“The purpose of a pitch is to stimulate interest, not to close a deal.”
― Guy Kawasaki
A business pitch is a presentation. It includes a deck of slides that serve as a presentation aid and background, and the verbal discussion that begins as a planned talk and ends with questions and answers. The classic pitch is one delivered by startup founders to potential investors. That same pitch is also used in business classrooms and business plan and venture competitions, in which students and startup founders pitch to judges, who are usually investors.
There are two kinds of slide deck associated with the business pitch. The first and most important is the deck intended for the presentation itself. That’s the one you read about most often. It should be almost entirely images, each slide with its title and an image, but very little text. The images are photographs, business charts, and diagrams. It keeps the focus of attention on the speaker, not the slides. It doesn’t encourage the audience to read text from the slides. It doesn’t have bullet points people will read.
The second kind of pitch deck could be called the leave-behind pitch. It stands alone, to be read, not presented. It should reflect the main presentation and cover the same content. It might even have the same number of slides in the same order as the main presentation; but it has a lot more words because its business purpose requires that.
Don’t confuse the two: A pitch to be read must be very different from a pitch that supports a live presentation with you talking. These require different styles for different business situations.
Most of what you read about business pitches focuses on the pitch deck and pitch presentation startup that founders deliver to potential investors.
In either case, what you want to show is something like this (but be flexible and sensitive to your specific audience and specific business situation; this is just a sample):
- Problem: Show a problem to solve, ideally one that investors will understand immediately, and relate to. You can refer to examples in Chapter 11, Lead With Stories.
- Solution: How is your startup going to solve that problem? What do you do? Ideally, the solution is something investors will also understand and relate to. And there is a good image to show. You can refer to examples of this one also in Lead With Stories.
- Market potential: How many people/buyers have the problem and how much is the solution worth? If the story works, the numbers are supplemental, but worth presenting. If the story doesn’t work, nobody cares about the numbers. You can see more on this in Know Your Market.
- Secret sauce: You decide what to highlight here, depending on the audience. Investors and business plan contest judges want to see technology, trade secrets, existing market position, or some other fact that helps you establish barriers to entry and protect your competitive advantage.
- The team: Investors need to see a credible startup team, with previous startup experience and background specifically related to the problem and the opportunity.
- Traction: Show milestones achieved, momentum, traffic, anything you can to make your story – and the opportunity – presentable. Web traffic or downloads are excellent. Success on Kickstarter is also excellent. Early sales, and firm commitments from important clients or distributors are also effective.
- All the rest: Flesh it out as needed, depending on your specific case, with highlights investors will look for. Exit strategies, competition, market strategy. Be sure to have projected P&L as a bar chart and have solid projected P&L, Balance, and Cash Flow to back it up.