The All-Important, Under-Used Elevator Pitch

Before I got into church marketing, I spent time in several completely different industries: retail banking, enterprise software, and private education. All required different approaches to marketing, communication, and sales. But if there’s a common thread across all of them, it was this: the products and services I was helping sell were complicated.

Communicating about complicated stuff all those years taught me a lot about crafting messaging. When potential customers are going to hear information from multiple sources, over a long period of time, about complicated stuff, there has to be a simple, clear, and repeatable message that ties it all together. That’s not easy with products and services that have a complex value proposition and a long sales cycle.

And there’s a lot of similarity between those challenges, and what churches face in today’s post-christian, non-religious culture.

This is why I tell every ministry leader I work with to write an elevator pitch for their ministry. An elevator pitch is a simple, one- or two-sentence description of who your ministry is for, what it does, and why that’s special. There are a few reasons for this:

It ensures consistency across different media channels.

Church communicators promote ministries across multiple channels: live announcements, bulletin copy, email newsletter, Instagram graphic. Most people won’t get their information from just one channel. An elevator pitch helps keep your message consistent.

It keeps your creative on-task and purposeful.

In the documentary Briefly, some of the leading creative minds in advertising and design talk about the importance of the creative brief. It ensures that all their creative work done on a product or advertisement stays on-message. If you’re in the creative business, watch this documentary.

Think of your elevator pitch as the logical counterpart to the creative brief. It helps the pastor who’s trying to word a clever, memorable announcement keep the story straight. It helps the designer creating a graphic for social media understand what kind of image and font they should use. It keeps your creative team effective because it keeps their work true to its purpose: shining a light on your ministry.

It helps your customer be your best advocate.

You can’t repeat what you can’t remember. The more simple your message, the more memorable it is, and the easier it is to repeat.

This is really important for churches: it isn’t just what you say about your thing, it’s what other people say about your ministry.

The Formula for a Successful Elevator Pitch

  1. It starts by clearly defining your thing: “[thing name] is a _____” (fewer words, the better; if it’s a program, call it a program).
  2. It identifies the target market: “for the ____ (person who might participate in your thing)
  3. Include the value proposition: “…that offers ____”
  4. It sets your thing apart by telling people what makes it unique: “Unlike other [things], [our thing] will help you…

An example:

“Celebrate Recovery is a weekly gathering of people who are overcoming the hurts, habits, and hangups that can keep us from living our best possible lives. Through both large group teaching and meaningful small group times, CR offers support in the context of a meaningful relationship with God that is unlike other step programs.”

Try this approach next time you need to communicate anything across a large segment of your audience. It works!

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