The Art of the Pitch
As a business owner and an entrepreneur, you pitch your idea. It’s an integral part of your life.
Elevator pitch, investor pitch, customer pitch—you have them all.
A business pitch isn’t something that happens overnight. It takes time and effort to have the data and resources you need for a truly interactive, engaging, successful pitch.
Investors and customers alike have short attention spans, that are getting shorter (hello goldfish); they need to understand what you’re selling and how it impacts them quickly. But you also need to support the need and potential for success of your product.
How do you balance these?
We’ve outlined your path to a pitch the Dragons’ Den (or Shark Tank) team would be proud to hear.
Tailor the Pitch
No two people are the same, therefore, no two pitches should be the same. For top results and an engaged audience, tailor your pitch.
Like we said, people’s attention spans are short. You need to tailor the conversation to them to catch their attention.
Like when conducting your marketing strategy, it’s about the motivators for your audience.
To tailor your pitch:
Do Your Research on Individual People
Whether you are meeting with a group of investors or one, a quick Google search and social media peruse can uncover a lot.
Not only will the search set you up for the type of people they are and their demographics and psychographics but it will also help you uncover their investment history.
When completing your research keep in mind to look into:
- Their investment history.
- Their interests and hobbies.
The two components can be very different but both set you up for a successful meeting.
Find out if the particular investors have funded projects in your field before, if they are first-time investors, or are simply new to your industry. This information uncovers how in-depth you need to go into your specific industry caveats as well as what concerns you can ease on the investor’s part.
Some investors will already be entrenched in your field, so they have a better understanding of what to expect, others this may be their first foray into your industry.
Your explanation of your path would be different for each.
Uncovering their past investments could also offer you the opportunity to reach out to past partners and network. By connecting with previous business partners, you uncover personality traits and tips not available online. For instance, if you discover a particular investor appreciates shorter presentations with more visuals, you’re already starting the meeting off on the right foot.
On the flip side, by not only focusing on their investment history but also looking into their personal hobbies, likes, and interests, it sets you up to have a better personal conversation and first impression—allowing you to connect with them on a human level.
Imagine you go through their Instagram and they have a bunch of pictures of their poodle. You could open the meeting by chatting with them about their dog and your favourite dog parks and dog-friendly restaurants in the area. Remember, they aren’t only investing in a company but in you, so they need to like you!
By researching not only the business side of things but taking the time to get to know your investors like you are your customers, you’re only providing yourself with more insights to draw from.
This same information holds true before meeting a potential customer, though. Researching before your meetings is just as important before pitching a potential client as it is a potential investor. All of the above still pertains to customers. Knowing information about them and who they are as a company and a business owner only helps move the conversation along.
Understand Their Needs and Motivations
Now you know the basics of who you’re meeting with, you can dive into their needs and motivations.
Like when developing your customer personas; not every investor and not every customer will have the same needs. Take the research you completed on the individuals—their past experiences, social accounts and online presence can give you an insight into them—and apply that to their overall needs and motivations.
The research you completed on the investor style can play into their motivations seamlessly and you can build upon it. Now instead of focusing on their style—such as short, concise presentations with visuals and an executive summary—you can focus on the content. What company results make them pay attention?
The benefits of the company are usually at the front of creators’ minds. But the benefits don’t always translate to results. The results are what prove you are a worthy investment. Explain how you plan to ensure it’s a successful partnership with the investor making money from your organisation. A solid 5-year plan, your current sales, and accurate forecast data could all be motivators to investors.
The focus on results (versus benefits and features) carries over to customers just as well as investors. With customers the product features are great. What’s even better is how that feature impacts their life.
When Apple first came out with products, it could have been “great, another computer or phone”. Instead Apple made consumers see the ease of use of their products and the advantage of owning more than one with the ability to have one cord to charge your devices saving you money and frustration looking for the right one (sadly not the case anymore), the seamless integration of information and photos by having all your information synced so you never have to worry about leaving things behind, and the simple, intuitive interface.
The difference between focusing on features and results is applying the features and benefits to real life.
You, hopefully, researched the market and discovered needs when you were creating your company and fulfilled those needs with your product or service. Carry that through into your pitch—applying the specific, granular needs of the people you are meeting with.
Understand Their Challenges and How You Fix Them
Knowing the needs of your investors and target audience is the start, your true secret sauce comes out when you uncover the challenges to them fulfilling those needs themselves.
By helping them overcome these challenges, you’re their new best friend.
The online presence you’ve been digging into can give you cues but don’t be afraid to talk to people as well. This will only help you with your product more. Conduct surveys, talk to investors and customers one-on-one at events, or reach out for coffee meet ups. The more people you talk to, the better overall analysis of your target you have.
By beginning with the uncovering of the needs and motivations, you’ve built the foundation of knowledge to move forward. The challenge builds upon the need and motivation to allow you to create the solution.
For example, Forty8Creates is a small business agency. There’s a million angles that could be taken to our business—but not every approach will work for every client or investor. Let’s say we’re talking to a client who has a medium-sized business and is trying to redesign their website. For this particular client, through competitor research and one-on-one meetings, we uncover:
- The Need: A website redesign.
- The Motivation: A more integrated digital presence for higher sales.
- The Challenge: The time, and internal resources, it would take to research and understand the different system choices, what system integrations are needed, web best practices, digital best practices and branding integration to the website.
By knowing their main motivator is sales and their main challenge is time, Forty8Creates can tailor our pitch to explain the streamlined process we undertake from years of expertise and the return on investment (ROI) garnered from an optimised site. If their main motivator was a cohesive digital brand experience, statistics on our historical ROI for clients would not be as applicable.
Your product or feature is always solving someone’s challenge, that’s why you created it right? You simply need to tailor your approach to them. The overall challenge will stay relatively the same but will be nuanced for each specific pitch.
When pitching to investors, also be aware of the challenges you face as a company. Your investors will appreciate you taking their insight into your own organisational challenges seriously and your openness to their advice. Bantum Bagels from Shark Tank won over investors by not only outlining their business’s strengths but also its weaknesses and hitting on “how an investor’s guidance and capital can overcome the weaknesses and turn it into a big success”.
Armed with the pertinent research to truly tailor your presentation to your specific audience, it’s now time to ball up that research into a presentation.
Prep Work for the Pitch
You’ve done the groundwork and have your research in order. Now it’s time to get your ducks in the row for the presentation.
There is some prep work to have everything you’ll need for a stellar presentation and some tips on what is best to include.
What you’ll need to start building your pitch presentation:
Make It Visual
We love PowerPoint for presentations (well, honestly, we have a love-hate relationship with PowerPoint—doesn’t everyone?), and use it for our own presentations. But a plain PowerPoint presentation simply won’t draw people in as much.
Add in videos, graphics and statistics that are inline with your brand imagery and tone of voice to break up some of the text. As you know, a picture says a thousands words and with people absorbing visual content 60,000 times faster than text, it really does. Plus, 65% of people are visual learners, so by including visual aids, you’re making it easier for them to absorb and remember your pitch.
We know visual can sound overwhelming and daunting, but don’t let that stop you!
You don’t have to be a whiz and spend a fortune to create a visual delight. Check out some of our blogs with free resources for editing for an easy way to dip your toe in and start sprucing up your presentations.
For the pitch deck, the slides should be short and sweet to be quickly digested. Charts with your statistics—to easily demonstrate growth—icons and bullet points make it so people have more of an instant understanding. Since you’ll be talking at the same time, long text boxes only serve to distract.
Do an outline of what you want to include in your presentation and see what you can make into visual elements. Make your list of what statistics, data and videos you’ll need.
If Possible, Have a Physical Product With You
Like the visual components, having a physical product creates more of a connection with you and your audience.
Not only does physically having the product explain it better than words can, but it also helps create desire and ownership of the product. Studies have shown people holding an object increases their feeling of ownership for said object, thus increasing their need to purchase.
This is why you see products out at retailers more often than not. Apple allows consumers to interact with all of their products, some car dealers now allow people to complete 24-hour test drives, perfume stores offer a free spritz and make-up counters have free makeovers.
The idea isn’t any different in your pitch. You want your audience to also create an emotional connection there as well.
If you’re pitching a new perfume, nothing you say equals the experience of smelling the difference fragrances and experiencing the perfect mixture of the layered scents.
Presenting the product during your pitch only strengthens your selling points.
The last part of your preparation requires you to talk to people again—it’s a recurring side effect of owning a business.
If you have already launched your product and had sales, gather testimonials from either your investors or your customers.
When collecting the testimonials, gather as many as you can so you can select the most pertinent testimonials to your specific pitch. By trying to collect a variety of testimonials all at once, you’ll be more prepared for whatever types of pitches you need to complete.
Testimonials prove the success of your product or plan. Having other people tout about your work breeds an added layer of trust and builds your credibility.
Have More Than One Presentation
Now that you have gathered various information to be included in your pitch, prepare for variations in your pitch.
Like we mentioned before, you want your condensed, shorter pitch for your in-person presentation. You also want a longer, more in-depth one that answers any questions or has further explanations— basically including the parts you talked through in your pitch—to send as a follow up. You’ll also need a one-pager highlighting the key points of your project and business plan. The one-pager proves you can quickly and easily explain why your product is a winner and your key differentiators (what sets you apart in the market). You’ll need the trifecta of pitches:
- Condensed pitch for the presentation,
- In-depth pitch for follow up, and
- One-pager for presentation and follow up.
As you start outlining for your various pitch formats, think through your research from your tailoring exercise. Brainstorm the questions your target audience will have. Prepare your answers and have them included in your follow up. Build the outline of your pitches around their challenges, their needs and motivators.
Having your prep work completed—knowing your product, your target audience, having your outlines, testimonials and visuals you can swap out—makes it less of a headache if you have a pitch you need to turnaround in less than ideal time—and believe us that happens.
Like everything in business, by being ahead you can make your life a lot easier.
Create the Pitch Deck
It’s finally time! The pretty presentation gets to be put together. This is where you get to focus on not only the content but how everything looks as well.
You’ve gathered all this research and have data across your organisation, but what
should you include in your pitch?
Start With The Problem and Your Solution
Those challenges that you fought to understand? Now is the time you demonstrate how well you do know them.
As quickly as possible, weave the story of what is ailing people and how your product is the solution.
The problem and solution doesn’t only have to be with physical products, services you offer are a solution, as well.
Take Forty8Creates. We don’t sell a physical product, like a t-shirt, but we sell results.
The problem is small and medium sized businesses have a desire to grow and develop with a cohesive identity but are not aware of the best way to do so and are time poor. Our solution is to apply our expert knowledge of the digital and print field to an tailored strategy specific to each business’s overall goals.
You’ll have your overall problem and solution your company solves – like the above example of Forty8Creates – nuanced to the individual you are pitching to based on the individual research you completed.
All that research we discussed at the beginning? That’s condensed into your problem and solution.
The problem and solution is the bread and butter of your pitch. You need to easily explain this to your investors – and your customers. If they don’t understand your solution in 30 seconds, you probably aren’t explaining it well.
Add In Statistics and Data
Here comes the visual data from your prep work! And a chance to once again prove your business and your target audience are biffles.
Statistics can center around who your potential target audience is and their demographics, as well as data on your own business. Correlate the industry statistics and your company data to support your problem and solution.
Remember to integrate your statistics and data as visual elements.
Have A Realistic Business Plan
We stress the need for a realistic business plan. Providing investors with forecasted profits of £50 million after two years when you have no current growth with no explanation of the leap is not going to instil confidence in your abilities.
Be honest with the company data you have.
Providing a plan for growth that is based on past performance, with statistics and industry knowledge to confirm your forecasts, will be more likely to urge a discussion.
These are some basic questions investors will be interested in knowing. Answer these in your pitch eliminating the need for them to ask.
- Have you already grown?
- What is your expected growth?
- How will you use the money from investors?
- What are your long-term goals?
- How will you scale the business?
No matter the pitch, know your data and be prepared to discuss it. Having concrete knowledge of your business is key.
Why Your Business
This builds upon the problem and your solution you seamlessly conveyed in the intro to your pitch. The key differentiators you uncovered by solving people’s challenges are your “why you”.
What makes your business a success is pivotal to investors.
Some key questions to answer:
- What sets you apart from your competitors?
- What draws people to your product?
- How are you filling a need in the market that others are not?
Once again, answer investors questions before they even have to ask them. By answering these pivotal questions before an investor even has to ask proves you are aware of your stance in the market.
The Personal: Why You?
The “why your company” not only encompasses the business’s selling points but also yours.
Investors are not only investing in the company but in you. They need insight and reassurance you will stick with the company and have the passion and drive to make the business plan come to life.
How, as the founder, are you prepared to lead the company? What’s your story?
If you have other successful ventures, list these projects – they only help your case.
Humility is still fashionable but don’t undercut yourself in the name of it.
At this point, you’ve outlined your company’s selling points, your leadership selling points and supported them with statistics and organisational data. Now comes the investment.
Ah, the part where you ask for help. This is the part where many successful business owners still struggle. It’s not only about knowing what you need but asking properly and then, many times, negotiating for it.
You are completing this pitch, and went through all the above work, for a reason. What do you need from this investor to be successful?
Knowing your data and your business plan inside and out comes into play with the investment. Many times investor will question you about past performances and even competitors to see how knowledgeable you are – and test your answers. Be confident!
Furthermore, go into the investment section with an idea of what you need to leave with. You’ll have your initial ask, let’s say £100,000 for 10% in the company, the investor may counter with £80,000 for 11%. Are you ok with this? What percentage of the company are you willing to barter and what monetary investment do you need?
Think this through before the meeting so you can quickly negotiate.
The above outline is an example of what you would include for an investor pitch. Your elevator pitch and customer pitch would include the same fundamentals of your problem and solution and could use other elements in your supporting argument.
There is no template for the perfect pitch, if only there was! Your research into your investor or target audience will guide you to what is best to include, and exclude, from your final pitch.
Practice to Feel Perfect
Whew, the research is done, the prep work set to go and the pitch is complete. Practice time, baby.
The presentation is complete—variations and all—you know you organisational data, your personal selling points and the key differentiators of your product. It’s time to get out there and perfect your spiel.
Practice in Front of Real People
Go to conferences, events, network groups, utilise your co-workers and friends and family. By practicing in front of different people and in different settings, you become more confident and at ease with the pitch.
Also, no pitch is ever going to be the same. By practicing, you become more comfortable thinking on your feet and discussing your business naturally.
Re-Evaluate with the Practice
By practicing you also get real people’s feedback. Maybe a certain joke fell flat, they didn’t understand a specific benefit, or they had questions about the company data.
Analysing what people are asking you, what areas confused them, and their overall feedback allows you to strengthen the pitch. You can fill the holes to offer complete insight into your company.
Make it so you’re comfortable giving your pitch anytime anywhere but also recite it as you would a conversation, avoid sounding mechanical or like you’re reciting it from memory. The more we talk about something, the more comfortable we get with it and usually the less deer-in-the-headlights if we have to deviate from the script.
Constantly Work on Your Business Pitch
As you can see, developing a pitch isn’t something that happens in a night. It’s a compilation of data, time, practice and experience. As you pitch more, you’ll become more confident in your approach.
Contrary to popular belief, your pitch shouldn’t all be business.
You are balancing the business approach with emotion. By having physical products and by weaving a story of the problem, you are drawing people in and then your industry statistics, your success rate and your organisational data help prove their emotional connection was right.
If this seems like a lot of work … it is.
Pitching is not an easy task but it gets easier every time you do it. Having completed the legwork from the beginning and designating folders for your different pitches will set you up to gather more information to include each time and to brainstorm off of previous pitches, improving your pitch each time with what worked and what didn’t work.
Gotta start somewhere, though.