You have a great idea that’s ready to change the world – or at least change your industry. The only thing you need is someone to believe in it, and we’re not talking about Great-Grandma Sally who thinks everything you touch is a marvel.
No; you need to find an investor, one who shares your vision and is willing to put up the money that fuels your idea forward.
Why You Shouldn’t Wing it
If there’s any part of you that feels inclined to make up your pitch on the spot, you’re probably in the wrong business.
Thinking on your feet may be a strong suit of yours, but it’s likely not going to close you any deals.
The best way to win your audience over? Prepare, prepare, prepare.
Opportunities to pitch your idea will come up when you least expect it, and if you’re serious about starting your business, then you need to be ready. Trust me, I’ve been there; as a freelancer, I once got a year’s worth of work by sharing a cab ride with a stranger (don’t tell my mom!) and being able to pitch my worth at just the right moment.
Whether you’re pitching to customers or investors, you need to know how to present your ideas in a way that will make people stop what they’re doing and pay attention.
Here are all the tips you need to pitch your business idea and get people listening.
How to Pitch Your Business Idea
It goes without saying that you should only be thinking about pitching if your business idea is thought through, and if you have an actionable plan with which to roll out your company. Make sure you’re being honest with yourself about the stage you’re in, because you’ll need to have answers if you want to convince people that you’re a worthwhile investment.
That said, if you’re ready to pitch your business, follow these steps.
Step 1: Don’t think pitch – think story.
Before you craft your actual pitch, you’ll need to know your story inside and out.
People are more likely to remember a story than they are spreadsheets and facts. Storytelling gives us the power to elicit strong emotions in our listeners, and this emotional connection is ultimately what will get an investor to sign on the dotted line.
That isn’t to say that the facts are unimportant – quite the opposite – but your numbers, facts and figures should be framed by the story of what makes them matter.
What problem are you solving in your industry? Where is your audience’s pain points, and how are you addressing them?
Assess the scope of your idea; is it a small tweak to a product that already exists (Beyond Meat veggie burgers), or an entirely new concept that could change the face of an industry (Airbnb)? Bigger changes tend to make for riskier business ideas, so take that into consideration when thinking about how you tell your story.
Once you know what kind of market change you’re looking to introduce, take some time to research others who have done something similar. What kind of success did they have, and which mistakes did they make?
The more prepared you are with this knowledge, the better you’ll be able to craft your own brand story. Try to talk to people who have succeeded in your industry and ask them how they approached their pitch, what the industry expectations were, etc.
Within your storytelling, you’ll also want to position your idea as something that will cater to the motivations and desires of the listener. This brings us to:
Step 2: Research your investor.
We’ve talked about why it’s important to prepare for an investor meeting, and that preparation phase doesn’t just extend to your own numbers and storytelling abilities.
Before you enter a meeting, you should know more about the investors than they do about you. Not only does it show you’ve done your homework, but it also will help you understand how much background knowledge the people listening to your pitch have in your industry, how many other startups they have a stake in, and how successful the companies they’ve worked with have become.
Additionally, every investor is going to have their own interests and motivation, and it’s important to tailor your language to the person you’re speaking to in the room.
For example, some VCs might be looking for the next big tech disruptor, while others focus on companies that can change an aspect of life for people with disabilities, while others still are most interested in the qualifications of the face behind the company (i.e. you!).
This doesn’t mean you have to change your business model in order to fit what you think they’ll like; just make sure to take their perspective into account, and try to communicate in a way that will best reach them. While the basic language of your pitch is going to stay the same, you’ll probably to tweak your approach in order to match their needs and worldviews.
Again, investors have conversations with hundreds of prospective companies; show them that you’re the one they need to stop and consider.
Step 3: Summarize your idea.
Opportunities to pitch your idea won’t be restricted to round-table meetings with slides in tow, but that means you have to be able to tailor your pitch to every scenario – and every time frame you’re given.
This could mean the classic “elevator pitch,” in which all the time you have to convince your audience of your idea resides in a 30-second elevator ride together.
Or, you may be able to take a potential investor out for an informal coffee, in which case you’ll have time to deliver a longer shpiel.
Either way, you need to be able to structure your pitch to cater to all scenarios and opportunities.
The best way to prepare? Create three versions of your pitch: A 5-second version (what your business does in one sentence), a 30-second version (include two or three significant facts about what happens as a result of your business) and a 5-minute version (include more detail about how, with money and resources, you’ll be able to achieve what you’ve said you’re going to do).
Here’s an example 5-second pitch: “My idea will make air conditioners 5 times more efficient, for one-third of the price.”
The 30-second pitch might add a couple of crucial facts about the impact of this air conditioning efficiency – on the environment, on consumers’ electric bills, etc. – and the 5-minute one can throw some important, concrete facts and figures into the mix.
Here’s the thing: If you can’t explain your business idea in 5 seconds, then you’re not ready to pitch. Practice on friends, family, and colleagues until you can refine your idea into a sentence, and then refine it some more until you really drill down into the essence of the thing. From there, each pitch version should go into one more level of detail than the one before it, but always make sure the 5-second pitch is at the core.
You’ll also use these pitches in your presentation, which leads us to….
Step 4: Create your pitch deck.
This is the core of your presentation; think of your pitch deck as the cue cards to your business’s story.
If you manage to land a meeting with investors, you’ll want your presentation to be professional to the T.
At Tailor Brands, we offer our users business pitch deck templates that are embossed with their logos and brand colors, because we know how important it is to sell the story. Regardless of your stage as a company – whether you’ve been up and running for three years or have yet to find an office space – your presentation should look like it’s coming from a well-established business and brand.
Your pitch deck will range between 10-20 slides (the shorter, the better), and should encompass everything we’ve already discussed – your customers’ pain points, your solution, and compelling reasons why you’re the best person for the job.
When you’re ready to put together your presentation, make sure to include the following:
- Intro: Your name, title (CEO?), image, company logo, and the 5-second pitch we discussed above (or company tagline). This should be your first slide.
- Hook: You want to command your investors’ attention from the get-go. Identify the problem you’re business is solving, and your solution, in the first two slides of your pitch deck. Choose language that is concise and compelling; use images and (easily digestible) charts to appeal to your audience’s emotions.
- Market validation: This answers the question “why now?” What’s wrong with the status quo? How many people would benefit from your solution? Include information about your target market, and why there’s a gap that your business idea can dominate.
- Business model: Contrary to what you might think, this doesn’t have to be the dry part of your presentation – and it shouldn’t, because you’ll lose your investors’ focus. Keep it short, and try to connect what you do with another well-known companies (“We’re the Alibaba of consignment”) to make the information more accessible. Lay out numbers, the opportunities for growth, and revenue projections.
- Competition: Why is now the perfect time for your business to swoop in on the market? Assess the current competition in your industry, show why you have a significant advantage over them, and explain your long-term plan for customer acquisition.
- Sell yourself: Why are you the best person to get this job done? Introduce yourself and your team (if you have one), and explain which skills make you the perfect people to carry out your mission. Mention early successes and any traction you’ve already gained. Show your best metrics and how you’ve managed to reach your goals thus far.
- The ask: Finally, it’s time to ask what you’ve come here for – the investment. You need to make your ask as clear as possible, with a detailed explanation of why you need this money to grow, how it will be allocated, etc. Like everything else, keep it short and get to the point.
And, when you’ve finished digesting and assembling all of this information, here are some additional tips for creating your pitch deck:
- Don’t cram slides with information, whether images or text. The average viewer will be able to process about 3 visual cues in each slide, so don’t bombard them with information. Stick to one main topic on each slide, and use your meeting to go into detail.
- Keep the design consistent. This is super important, because it reinforces your business’s message and creates a cohesive look for your brand.
- Change up font sizes and slide layouts. You can guide your audience’s attention by varying up the layout and text sizes in the slides. According to visual hierarchy, we assign more importance to words written in larger text than those in smaller text, so put your most important idea as a heading, and the explanation as body copy.
- Use icons to draw attention to key metrics or headers. Like fonts, icons will guide your audience’s eyes to the most important points on your slides. Not only do they look good, but they also aid in telling your story effectively.
- If you have a team, include them in your slides. Photos of your team will help investors put faces to the names and be better able to envision your business. You can use candid background images of your team at the office to subtly show them off without taking up too much real estate in your pitch deck.
- Show mockups of your products. If you can create an “ownership experience” for your investors, it’s a great way to let them “try” your products without purchasing, in addition to showing off design and functionality.
I know it’s a lot of work, but once you create your business deck, you’ll have an organized plan for how your business will conquer the world – and you’ll be better equipped to convince your investors of that as well. Remember to keep it short and detailed; you’ll be able to elaborate on the points in your slides when you’re face-to-face with your audience.
Step 5: Dress, look, and be the part.
Investors invest in the person as much as the idea, and you always need to put your best foot forward, regardless if you’re jumping on a phone call or presenting to a room full of people.
At the end of the day, you’re the person that your audience needs to believe in, and you need to invest in yourself as much as you do in your business idea and pitch.
If you want to be a successful CEO – dress like a successful CEO. Do what you have to do to come out swinging and confident, whether that means a ton of research or investing in your personal brand.
And, get informed; be the expert in your field. Know what potential objections your audience may have, and come up with answers to them before they can be voiced. Get feedback from friends and family, and refine your pitch until you can deliver it in your sleep. Practice at home, on friends; keep rehearsing until you’re prepared to talk about your business idea in every scenario, without a second thought.
All you need is one person to believe in you, so do your best to deliver, and you’ll eventually find the perfect investor match.
Over to You
Remember, a good pitch taps into emotional and business sentiments. It tells a story, gets to the point, and succinctly details the value you will be able to provide the listener.
However, even more important than a good pitch is the person giving it. Invest in your own development, be confident in your idea, and sell the story like it’s already the investor’s obvious choice for a new project.