August, 2003

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Featured Story

"Danger, Will Robinson! Danger!"

17 top CEOs shared their elevator pitches, but few understood them

by Hank Stroll, InternetVIZ

Pitch Recognition - sounds like something from an old Seinfeld episode.  Everyone in business pitches their company.  But how many people understand what is being pitched?  In our sister publication Professional Services Journal, we linked to a great VARBusiness story about how 17 Top CEOs Share Their Elevator Pitches.  It was the best read article we have ever offered.

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The 9,500 readers of PSJournal are mostly senior executives in event and professional service organizations around the globe.  They are sophisticated executives and trusted advisors to business.  If anyone is going to understand the 17 CEO pitches, our readers have the best chance.

We asked them to match the 17 CEO's elevator pitches to their respective companies.  The results will astound you!  Our readers did not understand what companies most of the CEOs were pitching.  (By the way, these 17 companies are 'household' names: IBM, Cisco, Intel, Oracle, Novell, etc.)

No one who took the quiz got more that 34% right. After struggling with these associations ourselves, we understood why our readers had a difficult time.   Why is it so hard for many companies to accurately describe themselves?  As judged by our readers, some of the world’s biggest and most successful technology companies struggle in this area.  (Think we are blowing smoke?  Try YOUR hand at aligning the companies to their pitches.  Click here.)

And now the results

The hands down winners were eBay and Dell - both earning very high 'pitch recognition'.

Elevator Pitch

Company

Percent

To help practically anyone buy and sell practically anything

eBay:

98%

To be the leading direct computer-systems company, bar none

Dell

96%

Ready for a shocker? The next two 'right' choices received only 57% recognition.  In fact, they were the only other companies over 50%.

Elevator Pitch

Company

Percent

Helping companies print, move and manage their business-critical information more efficiently and cost-effectively.

Lexmark

57%

Soup-to-nuts security for companies and consumers both.

Symantec

57%

... and the rest?

Almost everyone else lost.  All the other pitches were recognized by less than 50% of the readers.  There are 3 companies that really need to read this survey.  If you know anyone at Cisco, Intel, and Oracle, please forward this article to them.  NOT ONE professional service executive who participated in this survey matched those companies to their respective pitch.  Why not?  Judge for yourself.

Elevator Pitch

Company

Percent

To be the 'preeminent building-block supplier' to the worldwide Internet economy

Intel

0%

Deliver extremely high performance on inexpensive computers

Oracle

0%

Continued investments in IT result in measurable productivity gains.

Cisco

0%

These pitches are way too broad to be of any practical value. Think of all the millions of dollars these companies spend to promote these messages.  How much executive time is thrown away by talking into the 'ether'.  Are these companies just too big to be described with an elevator pitch?  Or, is there something else going on here?

In the quest to differentiate yourself from your competition, don’t forget to describe what your company does.  Customers need to understand your value, feel trust, and see stability, before they buy from you.  The pitch is about communicating value.  How can trust be earned if you can't say what you offer? 

The Cisco, Intel, and Oracle pitches fail miserably. Their old customers may have no trouble, knowing the value provided, but we wonder if anyone new will come to them as a result of their pitch.

Identity Crisis?!

There were two pitches that especially confused our readers.  Both were on-point.  However, the majority of the respondents matched the pitch to the wrong company.  It's almost like the readers knew what the companies did better than the CEO's.  The readers thought that AMD's pitch was better suited for Intel and the Novell pitch belonged to Cisco.  (What do you make of this?  Who is the winner here?  Click here and tell us your opinion.)

Elevator Pitch

Correct Company

Percent

Company Reader Choose

Percent

To provide the world's best semiconductor solutions based on customer-centric innovation

AMD

40%

Intel

53%

Connecting anyone to anything digital, simply and reliably and at a low cost

Novell

22%

Cisco

51%

It may seem like we are picking on Cisco and Intel, however, we want to yell "Danger, Will Robinson! Danger!"  Novell and AMD respectively seem to have captured some mindshare high ground in their respective arenas.  We wonder out loud, in the case of at least some of these companies, if a poor elevator pitch is the start of a loss of business focus?  We don’t know the answer, but our gut says that there may be a grain of truth here.  Don't forget what happened to 'New Coke' and the return to 'Coke Classic'.

Postscript

View detailed results of the survey and the 'right' answers?  Click here

Try YOUR hand at matching the pitches with the correct companies by clicking here

 

Finally, I must admit that our own company, InternetVIZ needs to 'eat our own dog food'.  After reading the results, we took a good look at how we pitch our own professional marketing service.  We were not happy, and are in the process of changing our message as well.

We are not going to stop harping on this topic anytime soon.  If you would like to share your own experience, strength, and hope about this subject, send us an email.


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