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Three Reasons to Ditch the Elevator Pitch

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I don’t buy into the one-minute elevator pitch.

Let me clarify. I’m totally into the idea of a compact presentation of one’s self and one’s business. I just have three issues with the one-minute elevator pitch: One minute is too long; you’re only in elevators 0.0000001% of the time (yes, I made that up); no one wants to be pitched.

The classic elevator pitch is too long, and it’s trying to accomplish too much, too soon.

As Seth Godin puts it, no one ever bought anything on an elevator.

For your opener, strive instead for a memory dart—a single phrase with a vivid image that can be delivered before the elevator door closes.

Here’s an example.

Q: “Good to meet you, Steve. What is it you do?”

A: “I’m the world’s only Clarity Therapist. In under a day, I help individuals and companies discover their professional 'fit' and distill it into a clear, compelling message.”

BOOM! A provocative dart, not a canned pitch.

That opening verbal thrust accomplishes three things:

  1. It makes you immediately memorable. You’re leaving an image behind (preferably via an effective analogy).
  2. It quickly establishes if there is a potential area of need (not only with that individual, but with someone they might know).
  3. It opens the door to say more by invitation, at which time you can take a minute or two to tell a condensed story. (“So, how do you do that?“)

A one-minute elevator-pitch is one step premature. In the first 10 seconds, we need to capture attention, be memorable, and provoke an invitation to tell the story. That’s what a memory dart does. It's your verbal business card.

It sounds easy, but creating your memory dart one of the hardest communications challenges you’ll ever face. Distilling purpose/offering/message to one sentence and wrapping it into an image or analogy takes tremendous creativity and hard work. But since this is your first foot forward in every professional introduction, where your goal is to cut through the fog and be remembered—nothing else is more important.

It’s astounding how much time and effort (and money) companies will put into ineffective marketing campaigns, when the most vital thing is the verbal welcome mat of a memory dart. Start there, and everything else will fall into place.

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Steve Woodruff is the world's only Clarity Therapist. He connects people with their purpose, their message, and with other people in order to create new business opportunities. He writes at the

Steve is an unusual hybrid of conceptualizer, strategist, marketer, analyst, wordsmith, semi-techie, and all-around decent fellow, except when there's bad coffee or lousy wine.

Steve can also be found on Twitter, LinkedIn.

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  • by Gail Trudeau Fri Jan 3, 2014 via blog

    Genius, Steve! Spot-on. Kind of like a tag line.

  • by Steve Ellzey Fri Jan 3, 2014 via blog

    Well tailored and truly memorable...and you were only off by .0000000083 on your TSOE figure....thanks for sparking the neurons!...spde

  • by Steve Woodruff Fri Jan 3, 2014 via blog

    Gail - If every person/consultant/business had an accurate and memorable tagline, how much easier would it be to give and receive referrals!!!

  • by Steve Woodruff Fri Jan 3, 2014 via blog

    Oh, shoot - I hate being off by that much in a public forum ;>} Thanks for stopping by, Steve.

  • by Robin Fri Jan 3, 2014 via blog

    Great article, Stave. Say who you are and what you do in a way that's quick and memorable -- like a 1,2 punch, but with a smile at the end. Own your greatness and share it with the world.

  • by Steve Woodruff Fri Jan 3, 2014 via blog

    Short and simple is much harder than complicated and comprehensive, isn't it? :>}

  • by Noz Urbina Mon Jan 20, 2014 via mobile

    I have really mixed feelings on this one. There are several great bits. "Memory dart" and "verbal business card" are excellent, memorable, evocative phrases and I agree with the overall recommendations. However, ironically I find the argumentation and examples counter the main message. E.g. I think in the real world, the "Clarity Therapist" would get a lot of rumpled foreheads as a response. You read that and the follow up question isn't "How do you do that?" it's "What does that actually mean?". I don't think it's particularly clear and sounds a bit sales waffley, which defeats the point.

    The idea that we should have a brief tag ine style blurb is great and everyone should write their twitter profiles with that in mind. But it seems a bit of a strawman to pick on the elevator pitch. The elevator pitch is a metaphor. At least in modern business anyway. I went back and forth twice about whether you were joking about the idea that elevator pitches are intended for use in actual elevators. That's a bit of a 1950s image. You might use one in an elevator but that isn't their main purpose any more than "Give it to me in a nutshell" is mainly for use inside actual nuts.

    The elevator pitch, like most post-web pieces should always have been structured like a news story: important bits up front (here is where you put your excellent memory dart bit) then elaborate concisely, in case you are cut off (by the person or the "elevator" reaching the floor where one of you are getting off).

    So overall a good idea, shakey illustrative example, and the stabs at elevator pitches seem to me to be finding ways to artificially drama-up the title and premise.

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