I thought I’d share a cool outcome from a workshop I did with a peer advisory/networking group. I recommend anyone who is part of a Vistage, EO or other peer advisory group to try this as a fantastic way to test the “stickiness” and customer-centricity of your company’s messaging.

Here’s How to Play

  1. Start with two Volunteers, seated side by side at the front of the room.
  2. Volunteer 1 goes to a soundproof booth backstage. (If you don’t have a soundproof booth or stage handy, they can just leave the room.)
  3. Volunteer 2 gives Volunteer 1’s elevator pitch from memory.
  4. #1 comes back, recites his/her own pitch.
  5. Audience votes on how well both elevator pitches match, discusses which one was better and why. (Yes, sometimes the other person nails your pitch better than you can.)
  6. Repeat 1 – 5 until everyone has played both roles.

The Twist

The Volunteers who give their peers’ elevator pitches can feel a bit anxious because they think they’re being tested on their recall. After all, when a group meets every month or quarter for several years, you should know each other’s messaging pretty well, right? But that is not the test. The game actually reveals how sticky the other Volunteer’s (the one in the “soundproof booth”) messaging is. The more relevant (not necessarily clever or catchy) their message is, the stickier and more memorable it will be.

The Lesson

Our messages are usually forgettable because we start with the wrong perspective: Our own. We start talking about our company, our product, our features. In today’s noisy, customer-first world, this doesn’t cut it any more. How do we know this? Just ask yourself how many terrible, one-way elevator pitches you’ve been subjected to. Or sales pitches. Or investor presentations.


What makes your messaging sticky? When it connects it to a problem or need the other person or the target audience can relate to. But it can’t be the same old problem your competitors are talking about. It has to be authentic. Which means it might be a problem or need that is unspoken or non-obvious.

I call these hidden problems your target audience’s Elevator Rant. I’ve listed some questions you should ask your target audience to discover their Elevator Rant.

Now Incorporate the Elevator Rant into Your Pitch

After you’ve determined your target audience’s Elevator Rant. Remember, it’s not often what you think, so you have to do some research here. Ask your fellow group members what their reactions are to the type of service or product you provide. (To help you along, here’s a link to a free e-Book.)

Then, practice using the rant to lead off your pitch. Here are four approaches you can use to frame your pitch using the target audience’s Elevator Rant:

Why Was The Newlywed Game Such an Effective Part of My Workshop?

This was a room full of people who are all buyers in addition to sellers. So listening to elevator pitches with their “buyer” hats on reinforced everyone’s personal experience as “pitchees,” which is that:

They hate–and then forget–pitches that are all about the pitcher–descriptors, features, etc.; and
They tend to remember pitches that feature a problem they can relate to–and include an outcome or benefit.

Then I did a demonstration that became the real “eye opener,” according to the participants. One young woman–I’ll call her Sally–volunteered to frame her elevator pitch with what she believed was her target audience’s rant. She gave a good effort but got a few words into it and realized it sounded very pitchy (I also call this a “selfie-style” pitch). She hadn’t thought through what the rant would be.

“No worries,” I said, “that’s why we’re here! To work on it.”

So I asked the group–“What’s the first thing you think of when you hear (the woman’s industry segment)?” Remember these people all work in or around the same industry ecosystem and have been meeting together for a year or two; therefore, I thought they’d be a good proxy for her target audience.

(For the sake of demonstration, let’s say she was in the promotional products business–pens, hats and shirts with your company logo).

Well, I was right. One guy–let’s call him Marcus–said, “The first thing I think of when hear (that industry segment) is ‘pretty brochures.'” Sally was taken aback. I was a bit as well. So I asked Marcus, “Why would you boil her industry down to “pretty brochures?”

“Because,” he replied, “the covers of her brochures are all full of what I’d call ‘trophy’ products–big, custom expensive items that you only need once in a blue moon. But I’m almost always looking for basic, utilitarian products.”

Hushed silence for a few seconds. Sally was thrown off at first and seemed as though she might get defensive. Then it clicked. Here was her new pitch:

“We’re know for our glossy brochures with amazing and expensive looking promotional products…but turn the page and you’ll see we also have a fantastic variety of basic, every day products. And for all of our products, we’ll match any price you show us.”

Sally drops mic. Applause. End of workshop.

There was a bit of an epilogue which was also instructive to the participants. Sally said to Marcus, “Well, this helps explain why you’ve never done business with me!” “Why would I do business with you?” challenged Marcus. Sally exclaimed, “Because I sell promotional items and you’re a marketing director!” “Well, the fact is you just assumed I’m the decision-maker on those–but I’m not,” deadpanned Marcus.

Eye opening for sure.

BONUS: Sample Questions that Reveal the Elevator Rant

  1. What are your top 2 – 3 priorities for the board?
  2. What is our industry’s reputation—good or bad?
  3. What’s your worst fear about investing in (product or service)?
  4. What would make you a customer for life?

(Promo Alert: Download a Free e-Book on How to Discover Your Customer’s Perspective here.)

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