Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Charity finds elevator pitch doesn’t work in elevators

Metro’s largest charity says its new elevator pitch doesn’t seem to work.

The Metro Community Special Trust Foundation created their new elevator pitch last month. Written by the director of communications, the pitch attempted to try to encapsulate the brand, mission and vision of the charity all in one imaginary conversation. The results were promising at first.

“Initially, we were thrilled. Our director of communications had read this new blog about another blog about some marketing guru’s new book that said we needed an elevator pitch. We had two elevators in our building, so it seemed like a pretty good idea,” said Spooley Snidely, CEO of the Foundation.

In a process that took two months the communications team made up of three frustrated journalists took every strategic document the charity had and condensed it into a short three-page document that staff, volunteers and board members could use in an elevator conversation. It was then tested on people who were exactly like them, and in some cases were in fact them.

The elevator pitch was then released at a board meeting. Copies were made and distributed. Snidely said they had high hopes for the pitch considering it was the only proactive marketing initiative the charity has tried this year. But it soon became apparent the plan was doomed to failure.

“We found out that most elevator trips are a lot shorter than we thought. We had aimed for an elevator pitch that was just 45 seconds long, but after the six review committees were through with it had ballooned to 15 minutes. They wanted the pitch to include parts of our strategic plan, use inclusive language and stuff. In hindsight, it was too long,” said Snidely.

Board members found that most elevator trips they took lasted under a minute, which meant that they hadn’t even reached the “good parts” when people got off. The Foundation struck a new committee to look into the problem. It recommended two new strategies – moving the Foundation to offices on a higher floor and using some kind of verbal “hash tag” to get people to click and find out more. Both were tried, but failed to solve the problem.

Another problem arose when the Foundation couldn’t find enough elevators in Metro to use.

“We used our building’s two elevators to start, but we realized that we needed to reach more people. So, we sent our board members to all the nearby office buildings to ride their elevators up and down for six hours at a time,” said Snidely.

“Many of the building managers asked us to leave. And one manager had our board member arrested on suspicion of being a stalker. Soon, we couldn’t use any elevator in town.”

Snidely says that the response to the new elevator program was very negative, but they could never find out why. Attempts to have staff do a short survey on people in the elevators rarely worked. Many elevator passengers were non-responsive. Some seemed to get off the elevator early, and many said they had to “take the stairs”.

“We had to face up to it, the elevator pitch didn’t work,” said Snidely. “We use advanced management techniques that constantly review everything we do to get the most value from our work. While the numbers in our balanced scorecard for this project were very good, it just didn’t catch on.”

Snidely says they concluded the program was just too innovative and advanced for Metro.

“If this were New York City, I’m sure it would have been a great success. Metro just isn’t ready for this kind of thing yet. But it showed that our charity is very forward-thinking. I know one day it will work and we will be there to tell everyone that we pioneered the whole thing!”

Snidely says their next big innovation will be open a Twitter account. The director of communication’s son’s geek pal says it is all the rage.

“We’re actively looking for twits right now to make it work,” said Snidely. “Know any?”