Hone pitches for funding, biz competition success

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A well-crafted pitch is essential whether you’re pitching in front of a panel of business plan competition judges or meeting with venture capitalists in a quest to secure funding. Your pitch, in fact, is the single most important tool in your arsenal to get the true story across behind your business, according to Mike Rossi, vice president of business development with Sweet Tooth, a turnkey points and reward system that eCommerce stores can install on their websites.

“Get your key message across in as little time as possible,” he advises. “Summarize the key points of your venture in two sentences if at all possible and keep your overall pitch to no more than 10 to 12 minutes.” Rossi honed Sweet Tooth’s pitch in front of numerous VCs and won the Road to Banff Pitch Competition.

Rossi believes the best way to lose the interest of a VC or a pitch competition judge is to be overly focused on technical details, display insufficient enthusiasm and fail to showcase the past successes of your team. “Capturing the attention of your audience is key — no one is going to remember or care about a bland pitch,” he continues.

Terry Ellison, founder and CEO of Shoplet.com, an online discount office supply retailer, agrees, saying, “You need to deliver your pitch with enthusiasm, a sense of experience and effectively communicate your product and the problem it solves. Most importantly you need to give your pitch with confidence. If you aren’t confident in your business why should anyone else be?”

Many entrepreneurs can’t sift through all they want to communicate about their business and pull out the really compelling nuggets, says Jerry Rackley, vice president of Marketing and Product Development for Demand Metric Research Corporation. “The biggest barrier for entrepreneurs when writing compelling elevator pitches is the fact that they know too much about their innovation,” he adds.

“It is difficult or impossible for them to have an ‘out of body’ experience that allows them to see their innovation through the eyes of someone who needs it but knows nothing about it,” he continues. “Before you can write an effective business plan, you need to figure out your innovation’s positioning. Once you understand how to position it in the market, writing the unique selling proposition statement becomes much easier.”

Mike Scanlin of Born To Sell, a covered call investment tools website, boils down an effective elevator pitch to three key components:

  • Market size: “Anything over $1 billion is fine, or $200 million if it’s growing fast. Don’t dwell on it. But do make sure it’s accessible. If you’re selling mobile games then the market size is not the sum of all mobile apps; it’s the sum of all mobile games. Be accurate.”
  • Technology: “This includes your unique differentiators, barriers to entry — patents or exclusive license or distribution deals — and a thing or two that you do differently or better than anyone else.”
  • Team: “Absolutely critical at this stage. Enthusiasm and passion are important, but so are prior successes and credentials — certain number of years in the space. Also, the number of people needs to be more than two or three and none of them should be related to or dating each other.”

Finally, a current status or “early proof” that your market will buy what you sell is vital, he adds. “Making a statement such as ‘we’ve grown (customers, revenue, users, transactions, etc) by some number (50 to 100%) quarter over quarter or the last two to four quarters’ will get the attention of most VCs.”

Photo credit: MrSchuReads

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