Creating a Successful Elevator Pitch for Sustainable Businesses

Entrepreneurs need an elevator pitch like a plant needs water.  Even the hardiest will eventually wither without one.  Sound preposterous?  It’s not.  The elevator pitch summarizes your business in an exciting, intriguing way that gets clients, the media, investors, and your employees excited about your company and ready to find out more.  And quite simply, it’s your chance to make a good first impression.  And we all know how many chances you get to do that.
The name ‘elevator pitch’ derives from the legend of an entrepreneur unable to get an appointment with a venture capitalist, so instead he waits outside the VC’s office until he has the chance to jump on an elevator with the man.  Now a ‘captive audience’, the VC listens patiently to the entrepreneur as he pitches his great idea….for 3 floors.  At the bottom, when the doors open, the VC raises an eyebrow and says, “I’ll have my secretary schedule you for next week.”

Elevator pitches are not just used for potential investors.  They are crucial for networking gatherings, trade shows, cocktail parties, and any other event where a potential client, employee, volunteer, partner, investor, or journalist may be willing to give you 30 seconds of their undivided attention.  Grab enough of these peoples’ attentions, and your business may benefit greatly….all because you’ve honed a 30 second ‘elevator pitch’.

Sustainable businesses have a tremendous advantage in creating elevator pitches, which, if they could harness, would help them not only gain more customers, but potentially attract a lot more financial investment in small, green businesses, including investors, VC’s, equity partners, and angels.

As a green business, your elevator pitch is quite useful.  It not only will help you directly make sales to potential customers, it will engage people to be excited about your company.  It’s one of the best aspects of being a business whose mission contains sustainability.  With a good elevator pitch, people who appreciate sustainability will be more likely to tell other people.  Even if someone is not a potential customer, they may know others who are, and if they believe in your company, they might make it a point to pass the word on.

Some critical elements of a successful elevator pitch are:

1.  Confidence in your offerings
2.  Enthusiasm and energy that is contagious
3.  Conveying a sense of the experience of being a client of your company
4.  Effectively communicating your competitive advantage
5.  Clearly stating the problem you solve

Another key element to remember is the delivery itself.  You and your staff should have your delivery practiced and down pat, so that you can give it in a credible, positive way, and be able to follow up on additional questions or when a positive response is expressed by a potential customer.  Thus, we’ll add an sixth element:

6.  Your delivery

All of these elements can be tailored to your sustainable pitch.  Confidence?  Absolutely.  Green does work.  Enthusiasm?  Nothing galvanizes people like sustainability, according to Ray Anderson.  A sense of the experience?  No problem….a chemical-free workplace, organic skin products that revitalize your radiance….easy.  Your competitive advantage?  Here’s your chance to shine!  Your business is way better than the conventional ones in your industry.  Clearly stating the problem you solve?  This one is a little tricky for green businesses, who sometimes seem like a solution in search of a problem.  So clarify this one element, and the rest should flow smoothly.

Scott Cooney is the founder of Green Business Village, a sustainable strategy consulting firm focused on providing low-cost management tools to small, green businesses that are usually only available to big businesses with big budgets to hire consulting firms.  He is also the author of Build a Green Small Business:  Profitable Ways to Become an Ecopreneur (McGraw-Hill),

Scott Cooney, Principal of and author of Build a Green Small Business: Profitable Ways to Become an Ecopreneur (McGraw-Hill, November 2008), is also a serial ecopreneur who has started and grown several green businesses and consulted several other green startups. He co-founded the ReDirect Guide, a green business directory, in Salt Lake City, UT. He greened his home in Salt Lake City, including xeriscaping, an organic orchard, extra natural fiber insulation, a 1.8kW solar PV array, on-demand hot water, energy star appliances, and natural paints. He is a vegetarian, an avid cyclist, ultimate frisbee player, and surfer, and currently lives in the sunny Mission district of San Francisco. Scott is working on his second book, a look at microeconomics in the green sector.In June 2010, Scott launched, a sustainability consulting firm dedicated to providing solutions to common business problems by leveraging the power of the triple bottom line. Focused exclusively on small business, GBO's mission is to facilitate the creation and success of small, green businesses.