Reverse Engineering the One Sentence Pitch

Reverse Engineering the One Sentence Pitch

All entrepreneurs think they have a great idea – it’s the best thing since slice bread. Then they set out to tell others about it. For some entrepreneurs it is a simple idea that everyone can understand. But what if your idea is not? What if your idea is a fairly complex technology or it’s a revolutionary new service? How do you explain what you’ve created? Where do you start? Many do the following in my experience. Does this sound familiar to you?

  • Look to find similar products or similar ideas that are comparable to new innovation.
  • Use these similarities to start describing idea

The main problem with this strategy is that the market has not seen your technology. The similar products/services you use to help describe your innovation and idea confuse others to think your idea is something that it’s really not. To you, your idea is simple and straightforward in your mind. But since others can’t see what you see in your mind, they can’t relate to or understand what it is you are trying to convey.

Moreover, as you start looking at the market to help explain your solution and as you talk to more and more people you become increasingly frustrated as people continue to NOT get your idea.

The solution: the task to get to the 1-2 sentence elevator pitch is actually to reverse engineer and ask yourself the following questions:

What pain point or problem led you to having this idea?

Universally we are all connected by feelings. When you describe a problem to people they need to be able to instantly connect with you or at least understand (if they are not having the same issues). Start with that. Because unless you have something easy to understand like the vacuum, people are going to need something to hook and hang onto so you can take them where you want to go.


We are going to use the example of Facebook to illustrate as it is a product that everyone relates to and understands readily. Facebook was created to help us stay connected with friends and family, to discover what’s going on in the world, and to share and express what matters to them. As I am reading that I can say to myself “ah I see you are going to help me stay in touch with my grandma who lives in a completely different country.”

What is this product or service actually doing?

There is a huge difference between the service and what you are actually doing. Facebook started out by merely describing their product which was as on online directory. For most companies this works and they are able to obtain a good number of customers. However, if you can look beyond your product at your impact you will widen your customer base considerably. As Facebook matured, they were able to communicate the action of what they are actually doing – connecting. In essence, you must understand your business impact and role in the larger world.

The Evolution of the One Sentence for Facebook:

2006 – Facebook is an online directory that connects people through social networks at schools.

2007 – Facebook is a social utility that connects you with the people around you.

2009 – Facebook helps you connect and share with the people in your life.

What is the unique language that pertains to your product or service?

I went to a large tech conference a few years ago. All I saw was Internet of Things (IOT) everywhere. I had no idea what these companies actually did because IOT is not a service or a product. It is a term invented to describe the interconnectivity of machines. It’s important to get out of the jargon and start telling me what you actually do. Going back to the Facebook example, I would have no idea what a social utility is if I saw their website in 2007.

If you have this right, you will lead with the one sentence pitch or it may be just 3-6 simple words followed by the problem and then the moment of aha will come! If you want to see if people really understand your idea, we will discuss that in the next article…

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