By Akshar Bonu, Co-Founder and CEO of The custom movea marketplace for custom sneakers, clothing and more from independent artists.
As a company founder, one of your most important jobs, if not the the most important thing is pitching your business. You need to do this with investors, customers, potential employees, and a host of other stakeholders — stakeholders you will encounter repeatedly throughout the life of your business. Failure to pitch properly can have serious consequences: a critical investor may succeed, a highly regarded candidate may not accept your offer, or a key client may fail to sign your contract. It should come as no surprise, then, that refining your ability to pitch your business effectively is high on your priority list.
However, it is easier said than done to communicate your business well. Different people have different backgrounds and priorities, each a factor in how you pitch your business. You have to be versatile and flexible, communicate in different media: personal, email, decks and more. Sometimes you don’t have much time – perhaps as little as the time it takes an elevator to go down a few floors (“the elevator pitch”). To better prepare for these challenges, here are strategies to make your pitches more effective so you can close clients, investors, potential employees, and more.
Know your audience and adjust your pitch accordingly.
It may come as a surprise, but every good pitch doesn’t start with the business, but with the audience. It pays to have a good understanding of the audience’s background and priorities. Some audiences have a pre-existing understanding of your industry: they could be customers, employees with broad industry experience, or industry-specific investors. Others may have almost none. For the former, you can use more technical jargon that would be lost with the latter. The latter will require a lot more training, and you need to be sensible with nuanced discussions, as these are unlikely to be fully appreciated or retained. Occasionally, you may need to pitch to an audience of varying experience levels: the safest option is to tailor the pitch to the least skilled so that it is accessible to everyone.
As important as audience background is, it’s equally important to understand your audience’s priorities; specifically, what does your company do for them that they are looking for?
Investors are typically interested in how your company can help them generate financial returns. Potential customers care about how your business solves a major pain point for them. To succeed, you need to help them understand your company’s “aha moment” as quickly as possible. Prospective employees are looking for jobs that fit their needs – these could be financial, cultural or professional growth opportunities – so it’s essential in your pitch to identify what those are and communicate how your company is meeting those needs (assuming that this is the case).
When your pitch is limited in time, it’s paramount to use your time wisely and highlight the points that are most relevant to your specific audience as soon as possible.
Unleash the full potential of your pitch’s medium.
Different media offer unique benefits. To amplify a pitch, it’s helpful to know what they are and how to use them to your advantage. For pitches that require you to present, it’s a great opportunity to show your passion through your voice and body language. Think tone, intonation and gestures, all of which can serve to amplify the impact of your pitch and make the pitch resonate more deeply with your audience. Compared to emails or a deck of cards, when you present, you have much more control over how your audience navigates your story using pace, emphasis, and emotions. The best presentations will use these to their full advantage to emphasize the elements that are particularly important to the specific audience.
That said, pitches via email or through a standalone deck can also be powerful and have some unique advantages over a presentation. A common mistake business owners make is that their emails or decks contain way too much text. Take advantage of images and videos. Instead of just writing how much customers love you, you can include a collection of screenshots showing the love of customers on Twitter. Instead of just saying that influencers are sharing your product organically, you can add a collection of screenshots that show influencers are actually sharing. Through images and videos, the words become much more believable to the viewer. In addition, during a live presentation, details on slides can be lost; in a self-contained deck or email, the viewer has the luxury of digging through the details: they have the opportunity to enjoy and immerse themselves in the stories behind the screenshots you share.
While it would be helpful if pitching was simple – if it was more of a science – unfortunately it is undeniably an art. It affects hiring, attracting investors, attracting customers, and matching partners. Simply put, the success of our companies may very well depend on how well we pitch. So it’s no surprise that it’s something we should make a priority to excel at. While there will always be room for improvement, the strategies mentioned above are powerful ways to make your pitches more effective for those you need to pitch to.