A: First, let me say that I think networking groups are great for the right business. Chambers of Commerce have these sorts of groups, and one I like especially is LeTip International.
LeTip (www.letip.com) has groups in many communities and what is great is that they limit the number of various occupations per group. So, for example, a LeTip group in Oakland may limit the number of chiropractors in the group to two so that those two are sure of getting the group's business. When enough people of similar occupations want to join, an offshoot group can form.
I think one real key to success in this type of venture is having a good "elevator pitch." An elevator pitch is business lingo for a proposal that can be explained in a short length of time, say 30 seconds or so.
Elevator pitches are important, no matter what your business. The need for a good one was driven home to me just last week. I do a lot of public speaking on business issues and I was talking to another speaker when he asked what it is I talk about. "Small business success," I replied. "Hmmm…," he said curiously and quietly in response.
"What do you talk about?" I finally asked. He said something like "I speak to organizations that want to energize and excite their employees, get them working together, help them understand their core values, and allow them realize what it means to be a team. I leave them invigorated, committed, and wanting more, and I usually get a standing ovation."
Given our respective two answers, whom would you hire if you were planning an event and needed a speaker? I know the answer, and it wasn't me. So ever since that illuminating encounter, I have been working on my elevator pitch.
I think it's a good exercise for anyone reading this column. We are all always asked what it is we do. Having a quick, interesting, powerful answer may lead to opportunities that we didn't even know existed. As they say, you only have one chance to make a good first impression.
Ideally, what you want is a pitch that will spark someone's interest and have him or her saying, "tell me more." Here then are a few questions you must answer if you are to create a great elevator pitch:
1. What is the problem you are trying to solve? Every great business solves a problem for someone. Why do you go to the local store to buy some bread? Because you have a need for bread and the store solves it. What problem does your business solve?
2. Can you keep it simple? One problem some people have when they first start their pitch is that they think the whole world understands the buzzwords in their field. They don't. Use plain English.
I am reminded of the story about the tech entrepreneur whose product protected digital signals. His original elevator pitch was something like, "We utilize the latest 20-50 key exchange using Duffle transponders.. blah blah blah." After getting some help, he ended up with, "We safeguard communications."
3. Why would people want to know more? What I am asking you to do is to think about your business in a different way. Instead of saying, for instance, "I am a graphic artist," you might start with, "I help people get more business by drawing their dreams."
4. Does it accelerate your heart rate? A great pitch is a passionate pitch. If you sound bored, they will be bored. If you are excited, they will be too.
So your elevator pitch must be intriguing, make sense, be short and powerful, and should motivate someone into wanting to learn more.
Today's tip: Here's your basic pitch: "Hi. I'm David Davis, president of Med Corp. We publish medical books." Here is an elevator pitch: "Hi, David Davis, president of Med Corp. We publish books, newsletters, and video programs intended to help doctors and other medical professionals become more successful. Our best-selling title, How to Become the Leader in Your Specialty, was named the book of the year by Dr.Koop.com."