Your New Nonprofit Elevator Pitch Part 1—
More of a Catch

“From the minute the first elevator zoomed up in 1853, people have been polishing their elevator pitches. The idea was that if the big prospect ever strode into your elevator, you’d be able to  smoothly explain your organization and your role there by the time you reached your floor.”

But that elevator pitch is dead, and you need to take a radically new approach. Here’s why, and how:

1) Today, we work constantly to move people, not just the prospect, and not just in the elevator.

We’re working to persuade fans, colleagues, our children and friends—who are all overwhelmed by media and messages, all the time. It’s a tough sell.

2) Your conversational partner—or child, program participant, colleague or board member—isn’t focused on what you want. She cares mainly about her own needs, wants, passions, habits and dreams, and those of her near and dear. It’s not selfish, it’s human. We have to filter somehow.

If your pitch relates, great. If not, nada. And the only way to find that match—if there is one—is to 1) get attention, 2) learn about what’s important to your partner.

Changing old habits is hard, but author Daniel Pink has outlined some good first steps.

Working from social science research and best practices from around the world, Pink has compiled six successors to the elevator pitch in his wonderful new guide to effective persuasion, To Sell Is Human. Digest these three today, and I’ll share the rest next week. From Dan:

1. The Question Pitch
What: A pitch that asks a question instead of making a statement.
Example: Are you better off now than you were 4 years ago? (Ronald Reagan)
Why it works:  Research out of Ohio State University shows that when the facts are on your side, asking a question is more effective than making a statement.  People receive statements passively. But with questions, they summon their own, more autonomous reasons for agreeing.

2. The Rhyming Pitch
What: A pitch that — you guessed it — rhymes.
Example: Kids and grownups love it so — the happy world of Haribo. (German confectioner Haribo, producers of the famous gummi bear)
Why it works:  A fascinating study from Lafayette College reveals that rhymes increase “processing fluency.” As a result, people perceive rhyming statements as both more truthful and more persuasive.

3. The Subject Line Pitch
What:  We sometimes forget: Every email subject line is a pitch.
Example: The 5 Most Persuasive Words in the English Language (Email from Copyblogger)
Why it works:  Three Carnegie-Mellon scientists found that effective email subject lines fall into one of two categories: Utility and Curiosity. They either demonstrate their usefulness to the recipient or make the recipient curious about what’s inside. However, trying to accomplish both goals in one subject line is a big mistake.

Try these pitches out, and let me know how it goes. Please share your thoughts, and your experiences, here.

Get More Guidance to Strengthen Your Pitch

The 4 Cornerstones of an Engaging Message Platform

How to Shape Powerful Messages: Connect to Convince

Take 8 Steps to Build a Team of Powerful Messengers

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Nancy Schwartz on January 14, 2013 in Branding and Messages | 4 comments
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  • http://twitter.com/westfallonline Chris Westfall

    Nancy, I’d love to get your feedback on this message for Non-profits: http://youtu.be/1M_FElRw8dM

  • Nancy Schwartz

    I’ll take a look this week, Chris, and post my thoughts here. Others please do the same!

  • http://www.reflectionfilmsonline.com/ Geoff Birmingham

    I definitely think there’s merit to these ideas for pitches, though when I read Pink’s book, I wasn’t totally convinced. Personally, I like a very short pitch that lists a couple of “pain points.”

    For example, it could be something like: Nonprofits who come to us are often dealing with one or more of these problems. They are struggling to explain what it is they do and they want to show it, rather than describe it. Others are frustrated because they have great stories to share but not a compelling way to tell them. Or some of them want a tool to help communicate the impact of their work. The videos we produce for them help solve these problems.

  • Nancy Schwartz

    Like what you’ve done here, Geoff, but it’s long.

    What weren’t you convinced on in Dan’s book? Would love to here.

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