Posted: Tue 15th Jan 2019
Have you ever stumbled when trying to describe what your company does? In this article, we share some tips to build a pitch that will convey succinctly what you do.
Imagine you're sharing the proverbial elevator with an influential investor. You won't have time to sell your company idea and get his or her money there and then.
But you can grab their attention and pique their curiosity, inviting them to follow up with you. How can you do this effectively? Adria Tarrida shares advice.
Some recommendations before starting
Before we look at several approaches, let's discuss some general principles:
Think about your 'call to action'
A sales pitch, where you're trying to convince someone to buy your product or service, is quite different to an investment pitch, where you're seeking money to carry out your business pitch.
But asking for money straight away might sound very 'salesy' and turn the potential investor off. You will gain much more by asking them for advice. Not only you'll learn much more but also the listener will be much more engaged and interested in following up.
Be single minded
You might have five potential audiences and three different revenue streams in your mind for your business. However, this has the potential to confuse your listener or make you look as if you lacked focus. Pick up the biggest opportunity and, at least at this stage, just talk about that.
Try to tell a story
It might be difficult in such a short time, but we're hardwired to listen to stories rather than just facts. The chance that the listener will remember what you say is significantly increased if you weave your message into a story. More about it later.
Your first version of the pitch will be far from perfect, but we all need to start somewhere!
Try it with a safe audience and gauge their reactions. Then use the feedback to build a better version and start again. After a few iterations, you'll have a pitch that will be good enough to run through investors.
The traditional approach
Let's look at a rather old template that can give us a good head start in building a first approximation to our ideal pitch:
My name is [YOUR NAME], founder of [YOUR COMPANY]. We offer [PRODUCT/SERVICE] for [TARGET MARKET] to [VALUE PROPOSITION]. Unlike [THE COMPETITION], we [KEY DIFFERENTIATOR]. And we recently [RECENT MILESTONE]. [CALL to ACTION].
It's a bit clunky, I know, but just the exercise to fill in the gaps will help you focus and identify clearly your target market, value proposition and key differentiator.
Please do let us know if you'd like help on nailing these points and we'll develop them in future articles. And remember, don't be tempted to ask for investment as the call to action! It's probably too soon.
A few more modern approaches
In his great book To Sell is Human, Daniel Pink proposes six new ways to construct a succinct pitch that are worth considering (by the way, I highly recommend reading this and any other book from Daniel Pink!). Let's look at them one by one:
The one-word pitch
If I say 'priceless', what's the first brand that comes to your mind? The one-word pitch is great to go to the essence of your value proposition and it's a great aspiration to be identified with just one word. Well worth exploring what that word might be.
The question pitch
According to research, when facts are on your side, it's much more effective to lead with a question than a statement. This was used to great effect
The rhyming pitch
It might sound a bit cheesy to British ears, but it can still be highly effective as the rhyme makes the pitch much more memorable. Worth exploring? Your call.
The subject line pitch
Think about the type of subject lines that make you open an email. Pink identifies utility, curiosity and specificity. Experimenting with this might be a great exercise.
The Twitter pitch
The original character count for a tweet was 140 (before it was increased to 280). It is difficult to convey a complex idea in that sort of space, but it's certainly enough to pique the curiosity of the listener.
The Pixar pitch
This is perhaps the best way to introduce an element of storytelling to your pitch. According to Emma Coats, a former artist at Pixar Animation Studios, every Pixar film has the same narrative structure: Once upon a time____________. Every day____________. One day____________. Because of that, ____________. Because of that,_____________. Until finally___________.
Finally, I'd like to mention quite an overused pitch that is still worth considering. It goes like this: 'it's the [known business] for [a new market or audience]'.
A few years ago, there was an explosion of new businesses that would claim to be the 'Uber for hairdressers' or the 'Netflix for documentaries'. Most of them failed.
Although some investors will be wary of such claims, it still a great shortcut conveys concepts very succinctly, so it's worth giving a go and see if it could work for you.
In my opinion, building the perfect pitch is a matter of trial and error. It's an opportunity for you to tell about your company to a lot of people and gather a lot of feedback, both about your business model and the pitch itself.
My recommendation would be to start with the traditional pitch. It gives you clarity and a great starting point before attempting the other approaches. You can then test the pitch with family and friends, look at their reactions and listen to their feedback. That will allow you to refine it.
And once you have an elevator pitch you're happy with, then give a go to Pink's more modern approaches (and if you dare, the 'Uber for X' one as well) and see what fits with your company traits and your personality.
Finally, remember that it's always better to ask for advice than for investment. Good luck!