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Illustrated Elevator with the caption, "Is your elevator pitch letting your down?"

There are no less than four different versions of the story behind who created the “Elevator Pitch.” 

-The earliest version says that Elisha Otis (of Otis Elevator fame) created a public demonstration of his elevator brake in 1854. He said a few words. Walked off stage. The crowd roared with applause.

-Others credit screenwriters in the Golden Age of Hollywood for developing a movie pitch that they could sell to the head of a studio in a short elevator ride. “So we’re gonna make a movie about this big ape who kidnaps a beautiful actress and then climbs up the Empire State Building and that’s where the real trouble starts.”

-Another version credits former Vanity Fair Senior Editor Michael Caruso with the term. He apparently pitched story ideas to the Editor-In-Chief on her way into the office. This happened in the early 1990s, but I swear I’d heard the term “Elevator Pitch” before then.

-And lastly, Phillip Crosby wrote about pitching a “big idea” to his boss, the Chief Executive Officer of ITT Inc., in an elevator ride at their HQ in the 1970s.

Regardless of who gets the credit, the idea of an “Elevator Pitch” is widely known among sales and marketing types. Everyone I meet at a networking event has an elevator pitch. Most are too long. Some are too short. Very, very few of them are actually good.

At Madison+Main one of the important things we first work on with clients is brand messaging, and it starts with a very fundamental step; creating an Identity Statement (ID) — a short form and a long form. A “short form” ID statement simply says who you are and what you do in one sentence. A long form Identity Statement can be two to three sentences, but you also state why your company’s product or service benefits a particular audience. So it essentially acts as an “Elevator Pitch.” In addition to stating who you are, and what you do, you add context to turn it into an effective, memorable statement. 

Short Form Example – XYZ company manufactures and distributes widgets for the transportation industry.

Long Form Example – XYZ company manufactures and distributes widgets for the transportation industry. By focussing on demand-side technology, we shorten the shipping time for sellers, which makes customers happy — and our clients more profitable. I ship you not.

So if you’ve got an “Elevator Pitch,” take a good look at it. Does it answer these questions?

  • Does it say who we are and what we do in one sentence?
  • Does it demonstrate a value proposition for your client or customer?
  • Is it memorable? 

If you do this, your elevator pitch won’t let you down and may take your company to a higher level.