Welcome to the latest installment of “I’m a Business, Woman,” a series of conversations with cool, entrepreneurial women I love, doing cool shit.
Today’s conversation is with Laura Allen, The Pitch Girl. Laura is one of those people who just “gets it.” “It” being that everything you do as a business is a pitch of some kind or another. Your website, a client meeting, speaking engagement, interaction with the press, or time in the infamous “elevator”—these all require custom pitches based on the audience, their needs, and the circumstances of the day. Or, as Laura calls it, “a pitch for every niche.” And while we all really want one all-purpose pitch we can memorize, you know she’s right—you really do need to prepare for each individual circumstance.
I’m excited to have had the opportunity to speak with Laura and learn more about her approach and philosophy, get some actual examples of pitches her clients have rocked, and I even got her to share instructions for crafting your very own mini-pitch. Thanks, Laura!
Hi, Laura! Please introduce yourself and tell us a bit about what you do:
Hello, I’m Laura Allen, Founder of The Pitch Girl.com. I teach women entrepreneurs how to pitch themselves in just 15 seconds. I once closed a 5.5-million-dollar deal from a cold call and even sent a 3 foot tall steel pyramid to George Lucas as part of a client pitch. I’m all about helping business owners stand out from the crowd. Every woman business owner needs to know how to promote herself to generate sales and PR. Give me a call at: 646-535-1573 or email me at: Laura@ThePitchGirl.com to learn how you can pitch yourself like a pro!
So, that was essentially a pitch, right? Can you give us a bit of insight on how you crafted your introduction for this audience?
Yes! That is my pitch! And great question! I know that many of the people who will be reading your blog post will be very cool women entrepreneurs. This happens to be my ideal target market! What I’ve learned since I started to do this work in 2003, is that women need help pitching themselves. Many women are not comfortable with self-promotion and they look at sales as a necessary evil. I understand that, and my goal is to help each client feel more comfortable and confident with sales, PR, and networking. Promoting yourself can (and should be) fun! Even if it will never be 100% fun for you, I’ll make it a lot less painful! I do have amazing men as clients, but most of my clients are women, so my pitch is geared towards them.
On that note, you’re known for your “pitch for every niche.” What does this mean exactly and why is it so important?
I would meet a lot of people at networking events and they would give me an exhaustive run-down of all their capabilities. We’d end up speaking for 20 minutes and at the end of it, I still had no idea what they actually do for a living. I started calling this “the kitchen sink pitch” and advocating against it. I was earnest about having my clients focus their pitch on just one thing. The pitch is only 15 seconds long, so you are really forced to get to the point quickly. I knew that I’d get push-back on this concept from people who did more than one thing for a living (and rightfully so, they didn’t want to cut off an entire revenue stream, in some cases,) so one night at a speaking event, I told the crowd that they needed to have “a pitch for every niche.”
That phrase seemed to resonate with people. I took it one step further and gave an example. My friend Karineh happened to be in the room that night and was a phenomenal fashion photographer for some of the world’s premier brands. And she also happened to make delicious cocoa-hazelnut biscotti. I made the bold claim that Karineh should have two separate pitches, one for fashion photography and one for selling biscotti. I said if she tried to combine those two distinct ideas into one pitch, that she would be considered a “jane of all trades, master of none” which is bad, but if she had two distinct pitches, she could be an expert in both areas.
I’ve used this example for years and it makes sense to people. They want to become the “go-to expert in their fields” so they are willing to focus on one pitch at a time.
Now, Karineh has actually combined her love of food and photography and is an incredible food photographer. You can see her work on her website. She still does other types of photography, but a lot of her social media efforts are focused on food photography—which is a really great way to showcase her work and focus on one particular niche.
Spending time with you, I’ve come to realize that basically everything we do as business owners is a pitch of some kind or another. Are there some general rules for “pitching” that anyone reading this can start using today to benefit their business?
Yes! I really believe that if you are crystal clear about who you are and what you offer, then it is far easier to connect with anyone you meet in the real world or online. The first step is to choose just one thing to focus on right now. You could decide to change your focus tomorrow, but for today, hone in on that ONE thing and create a compelling pitch around it. Go out, take your pitch for a test drive at a networking event. Share it with friends. Email it to colleagues. See what resonates with people. Take note of when they get confused or their eyes glaze over. Let them know that the point of this pitch is that it needs to be super short. Always remember: if they can’t understand what you do, they will never buy from you. That’s one of my sales mantras. Also, make your pitch easy for people to share and they’ll want to spread the word for you.
Can you give us a few examples of pitches your clients have delivered and a little background on the context and/or results?
Unfortunately, I can’t share some of my most compelling pitches, because many of my clients utilize me as a “secret weapon” of sorts or they want to use the pitch as if they created it themselves, (which is fine, I encourage that!), but here are two recent pitches I can share:
“Hello, I’m Gabby and I’m the founder of 48HourPowerJaunt.com (website coming soon). I plan 48 hour adventures for busy women entrepreneurs. As a single mom, who is an avid traveler AND entrepreneur, I learned that you can have a ‘trip of a lifetime’ in just 2 days! I’m currently seeking 3 serious ‘beta testers’ for this service who want to travel, but don’t think they have the time. You will receive a customized 48 hour travel itinerary and some very cool discounts and incentives. Please email me at: email@example.com if you are interested.”
My client Gabriella came up with the idea to offer a 48 Hour Power Jaunt 10 days ago. She kept talking to women entrepreneurs who loved to travel, but just didn’t have the time. She recently went on a 48-hour trip with her pre-teen daughter to Edinburgh, Scotland to search for the Loch Ness Monster and they had an amazing adventure in a very short time. She wanted to offer this experience to other people that she knew, so she came up with this idea. She told me about this idea during one of her phone coaching sessions and we decided to pitch the idea before there was a website, to see if there was interest. There was no reason to build a website, or spend time and money building out a social media presence if there wasn’t any interest in the initial idea.
Within 24 hours, we both started sharing this pitch with people that we knew. And here’s the fascinating thing, even though Gabby is focused on women entrepreneurs, especially those with children, we found several people who were interested who were men and not entrepreneurs! They wanted to learn more about the experience of going away on a once in a lifetime trip. This is what I’ve found with people who pitch their products and services in a very niche way, people who are interested say, “Can you do that for me too?” Gabby can create many different types of trips for a variety of people, but the single mom entrepreneur niche is close to her heart, so that’s why she is offering this right now. It’s a great conversation starter and she’ll continue to focus on this niche. Because it’s a compelling pitch (and great idea!) a lot of other people will be interested in learning more about what she does too. And she will be able to get a lot of publicity for it too.
Here’s my client Ashwini’s pitch:
“Hello, my name is Ashwini Anburajan and I am the founder of Open-Up. Open-up allows millennials to share their data in exchange for getting cool incentives, like gift cards and magazine subscriptions. We’re working with major brands including Hearst and Lifetime. We are looking to raise 1.5 million in funding and I’d be happy to send you our pitch deck which includes more info on our company and the opportunity for investors. I can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Ashwini is a young female founder of a tech company. She must go out and raise venture capital money if she wants to take her offering to the next level. We came up with a general 15-SecondPitch that she can use in any face to face networking situation. She can also email this to potential investors. You’ll notice that she doesn’t get into what the specific technology is or how it works in this short pitch. The reason is that we want to get the listener (or email reader) interested in the idea, before we spend a lot of time trying to explain how the technology works and why it is different from what others are doing.
We’ve spent time working on longer pitches for several “pitch contests” that she has been a part of. At the last event, she was the only participant out of four that answered all of questions that the organizers said each of the entrepreneurs should answer during their presentation. Be prepared during your pitch matters. As a result, she got a lot more time and consideration from the venture capitalist who was the featured speaker at the event that day. She also met several people who said they were interested in investing.
What’s your take on the infamous “elevator pitch”? I mean, I know we need a “pitch for every niche,” but we do need to be able to generally introduce ourselves and our businesses, right? Do you have any advice for someone looking to craft their so-called elevator pitch?
It used to be the two minute elevator pitch, but two minutes is an eternity! I came up with the idea of having a 15 second pitch because I thought that would be compelling if people could do it. I also wanted to have a general format that anyone could use to craft their own 15 second pitch. You can create your own 15 second pitch by answering the following questions about yourself and your business:
- Who You Are: (Simply say, “Hello, my name is______________)
- What You Do (or what your business does)
- What Makes You THE BEST at what you do?
- Your “Call to Action” (or what you want the person to do AFTER hearing or reading your pitch)
I suggest keeping each answer to one sentence if you truly want your pitch to be just 15 seconds long. Question number 3, is by far, the most controversial, but it’s also the most important. You don’t have to be completely obvious and say, “Here’s why I am the best,” but you can explain to people what sets you apart from the competition. It doesn’t have to be an earth-shattering claim either. I once had someone at one of my workshops who was a freelance writer say, “I’ve never missed a deadline,” as her step number 3. People lined up to get her card during the networking portion of the event. Most people miss step number 4 entirely though, so that one is important too. Don’t leave the next step to chance; plan it out. If you meet someone at a networking event that you connect with, say, “I’d like to continue the conversation, would it be okay if I give you a call next week?” You want to keep that momentum going and stay “top of mind.”
Why would my clients, business owners who are going through a rebranding process or have recently gone through the rebranding process, benefit from working with you? What could you help them with and how will it benefit their business?
I help people get clear about what their core business offering is. You want to make sure that your pitch and sales strategy, marketing, and PR efforts are in alignment with your visual identity. How many times have you met someone at a networking event and thought they were very impressive and you went back to your office and took the time to visit their website only to find out that what they told you in person didn’t seem to have anything at all to do with the messaging they have on their website? There is a total disconnect. That happens because people let their websites get out of date and or they are not consistent with how they pitch themselves at live events and online. Tell a compelling story and make it consistent in real life, on your website and via your social media efforts. Simply stated, I can help them generate more sales and get better PR for their businesses by being consistent and compelling. Many of the women I work with are not charging enough for the services either, so that is something we work on together.
What are the options for working with you?
I have an introductory offer that includes three one hour phone coaching sessions for $599 for those who want to dip a toe in the water and see what working with me is like, without a long-term commitment. The vast majority of my clients choose to start with the 10-session coaching packing, which is currently discounted to $1250. Most of my clients work with me long term. They meet a goal, set a new one and we continue working together to achieve it. They buy more sessions as needed, 10 at a time, and usually do one or more sessions with me per week.
I do all my sessions via phone or Skype, as that is usually more convenient than traveling to meet in person. I have had select clients in NYC that strongly preferred to work with me in person. Those engagements are long-term, expensive (but worth it!), and pricing is based on each specific client’s needs.
Where can people learn more/follow you?
Photos of Laura by Irina Smirnova