How do you create a convincing business pitch? It’s the million-pound question – sometimes literally. A good business pitch is vital for many reasons, including:
- Obtaining bank funding
- Encouraging investment (e.g. from business angels or venture capitalists)
- Appealing to B2B clients
- Achieving better deals from suppliers
- Attracting the best employees
Creating a good business pitch is also an invaluable exercise for any business owner, as it helps you identify the strengths and potential weaknesses of your ideas, and forces you to face issues you may have ignored.
Here are some tips for pitching your business to a range of different audiences.
- What is a business pitch?
- Five examples of great startup pitches
- Who is your target?
- Doing your research
- Tips for constructing your business pitch
- The 30-second elevator pitch
A business pitch is a succinct summary of your business model and plan, targeted at a particular professional audience. It’s your best attempt to persuade this audience to do business with you – whether as a funder, investor, client or supplier. You might even use a business pitch to attract a senior colleague such as a non-executive director (NED).
Your pitch may well vary depending on the audience, emphasising different aspects according to their particular interests or concerns. However, the core of it should remain consistent.
Uber, like Hoover, is well on its way to becoming a verb, so ubiquitous has its brand become. Its initial pitch was most effective in overcoming scepticism and the social taboo of accepting lifts from strangers, by explaining in detail all the benefits and how perceive problems would be addressed.
Your pitch needs to anticipate funders’ objections, provide reassurance and reveal the opportunities.
Airbnb has become a household name and has transformed the holiday market. From the start, its pitch focused on a highly specific problem (costly, limited and inflexible accommodation) and a beautifully simple solution (all the people with spare rooms and property to rent).
A good pitch is usually built on similarly strong pillars: a clear pain point, and a clear practical remedy.
LinkedIn is one of the handful of channels to survive the social media mass-extinction that has wiped out more than 50 competitors to the Facebook crown. How did LinkedIn break through in such a cutthroat environment? From the first, they highlighted how their offering was different, focusing on work rather than play.
A strong pitch is one that differentiates you from competitors and shows that you have your own niche.
Social media management platform Buffer was picked by venture capital company AngelPad in 2011, both on the strength of its pitch and on its performance at the time of funding. Buffer was able to boast a combination of good profitability and a strong network of partnerships already in place.
Startups that already look like success stories are more likely to attract investment.
Founded by three former Paypal employees, Youtube was swiftly snapped up by Google and is now estimated to be worth in excess of $100 billion. The founders’ initial pitch showed the scale of their ambition, stating that Youtube would be ‘the primary outlet of user-generated content on the internet’.
A startup shouldn’t be afraid to think big and make bold claims, provided it can back them up with evidence.
Now think about how you can pitch your business in a similarly attractive way to get funders excited about your future.
You have several target audiences for your business pitch, and each audience will have a different agenda and set of priorities. Investors and lenders can be the toughest to convince. They will want to know that your plan is financially sound and that you have thoroughly researched the potential customer base. They’ll need to be sure you’ve analysed the competition and that your core ideas have wide and easily understood appeal. Investors will be keen to explore elements of your pitch in detail and will ask the most searching questions.
Buyers and business customers are another key audience. Their concerns will be commercially focused. You’ll need to be ready with information about costs and profits, supply chain and potential demand. Also arm yourself with plenty of statistics that show you’ve done your homework when it comes to marketing, supplying and selling.
You may also need your business pitch to inspire confidence in partners and employees. Your pitch should convince them that your ideas are going to generate real world profitability and sustainable success, in which they will share.
There’s no such thing as too much research when preparing your business pitch. It will make your presentation credible (which in turn will help you relax when you deliver it!). Don’t face your audience until you’ve done the following:
- Get every last detail about your product or services at your fingertips. You must be the ultimate source of knowledge and expertise about your business.
- Research your audience. Ensure that you are pitching to exactly the right people.
- Make sure you can back up the big idea with plenty of details. All your figures need to add up and every claim needs to be validated.
- Pay particular attention to competitors. Your awareness of their capabilities, potential threats and wider market trends will show you’ve thoroughly tested the feasibility of your plan.
Remember that your business pitch needs to engage your audience (e.g. funders or other potential stakeholders), win their interest, overcome their scepticism and persuade them to commit to your proposals. You therefore need to build the pitch as robustly as possible. Divide your pitch into clear sections, organised in a logical structure:
1. Introduce the problem
Set the scene and highlight the need for your product or service.
2. The solution
Get straight to the answers that your audience needs to hear.
3. The market
Expand your narrative to present a snapshot of the wider market. This shows your audience how well you understand the business you’re in.
4. The competition
Talk about your competitors and explain how your business plan is different from (i.e. better than) theirs. You can show how you’ve studied their offerings and gone further. You’re also demonstrating that you know the potential threats in the market.
5. Why you?
This is a key moment. Essentially you’re justifying the whole idea: bringing all your facts and selling points together and proving that you have something new or better to offer.
6. Business model and finance
Having given a creative and exciting pitch, you need to unveil its firm foundations. Show the nuts and bolts of your business model and business plan, demonstrating how well they stand up on their own. Wheel out the solid figures that support your argument, and have your accountant check your sums.
7. Milestones and progress
If it’s applicable to your business pitch, you can conclude by talking about what has already been achieved. This proves that your plan is already working and has lots of potential. Highlight particular milestones or significant progress.
You never know when you might get the opportunity to explain your business. Being ready with a succinct 30-second version of your business pitch is a skill worth refining.
Think about how you’d sum up the essence of your offer in the fewest possible words. What do you do? Who do you do it for? Why is this of particular interest to them? Your elevator pitch must get straight to the point and then nail it. Try drafting half a dozen of them and test them on colleagues to see what works best.