A six-figure freelancer talks about the modern elevator pitch, what makes it different from old-school pitching, and why you need one pronto.
The elevator pitch is the secret weapon you probably don’t have.
It cannot be overstated how important it is that people you meet, especially in networking situations, actually understand what it is that you do. They can’t hire you or recommend you if they aren’t clear on what you offer. Therefore, when you’re marketing your services, in an LOI or in-person, it is important that you be able to very quickly describe what you do (and why they need it).
Imagine this: You’ve figured out that real estate agencies may make very good content marketing clients. They have the money, there are about twenty of them in your little town, and while they’re not always the quickest to jump on the latest technology and business ideas, they experiment with marketing frequently and have a good solid budget.
So you hear about this networking event in your town for real estate agents. You think, ooh, I could drum up some business here. And so you put on that suit you bought last year but have never had a chance to wear, throw those business cards in your bag, and get ready to make an impression.
At the event someone comes up to you and asks what you do. “Oh,” you say, “I’m a content marketing writer.”
And then you’ve lost them.
Or you get talking to someone and they know all about content marketing. “I can help you with that,” you say. “Here’s my card.”
“Nah, we don’t have the budget for that sort of thing,” they reply. Or, “It’s not really something for us.”
And… you’ve lost them.
How do you not lose them?
Let’s talk about that.
The Elevator Pitch
The solution to most marketing problems comes neatly packaged in a few sentences: Your elevator pitch.
I won’t lie to you. It’s difficult—extremely difficult—to sum up everything you want to convey about your business and your skills in a few short sentences.
An elevator pitch, traditionally defined as a one-minute spiel that would grab a future client’s interest if they were stuck in an elevator with you—has come to take on many forms. I’m unlikely to be stuck in an elevator with someone. That networking event I attended last week gave me plenty more opportunity than a rehearsed one-minute speech.
So I’m going to step away from the traditional concept of an elevator pitch. Let’s instead define it as a paragraph or two that sums up how your content marketing skills would help Potential Client A’s business.
You’re not a freelance writer. At least that’s not how you think of yourself or present yourself to clients. You’re a business. You provide content services that engage and inform a target audience. Your clients are delighted at their customers’ enthusiasm and profit handsomely.
What’s the tagline for your content marketing business? Don’t worry if it sounds trite or cheesy right now. You’ll edit as you go along. For now, just get it done.
So, what would you say to the real estate agent at that party above? What’s your elevator pitch?
Write it down in two paragraphs.
Pare that down to one.
Now make it a sentence or two at most.
Keep hold of all of this material. It will help you later as you craft your Letters of Introduction and update your website and social media pages.
When writing these paragraphs and sentences, here are a few things to remember:
1. Mention your specialty
I’ve been going on and on about this for a reason, correct? It’s pointless to specialize in real estate, go to a networking event full of real estate people and never mention that you specialize in real estate. So, say it.
Actually, even if you don’t specialize in real estate, say it anyway. Tell them it’s something you’re hoping to specialize in. If that’s the work you’re targeting, put it in the elevator pitch. It’s why you’re there.
2. Tell them how they’ll benefit
Marketing isn’t about you, it’s about them. This is especially true in business and content marketing writing. Sure, they’ll probably want to know that you have skills, but that’s typically an afterthought. What a client usually wants to know is what they can get from you. How are you going to solve their problems and make their life easier? Explain this in your elevator pitch.
3. Be specific
Yes, there are about three dozen things wrong with that potential client’s website. Their strategy and content marketing both need fixing, but that’s not a good place to start. What’s the problem most real estate agents are facing in their existing content marketing? How are your skills going to solve that one problem? You need an answer to that question in your elevator pitch before you can reasonably expect to get any kind of work.
4. Create value
I recently sent out an informal e-mail for a virtual assistant position I’m looking to fill. I’ve received about two dozen applications but only two have told me how they’d add value to my business. I run a small company. I don’t need more expenses, I need more growth. I’m only going to hire someone if they can show me that they’ll contribute to that growth. If I don’t at least make back the £1,000 or whatever each month that I’m going to spend on hiring this person, then they’re actually making my business worse-off than it was pre-hire. The same goes for any other business that you’re approaching. If you’re not bringing in some tangible value, you’re an unnecessary expense.
Content marketing is undertaken exclusively with the aim of growing the business and replacing old marketing methods in ways that will add to the bottom line of the business. You need to be able to do that, and say it in your elevator pitch.
5. Explain what you do
If you say you’re a photographer, there’s no further explanation needed. Everyone knows what a photographer does. But content marketing writing? Most people don’t have a clue. Most writers who’ve done content marketing don’t have a clue. So you better get good at explaining.
6. Why you?
Most companies have blogs these days. Some of them may already have been in talks with, or are working with, other content writers. Why hire you? What do you bring to the table that others don’t?
Yes, this is a difficult question to answer. But honestly, you ask this of every product you buy and every business you spend money on. The same will be asked of you. Have a compelling answer ready in your elevator pitch.
So, now let me get to what you’ve been wondering since you began reading this article.
What would my elevator pitch be if I were at this real estate event?
Something along the lines of:
“I’m a content marketing writer, which is a fancy of way of saying that we modernize your marketing. What’s unique about our approach is we focus on telling stories about old homes and this makes them sell at a much faster rate. The last time we tried this approach with one of my real estate clients, they were able to sell houses within weeks that had been on the market for several months. Here’s my card.”
Note, I hit all the points I’ve mentioned above:
1. I mention the specialty in a roundabout way. You don’t actually have to say “I specialize in…” because the conversation has made that clear.
2. You’ll benefit because the homes you’re unable to sell—our marketing can help sell them.
3. What real estate agent hasn’t had homes that just do not sell? By giving them a strategy that works, you’re helping them solve a massive (and very specific) problem.
4. The value here is the cash in the bank they’ll see once they hire you and those properties sell. Again, it can be subtle but clear.
5. The strategy here is “we tell stories about old homes.” No one does that, but it works. You don’t have to explain your entire background here, but you’ve made it pretty clear what it is that you do—you tell stories.
6. See what I said right there about how it worked for someone else? Why me? Because I’m all about the results. Proven results.
An elevator pitch is a fantastic tool for marketing. It’s also an amazingly efficient way to get clarity on what it is that you’re offering.
Step outside of yourself for a minute and think about this: You’re asking your client to pay $1,000 for your services. Are your services making the client at least $1,000 in additional profit? How?
It’s going to be incredibly difficult for some of you to answer that question, but you’re never going to get high-paying work unless you first figure this piece of the puzzle out. No one gives out money for no reason at a loss, least of all businesses that survive on cash flow. The value you provide has to be more than the cost of doing business with you.
I can show you how to answer that question in my book The Freelance Writer’s Guide to Content Marketing. Grab a copy to boost your income and start bringing in high-paying content marketing clients today.
How to Pitch: Pitching guidelines for 200+ publications
We know that finding markets to pitch your story ideas, understanding what they’re looking for, and making sure they pay an amount you’re comfortable with can be the most time-consuming and frustrating part of the job. So we’ve tried to make it easier for you.
Here’s a list of publications, organized by subject and with a note of their pay rates, each with a link to their guidelines.
Natasha Khullar Relph
Publisher, The Wordling
Natasha Khullar Relph is an award-winning journalist and author with bylines in The New York Times, TIME CNN, BBC, ABC News, Ms. Marie Claire, Vogue, and more.
She is the publisher of The Wordling, a weekly business newsletter for journalists, authors, and content creators.
Natasha has mentored over 1,000 writers, helping them break into dream publications and build six-figure careers. She is the author of Shut Up and Write: The No-Nonsense, No B.S. Guide to Getting Words on the Page and several other books.
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