Simply put, an elevator pitch is a persuasive yet succinct sales pitch. This statement—which describes your company, product, or idea—should be short (typically sixty seconds or less) and concise enough that listeners understand exactly what your concept and aim are right away. Elevator pitches come in handy in several situations, whether you’re attempting to secure funds for your business, you suddenly find yourself face-to-face with a representative from your dream company, or an interested stranger asks what you are passionate about.

Although they’re short, elevator pitches are notoriously difficult to nail down. You need to cover a lot of ground with a sentence or two, and you need to stand out. When someone gives you attention, your pitch should hold that attention all the way through. How do you accomplish this? Here are some key elements to creating an elevator pitch that’s sure to succeed.

Define the problem you’ve identified and how you aim to solve it.

One of the biggest steps to creating a business or product is to find a problem you believe you can solve. Simply put, if your service or product doesn’t solve a problem, you don’t have a feasible business idea. While you don’t necessarily need to be changing the world, even a small, simple problem is enough, for example, if you believe there are not any good, authentic Mexican restaurants in your hometown. Or, maybe you’d like to analyze medical results in a faster and easier way. Whatever the problem is, distill it to its simplest form and describe it in one or two sentences.

Then, plan out your solution. This lets your listener know that you’ve identified a real problem that people actually have, and you know exactly what you’re going to do to make it better. Since you’ve narrowed it down to a core problem, you can do the same for your solution: make it as simple and concise as possible, and take it one step at a time. In the beginning, focus on one problem rather than attempting to solve multiple ones, until your business gets up and running.


Know your target audience.

When you determine the problem you want to solve, naturally, you’ll also be considering the people who potentially have this problem. In this section of your elevator pitch, you’ll define exactly who your idea will help. What are the demographics? Are they young, or old? Where do they live? What are their habits and what do they tend to do during their downtime? For example, if you’d like to develop a shoe that helps to prevent foot pain, it’s tempting to say everyone needs it because everyone needs shoes. Realistically, however, your shoe company will target a specific group of people—people who have to stand on their feet all day at work, perhaps. Understanding your target audience helps to simplify your solution and take things one step at a time—and it lets people who you’re pitching to know you’ve deeply considered exactly who your idea will help.


Understand how you face up against the competition.

It’s impossible to circumvent the fact that every business has competition. Even if there is no other place in the area that has a solution similar to the one you’ve come up with, potential customers will solve a problem with any alternative they can find. For example, the first automobiles faced competition from the traditional methods of travel: walking, riding a horse, or taking a train.

Consider your competition or alternatives and figure out what you offer over them, then put this into your elevator pitch. Are you better, faster, cheaper? Why should someone choose you over everything else out there? Describing your key differentiators adds value to your pitch and may help convince a potential customer to invest in your idea or product.


Show pride in your team.

No one can run a successful business all on their own. As great as your idea is, you need an excellent team, and if you’ve been able to build a great staff, showcase this. Talk about why the team you put together is perfect to solve the problem you identified, and how their skills will lead to success. Sometimes, the team is more important than the idea. If you don’t have everyone in place quite yet, recognize the fact that you’re still looking for the right talent and are being patient about filling in those gaps. 


Share milestones.

For the last part of your elevator pitch, acknowledge the future by sharing business milestones or your predicted schedule. By talking about your upcoming goals and how/when you plan on achieving them, you let people know you’re serious about making your idea into a reality. If you’ve already accomplished something notable, mention this. For example, if you want to open a restaurant, talk about the lease you just signed and your ideas for the look and feel of the inside of the place, or explain why you chose the location. This is a good note to end on because it highlights the fact you’ve thought through this and have either already taken steps to see it through or have plans set solidly for the future.


Getting that sixty-second pitch down can be hard, but nailing it will help you explain your business to anyone who’s interested. Fulfilling the five key elements above will put you well on your way to creating a great elevator pitch.


Written by Laura Myers