High-concept pitch, you fool!

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You might not need a branding strategy for your startup. You might not necessarily need a great storytelling to enchant your audiences. You might not need a charismatic CEO that would pitch like there is no tomorrow, but you most definitely need a high-concept pitch to clearly explain what your business is all about.

Contrary what some people think crafting a perfect high-concept pitch might come handy not only when you actually have to pitch. It proves to be a useful exercise before every social occasion that let’s you talk about your idea and business. And you should not only seek those occasions to gain interest, media coverage and most importantly clients but you should also come perfectly prepared so that when that question so what do you guys do pops, you know clearly how to pitch. The pitch is the perfect tool for fans who are spreading the word about your company. Investors use the pitch when they tell their partners about your startup. Customers use the pitch when they rave about your product. The press uses the pitch when they cover the company

A high concept pitch distills a startup’s vision into a single sentence. It’s the perfect tool for fans and investors who are spreading the word about your company.

So what is the difference between a high-concept pitch and an elevator pitch. Well, there is none. Both are about stating clearly what we do in a limited time making the impact. Meaning not only telling what we do but making it intriguing and using mental models that explain as much as it is possible about HOW your business works. A high-concept pitch is like a catch up line that can either get you a date or get you nowhere.

We translate porn, I’ve heard leaving a startup conference in a rush to catch my plane back on a usual hectic day of mine. I stopped. The guy who said that obviously knew how to get my attention. It was simple, almost too simple so I was intrigued. Not that I am particularly interested  in porn (well…) but it just sounded cool. Tinder with captcha also sounded cool. That is a great high-concept pitch of the dating app Elimi. It uses the mental model of the other app (Tinder) user scenario and adds the element of ‚captcha’. Yes, you match with others with this app but before you do you have to prove you are not a bot and that you are cool and have brains, too. Tinder for typefaces – yes, you guessed it is an app that helps you match two typefaces perfectly. Those who tried to do it well in presentations (and are not skilled graphic designers) will appreciate it. Kickstarter for research is well… a platform that turns everyone with a credit card into a modern day patron of science. With a sentence like that you almost get investors screaming for more. It is easy to comprehend and very descriptive.

What makes a perfect high-concept pitch. First, the pitch should be brief: one short sentence is perfect. Two if you need to explain something. But remember the more you need to explain the less effective your pitch is.

Second, people should already understand the building blocks of the pitch: Tinder, Kickstarter, AirBnB, buses, bombs, Jaws, space, the seven deadly sins, Flickr, Firefox, MMOGs, et cetera. The pitch combines the building blocks by using analogy, synthesis, juxtaposition, combination, whatever; e.g. “Jaws in space.” Third, remember that the pitch probably isn’t your company’s tagline. YouTube’s tagline is “Broadcast Yourself,” and their pitch is “Flickr for video”. If you’re lucky, you can find a pitch that’s also a tagline, e.g. Cisco’s “We network networks.” But don’t worry if your pitch isn’t a tagline. Worry if your high-concept is too long, too blurry or simply not simple enough.

“For investors, the product is nothing.” Bad elevator pitches go on and on about the product. Good ones boil it down to a high concept pitch. The rest of the elevator pitch should be devoted to your traction, social proof, team, and market.