Start Small Win Big: Your Week 1 Action Plan

Editor's note: This is the first of eight installments for SUCCESS's 2nd annual Start Small Win Big entrepreneur challenge.  Welcome to the best eight weeks of your small business and welcome to Week 1! Let's get started with Step 1: Refine your elevator pitch. This week’s assignment is to prepare five pitches— one that fills 20 seconds, one minute, five minutes, 20 minutes and one hour. Grab the notebook you'll use to collect your thoughts and assignments for this entrepreneurial challenge, and start writing with our tips below. Comment below with your core outline. Then, we encourage you to record your one minute pitch for the SUCCESS YouTube channel, where you’ll meet your fellow Start Small Win Big contestants.“I’ve never written a pitch. What do I say?” Jeffrey Hayzlett, author and former Chief Marketing Officer at Kodak, says a great pitch should: Convey who you are. Describe what your business offers. Explain the promises you will deliver on. "Message is key, and knowing how to deliver your company’s message and value quickly is essential," Hayzlett tells SUCCESS. (Read The '118': The Modern Elevator Pitch on Terri Sjodin, author of Small Message Big Impact: How to Put the Power of the Elevator Effect to Work for You, says a great elevator pitch isn’t about closing the sale; it’s about opening the door. (Read 1-on-1: Targeted Talking Points.) She gives these 10 essential tips for crafting your elevator pitch:

  1. Define your intention. What do you want to happen as a result of your three-minute elevator speech? Remember, your goal is to “advance the ball,” not score a touchdown.
  2. Examine your scenario. Is this talk for a planned or a spontaneous situation? Preparing accordingly can help you earn the right to be heard.
  3. Draft your core outline. Think about your message, your goals, your creative ideas and your persuasive arguments. Structure must be paired with progression. Your listeners want to know that you’re heading somewhere as you build up to your conclusion and close.
  4. Build your case. Explain to listeners why they need you, your product or service; why they need to join your effort; and why now. Provide valid reasons and proof so your arguments pass the “So what?” test.
  5. Don’t forget to close. Present your prospect with a clear directive and a respectful call to action. Ask for that next appointment, follow-up call or meeting. Make it easy and painless for the listener to take the next step with you.
  6. Get creative. Do your homework on your audience or prospects, crafting an approach that speaks directly to their needs. Ramp up your creative nature and customize your talk to dazzle your prospects; give them a reason to want to meet with you again.
  7. Speak in your own voice. Try a conversational approach that allows you to be comfortable and true to yourself and your personality. Communicate your experience, vision and excitement directly—in a way that only you can.
  8. Write it out. Write out the long version and recite it. Then transfer your core outline and key points and phrases to an index card.
  9. Practice, practice, practice. Review your elevator speech again and again until it feels like a natural part of your everyday communication.
  10. Use it! Any elevator speech is only effective if you use it!

Now, are you ready for your close-up? First, draft your core outline by commenting below. Nothing fancy–just who you are, what your business does and how your product/service will help others. Next–if you have the equipment to do so, grab your camera or smartphone and record your one minute elevator pitch. Upload it to YouTube and share the link here with us. (1/28 Note: This is a change from previous instructions that stated to upload directly to YouTube. Replying here with the link is the easiest way to ensure your video is added to the YouTube SUCCESS channel.) This is your Start Small Win Big community, start sharing today!   If you're not signed up for Start Small Win Big, it's not too late. Visit to sign up and receive instructions. 


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