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November 14, 2012


The Online Elevator Pitch in Marketing

by Tom De Baere

Recently I bumped into a video on Youtube in which they explained how to draft your Elevator Pitch.

It made me immediately think about how we marketers build our messaging.

Too often I see advertisements, promotional e-mails or websites, which just don’t make sense, because they try to convey way too much information, which makes the message “fuzzy”.

Or if the message is very short, it is a 2-layered message which is difficult to “decode” on the receiving end.

Everyone wants to have a great Elevator Pitch. But how do we get that concept into our marketing?

How do you do that?

How do you leave a powerful and impactful impression?

If you ever wanted to defend your great idea, or your great new product, you know how difficult it can be synthesize your message to the core, which means “killing off” your favorite parts of the full story.

Most people talk way to long, write too much, and bring to much level of detail. They don’t know when to give little information, and when to give more.

Creating an elevator pitch is about “killing your darlings”.

And so is creating a strong message to your target audience: “kill your darlings”. Weed out everything you don’t need. Go back to what really counts for the end-user.

The online Elevator Pitch

We live in a digital world, where photos, images, audio and video have become really important. Just look at the success of Pinterest, Slideshare or Instagram.

And online, people will only give you a few seconds of attention.

You literally only have a few seconds to pass on your message, to make a good impression, and make them want to know more.

A few seconds.

That’s why, as in the classic elevator pitch “wisdom”, you should not use more than 3 key messages.

Once you have their attention for a few seconds

And when you have their attention, provide an easy way to dig in deeper, without drowning them immediately into an overwhelming amount of information.

This is what I call a layered communication:

  • 1 key message,
  • Going to only a few sub-messages,
  • Going to really little snippets of text explaining your submessages.
  • and then provide links to even more information.

The way you structure it, horizontal, vertical, whatever… is up to you. But what counts is that you bring the message “layered”.

Fast track and slow track information

Some call it fast track and slow track information; others call it “an information architecture”. That’s all fine.

But what counts is give users a really easy way of decoding and digesting what you want to bring across.

People first want to scan quickly the information you have for them (fast track). And once they are interested, the are gradually brought to the details (slow track).

Failing to respect these layers will result in people skipping your messaging, and just feel annoyed by it.

Some website examples

Applying the online elevator pitch can be done in advertising, print media, websites, etc… Let’s take the example of the Apple & Microsoft website.

Apple iPad Mini: a good example

I can’t help it, but yes Apple is a great example. They layer their information.

First they start of by their key message: the iPad mini is just like the big one.

Their sub-messages are about the experience your have, the display, the large amount of Apps still compatible with the mini, and Ultrafast wireless.

4 sub-messages. That’s it. Each of them accompanied with an image. And from the sub-messages you can dig deeper into the details.







You can clearly see how they layer their messaging when we zoom in into one of the sub-messages:

  • Layer 1: The full iPad experience
  • Layer 2: There’s less of it, but no less to it.
  • Layer 3 : some text
  • A link to more information


Microsoft Windows 8: a less good example

No, I am not an Apple fan-boy (well, maybe I am a little bit) . But I also love Windows 8.

But looking at the “Online Elevator Pitch” of the Windows 8 website, you can immediately see what’s missing:

  • The key message is “A beautiful start”. That’s good, although I think it already takes some decoding, but anyway.
  • The sub-messages are only 4, so that’s good.
  • The problem is that the sub-message is not layered. You can clearly see that in the image below.

There’s no smooth transition between “Live updates at a glance” and the text.

And because there is no transition, it takes a lot of effort from the reader to go from title to text.

And that’s where you might loose them.

That’s it. I hope you find this useful. If you have more powerful ways of bringing an “online elevator pitch”, please do let me know. Always keen on learning.

Warm regards,

Tom De Baere.

  • Dear Tom,

    Who/what are your sources? Does the online elevator pitch relate to both B2C and B2B (get the feeling it is only the first one mentioned)? Furthermore, you are suggesting a two column approach to target…this is certainly not the case for mobile, right?

    Looking forward to your reaction.



    • Tom De Baere

      Hi Marc,

      This is not about B2B or B2C. This is about how you bring information in a layered manner: layer by layer readers can peel deeper into your content. They are able to quickly scan the surface layer, and peel away one layer if they like what they see.

      If there is only one fat layer, they won’t even start reading because it’s too much effort. They have been disappointed too many times by content, and they won’t take the risk. They only will give you very little time : they quickly scan your page, and if it is not appealing in terms of design and communication layers.

      With regards to your question about 2 columns approach: that’s probably a question for usability experts and information architects. What I wanted to bring forward in the post is that no matter how you present it, it should be “layered”.

      I hope this answers your questions.



      P.S. check out this company selling B2B presenting software for iPads. We can debate about design, but you’ll notice the layered information structure, now vertically structured.

      • Dear Tom,

        This certainly answers my questions. Thank you!

        Good example in the case of Showpad. Clearly describes a layered manner of spreading information.

        Do would also like to point out an example to you: the company Rodesk. A creative agency being awarded Site of the Day by Awwwards. They are following your layered approach and having presented a way to display information for mobile:

        Also had a look at your company’s website and if you ever would like to know more about setting up a B2B email marketing campaign in the Netherlands…

        At Admitter we represent a network of over 100 media brands (magazines, tradeshows, websites) which all have one thing in common; they are fully geared towards business audiences. All of these brands have outsourced everything which has to do with opt-in email addresses to Admitter on an exclusive basis. We do their sales as well as the complete fulfillment of advertising campaigns via the opt-in addresses.