Everyone understands the importance of a targeted elevator pitch. Those short, pithy one-sentence descriptions can really make or break a company. So, let’s cut right to it: Here are five common indicators you need a better one. 

1) Your current elevator pitch easily describes other companies in your market. Often overlooked, companies don’t run their elevator pitch or tagline through this simple test: Take your one-liner and evaluate it versus the competitors in the market you’re entering. If yours can describe a competitor’s business, you need to find a new one. 

For example: If you’re entering the crowdfunding space, you wouldn’t use this: The crowdfunding platform for anyone.

Note: If you’re Kickstarter or Indiegogo, you dominate a market you helped create, and you have the luxury of generalizing your elevator pitch to target a broader audience. For example, Indiegogo has evolved its elevator pitch to be: The crowdfunding platform for pretty much anything

2) You fail to highlight at least one key differentiator. You’re entering an existing market for a reason. You’ve identified a need that isn’t being met, and your product or service delivers something new to fill that gap. You need to clearly and succinctly communicate your unique value proposition in your elevator pitch. 

And it’s OK to be very matter-of-fact with your slogan. Take Box, for example: Free Cloud Storage, Secure Content, & Online File Sharing

And in the fast food space, look at In-N-Out Burger: Always fresh, never frozen

The expectation of what you’ll get are simple and clear, which brings us to our next item. 

3) Your product under-delivers on the promise of your tagline. This seems obvious, but it happens a lot: Companies communicate a forward-thinking elevator pitch that its product or service does not yet deliver on. The last thing you want is to have a big PR push driving prospects to your website, only to have them underwhelmed by your current product.  

Taking us back to our first example, no new entrant in the crowdfunding space will have all business sectors covered. And the last thing you want is someone posting a project that gets zero support. This is a good segue to our next item. 

4) Your one-liner fails to speak directly to a specific audience. Sticking to the same crowdfunding example: Perhaps you’re confident you can build an initial, niche community around education or science -- whatever it is, communicate your specific value prop to that audience and become the de facto tool for them. And after you conquer one vertical, you can expand and build off of that. 

5) Your current customers don’t understand your tagline. We had to throw this in here for all you developers and engineers doing your messaging without a marketing communications team. As HBO’s Silicon Valley has taught us, here’s how not to pitch your company: Pied Piper is a multi-platform technology based on a proprietary universal compression algorithm that has consistently fielded high Weisman Scores™ that are not merely competitive, but approach the theoretical limit of lossless compression.

Reminder: While you’re proud of your machine-learning compression algorithms, your prospects just want to know what you can do for them. 

To conclude, you’re not going to enter the market and beat competitors with an over-generalized or over-promising pitch. Sure, your company has a long-term vision to be everything to everyone, but the reality is you need to be something specific to someone first or you’ll never realize your true potential. 

Drop us a line if you’re interested in our messaging workshop - we really enjoy the branding side of marketing communications.