doesn’t have to be the reality for your company. Companies with clear and simple messaging used by their employees and understood by their customers are more successful. 

Just as your business changes and adapts to different market conditions and new products, so should your messaging change. Actively using your messaging and consistently refreshing and sharing it within your company is one of the best investments you can make for your business.

The easy path may be to push a messaging project over to the marketing team. Top-performing leaders stay involved.  Why? Messaging is a strategic lever for your business.  

Your involvement helps focus people and teams. You can focus marketing, sales, and customer teams. Without focus, your company is plain and simple wasting money and time.  Wasting money and time creating a multitude of messages, materials, and communications with disparate paths. 

Messaging is a company-wide responsibility to know, use, and apply consistently. 

If you are a business leader you can test the effectiveness of your messaging in a very easy way. The point is to validate what your documented messaging is and how well people on your team understand it and share.  If your marketing and sales team don’t know your messaging, it’s less likely your customer will have a consistent perception of who your company is and what problem(s) you solve.

Exercise number 2 helps you gain insight into how people (customers and prospects) think about your business. 


Exercise 2:  Customer Discussion

Customers are a perfect for testing your messaging and it’s easier to do than you may believe. 

Before you say, “I don’t want to burden my customers by asking them questions about our messaging” or “My sales team is too busy to deal with this.” then you either have all the sales you ever wanted or you are destined to watch your competitors take market share from your company.     

Similar to your internal team survey in Exercise 1, here’s a set of questions you can use in conversation with your customers to help uncover how well your core company message is being understood by new prospects. 

  • Why did you buy from us?
  • What problem did we solve for you?
  • What do you like most about our product?
  • What do you like least about it?

Notice all of these questions are open-ended questions. This is by design. Avoid close-end Yes or No questions.  Ask a Yes or No question and you’ll likely receive a Yes or No response.

Instead ask open-ended questions to give room for your conversation to grow. 

A great way to do this is to use the one-word question ‘Why?’ Why questions are very effective for uncovering new information. It’s a useful technique I learned years ago while studying for my Six Sigma certification.  

Asking Why helps you get to the root of a question or problem. Uncovering deeper thinking about your company or products is precisely what you are seeking.  

It’s easy to do, too. Ask your question, then ask ‘Why’ to uncover more information, then after the response, ask ‘Why’ again to explore the question further.  While there is no magic number of ‘Why’ questions to ask, it’s common to get to the root of an issue after five or six Why questions.  

You may be thinking to yourself. “Is this guy crazy? My customers don’t have time to answer these questions and I don’t have time to ask them.”   

Making time to learn about what your customer believes and thinks is the one of the most important, if not only, ways to understand if your messaging is effective.  

Here’s a few sample questions to get you started.

This customer exercise can be quite easy and doesn’t take a lot of time.  It will also demonstrate to your customer you care about their business and it’s likely to strengthen the relationship with your customer. 

Once you have collected your responses, review them with your leadership team and compare the responses to your current elevator pitch and messaging. 

Use the discussion to modify your company’s messaging. 

Want help?  We can help your team with an elevator or messaging tune-up and help you better connect with your customers.

Schedule a meeting to discuss your messaging update today. 

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