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Boss pitch: How to successfully pitch your business ideas
If you’re reading this, you probably have one or two (or thirty-five) business ideas that you think are worth pursuing. The great thing about ideas is they can inspire you to change your life. The bad, nay, challenging thing about ideas is that everyone has them. Here are nine ways to make your pitch a successful one—and make your ideas stand apart from the rest.
What’s your problem? (Literally.)
One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to pitch your idea before it’s ready. Ideas need the thinking and data behind them to transform them from a crazy idea into a tangible plan. People can dismiss an idea without a foundation with just a few questions, so you’ve got to make sure you have thought of [almost] everything. To do that, start by figuring out what problem your idea solves. What research can you present to prove that this problem is real and important enough to solve?
The problem doesn’t have to be life-altering; it can be as simple as not having any authentic Italian restaurants in a certain part of town. It just has to solve a problem in a way that will be interest people (enough to spend money on it). A clear problem statement will help you focus on your solution. Once you’ve figured that out, refine your idea until you can express it in one or two sentences. Which will bring you to your next step.
Prepare your elevator pitch
An elevator pitch is a succinct and persuasive pitch. Essentially, you should be able to explain your idea within five seconds (or one or two sentences), and if you can’t, you don’t know your idea well enough. This can be done for any idea! Elevator pitches are vital. Investors have little time, so they want to know you’re not wasting it. Present your business idea or plans in a short, direct, and friendly manner. If your potential investors can’t understand your idea, chances are your customers won’t either.
Tell a story
Brands that effectively use storytelling consistently outperform the ones that don’t, and marketing yourself and your idea should be no different. If you’ve got a short amount of time to sell your product to a group of investors, turn it into an engaging story sprinkled with facts. Storytelling has been scientifically-proven to capture someone’s attention and hold it. Investors get pitched to a lot, so they’re looking at tons of graphs and spreadsheets and numbers. If you want your idea to stand out, tell them a story; even the most data-driven investors love a good one.
Know your audience
Who can help you make your dream a reality? Make a list of the potential investors, customers, or employees you need to pitch to. This can be your boss, your neighbor, or a restaurant owner down the street. Build the list based on these two questions: who has the power to implement my idea and who do I have access to? If those names don’t align, make a list of the people you should connect with that you do know to get you to the ones you need to know. Pitch to this network of people until you’ve pitched your way to your desired audience. This might take a while, depending where you’re starting, but pitching to the right people in the right way will make your success much more likely.
Know your competition
What’s your competitive advantage? How is your product better—or at least different—than what your competition is offering? How will you manage any newcomers into the space? Never tell them you don’t have any competition. This is a rookie mistake and one you may not recover from. A potential investor, client, or employee that knows what they’re doing will see right through this and not only will you look like you don’t know what you’re talking about, but you’ll look dishonest. Everyone has competition, even if it’s indirect.
As you think about your competition, think about what your solution offers that the others don’t—this is where your positioning statement comes into play. Are you cheaper, closer, or faster? Why would someone choose your product over the competition? If you have answers to these questions it will help you show your audience that you have spent a lot of time thinking about how to make the best use of their investment.
Know your customers
If you can show your potential investor that you already have an audience of qualified prospects eager to buy your product, it becomes almost impossible for them to say no. (And why would they want to?)
Use demographic and psychographic features to pinpoint your customers. Show investors a picture of a customer along with relevant data points. Don’t say that everyone in the world is potentially your target market, even if it could be true one day. Be realistic about who you’re building your product for and break out your market into TAM, SAM, and SOM (total available market, serviceable available market, and serviceable obtainable market). This will not only impress investors, it will also help you think more strategically about your roll-out plan.
Show them the money (Not literally.)
A great pitch doesn’t have to include a detailed 10-year financial forecast, but it does have to include your revenue or business model. Luckily for you that sounds more complicated than it is. You just need to know how you’re going to make money and be profitable—who is going to pay your bills and what expenses will you have? Investors want to make money. It truly is as simple as that. If you want them to care about your pitch, let them know how your company is going to make them rich.
Be specific about your plans, products and pricing, then emphasize again how your future customers are waiting for your product. Let them also know how much money has already been invested in your company, by whom, how much of it they own, and how much more you need to do what you want to do. Show them how you will reach the numbers you’ve shown them, then wait for them to take out their calculators. Once they do that, you’ll know they’re at least somewhat interested. (Unless of course, your numbers are all wrong).
Practice. Practice. Practice.
The more time you spend on something, the harder it is to be objective about it. Get out of your office or home and go find people whose opinions you value and pitch to them. Whether it’s family, friends, your nanny, or someone at work you’ve barely ever spoken to, pitch to them. Answer their questions, listen to their feedback, make changes where you see fit, and then do it all again. And again and again until you know your product and your pitch like the back of your hand.
From these pitch tests, come up with a list of questions you might expect to be asked and then prepare your answers for them. Being comfortable with your pitch will make you look more confident, and confidence will make you look like you have all the answers…even if you don’t.
Prepare to fail
Some ideas are great, but it’s just not their time yet. Or you haven’t pitched to the right person. Or someone who was interested decides they’re no longer interested. Things are going to go sideways sometimes, but the best thing you can do from these moments is learn from them. If you can get feedback, great. If not, try to go over your pitch with a fine-toothed comb and see if there was anything you may have missed. And then guess what you can do? Please refer to the section before this one.
While pitching can be the most intimidating part of being a small business owner, it could also be the most lucrative one. Like anything else in life, it will have its ups and downs, but becoming a pitching pro could be the deciding factor in being able to pursue your dreams, so it’s worth the work—don’t you agree?