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What happens when you find yourself in a situation where you have two minutes or less to tell a complete stranger what you do?
That’s the general premise behind the elevator pitch, the subject of this article. As is often the case, this post was inspired by a social media post that Jamie sent my way this afternoon. This time it was a thread in Reddit — the OP was sharing the best MSP elevator pitches they’d come across.
Jamie forwarded this because she knew I was going to disagree with the sentiment that these were the best elevator pitches for MSPs. Not only because she immediately saw how insufficient they were, but because she knows I hold this kind of messaging to a very high standard. Elevator pitches are an extension of an MSP’s brand strategy, and thus I don’t take them lightly.
So yeah, the examples were not very good, and I’m going to break down and analyze them to show you why. But before we get into that, I want to take a quick second to explore what an elevator pitch is actually supposed to be.
What is an MSP Elevator Pitch?
Like many things in marketing, people tend to apply a range of definitions to the term. As always, I gravitate to the definition that makes the most practical sense — in other words, the definition that produces some kind of positive result.
Mission statements, value statements, company bios, taglines, and elevator pitches can be useful tools or wastes of time. Unfortunately, most of the ones we come across don’t serve much of a purpose. Because the consumer’s time is precious and you need to be building your value perception as quickly and efficiently as possible, we don’t like to see wasted words on the page.
That said, I sorted through a few definitions of elevator pitch before landing on a good one (on the MindTools website):
An elevator pitch is a brief, persuasive speech that you use to spark interest in what your organization does.
I chose this definition because it contains the word “interest”. Where most definitions I found focus on the idea of quickly telling people what you do, this one draws attention to the fact that you should be getting people to care about what you do.
It’s very much like the sales tactic of using open-ended questions. You never want to ask a question that can be answered with a simple “yes” or “no” because it will grind the conversation to a halt. And you don’t want an elevator pitch that says “I do IT” for the same reason.
Think about why that would lead to a bad outcome…
If your elevator pitch basically comes across as “we do IT for businesses,” what kind of response can you expect?
Unless the person you’re telling just happens to be sitting in front of a broken computer, it will bounce right off their head. You’ve delivered the barest amount of information, but nothing that the consumer will find compelling or valuable.
In fact, the average person may shut down out of concern that you’re going to start rambling about the history of LINUX. That’s a normal human response, and it happens whenever a person says something that their audience can’t relate to.
So getting someone to care that you run an IT company is important, and you’re generally only going to accomplish this by telling them something that matters to them. You have to quickly connect your statement to their life and their objectives in some way.
Now that we’ve established a baseline understanding of what an elevator pitch should do, let’s take a look at these examples of elevator pitches that, while posited as good examples, are actually quite bad:
Networks and servers: We make all that shit work well
There are two primary ways to approach brand strategy: what you’re saying and how you’re saying it. This example isn’t giving any exciting or unique information, but it’s saying it in a unique way. I can give it a point for that, but the execution isn’t exactly…elegant.
Prepare yourself though, because this was actually the best example on the entire list.
Anything with a computer.
I don’t even consider this an elevator pitch, because it’s not a complete sentence. I imagine if you walked up to someone and said “anything with a computer”, they’d be very confused. Even if we expanded this statement to “I fix anything with a computer”, it’s no different than saying “we’re an IT company”.
Our mobile-first, cloud-first Microsoft 365 services are loved by users and trusted by IT. Our Microsoft stack will allow you and your employees to work from anywhere while utilizing world-class Microsoft cloud services if you are interested in enterprise-grade IT security, analytics, and document collaboration.
This reads like you’re some kind of Microsoft salesman. It approaches the realm of drawing attention to value rather than just stating what business you’re in, but all of the name dropping makes it clunky and cumbersome.
I would communicate the same thing in a more consumer-focused way by saying something like: “We make your business bulletproof. No matter where you are or what happens in the world, you’re running efficiently and without interruptions.”
Still not great, but much better than the example.
The way you’re running now, I make money when things go down. My goal is to do as much work as possible to get you where you want to be. You want to save as much as possible and not ever be down. We’re working against each other. This aligns with our goals, so we’re both working towards you being up. If you’re down, we’re both losing money. I’m investing in you because it pays us back dividends in the form of fewer surprises.
I understand the intent here, but it’s extremely confusing. I also don’t like starting the conversation by talking about how the MSP makes money because it sets a poor tone for the information that follows.
You’d be better off with something like: “You know how mechanics only make money when your car breaks down? The whole time you’re writing the check, you’re wondering why things stopped working in the first place. It’s a hassle and gets you wondering if the mechanic is even motivated to keep your car on the road. That’s how most people look at IT, too. But we look at IT proactively, and our approach is to keep everything running at 100%, not to wait until things break down so we can bill you.”
Again, this isn’t great, but it draws a relatable comparison rather than trying to explain everything purely from the IT provider’s perspective.
We empower small businesses to operate efficiently and effectively through the strategic use of technology.
Mark Twain said it best: “Don’t use a five-dollar word when a fifty-cent word will do the job.”
There’s no benefit to taking the phrase “we’re an IT company” and embellishing it with fancy words, so put away the thesaurus. The best copywriting is simple and resonant.
We partner with our clients to ensure they are using the right technology at the right time.
This is one of the better examples, but I feel like it leaves a lot of question marks in terms of what the MSP actually does. It could be a good lead-in statement, but it would need to be followed with something the listener will relate to in terms of how that matters to them.
We help organizations align their technology support with business goals and objectives.
This one is also a bit vague without adding some more details. It also suffers from a major problem that I’ll address after we’ve gone through all of the examples.
We are a Virtual IT Department for Small Businesses. Everything an IT Department does at a large company, we do on contract for a lot less.
This one tries to establish some compelling value, but it does it by mentioning low costs. This is a good way to immediately present your service as a commodity. You should build value perception long before pricing even enters the discussion.
We help small and medium-sized businesses by transforming their current services from reactive to proactive and provide a modern experience that is innovative and future-ready.
I don’t feel like any of this would have meaning to the expected audience. The listener would probably hear this as a bunch of “marketing speak” with very little substance. What is proactive? What’s a modern experience? Why does any of this matter to me, the consumer?
Almost all of these examples suffer from the same problems:
- They’re just rewordings of the statement “we’re an IT company”.
- They don’t immediately demonstrate some kind of unique value that would be of interest to the consumer.
- They’re completely interchangeable. Any MSP could say them.
That last point is often overlooked by MSPs, but it’s a major focus in our methodology. The market is competitive, so you should stop trying to convince consumers that they need an IT company and put more effort into convincing them that they need your IT company.
Let’s extend the elevator pitch metaphor. Are you imagining that you’re the only MSP standing in the elevator with a prospect? You’re not. The prospect is shopping around. They’re getting emails from other MSPs.
There are other IT providers in that elevator — your competitors.
So imagine each one of you takes turns reading off your elevator pitch to that prospect:
“We’re an outsourced IT company.”
“We empower your business with technology.”
“We are your strategic partner in business technology.”
“We’re your virtual IT department and we help you use the right technology.”
“We make sure your networks and servers are always up and running.”
Has the prospect received any unique information from any of those pitches, or have five people just told them they’re in the exact same business?
It’s the latter, because none of those statements is actually different in any relevant way. That prospect sees five IT companies who are virtually identical — and now their thought process is:
“Great! I can make these five companies compete for my business and get them to drop their prices to the floor.”
This shift in the consumer’s perception isn’t just caused by your elevator pitches. This is communicated through your websites, your emails, and your sales team when you neglect the importance of establishing yourself as a uniquely valuable asset rather than an infinitely swappable commodity.
If you want to learn how to get out of that downward spiral and build your MSP into a competitive growth enterprise, give us a call. We’ll be glad to show you the entire methodology that we’ve created to help MSPs conquer these challenges and come out on top.