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The Pitfalls of the Pitch

Sooner or later just about every entrepreneur will have to pitch their idea to someone.  It might be a family member, local banker, Small Business Administration associate, venture capitalist, angel investor, or community board.  The pitch might only last a few minutes but it can be terrifying for the entrepreneur.  It can also be just as painful for the audience if the entrepreneur isn’t well prepared for the particular audience and pitch.

Every pitch is unique.  Every entrepreneur (and their idea, hopefully) is unique.  Additionally, every audience is unique.  Having said this…what turns a pitch into a homerun?  Preparation.

Entrepreneurs need to realize that the pitch is not a sales pitch.  Instead, it is a business pitch.  You are not giving the pitch to sell your product or service.   So avoid spending too much time explaining how great your product or service is.  You are selling the business concept instead.  Your goal is to get your audience to buy into the business…to buy into YOU!  “You” just happen to be offering an innovative product or service.   In order to get that “buy-in” you will need to accomplish a few goals during your pitch.

  • Describe your product or service briefly.  Do not go into excruciatingly painful technical detail.  Too often, commonly with medical pitches, the entrepreneur/inventor covers every technical aspect of their innovative product.  Unfortunately, those listening to the pitch don’t have a clue what you are talking about.  When you are giving a pitch you must understand your audience.  Describe the product to their level of understanding.  This doesn’t mean you should talk down to them it simply means you shouldn’t bore them with too much technical detail.
  • Describe your competence in the marketplace.  You are selling yourself.  Investors are investing in your ability to make the business profitable.  You will do this with your particular product or service…but it all comes back to you.  Can YOU make this business model work?
  • Describe exactly who the market is and where the market is.  This is a typical problem.  I’m a baby boomer.  My back hurts, my knees crack in the morning, my hairline keeps moving and I need glasses to read.   If you want me to understand a product or service for tweens, millennials, or customer more “mature” than me…you might need to explain some aspects of those markets to me to make sure I have the same level of marketplace understanding that you might.  If you don’t do a good job describing your market…the audience can only assume you don’t understand it either.   I once listened to a pitch about “nap centers” on college campuses similar to those in some international airports.   Since I teach on a college campus and see students sleeping on every sofa and bench on campus I understood the specific market but I watched in amazement at other panelists in their 60’s and 70’s who thought a campus nap center was an utterly ridiculous idea.  In fact, it was a very valid idea.
  • Describe your competitors.  Too often I hear a pitch that includes the line, “I don’t have any direct competition”.  All I really hear is, “I haven’t done enough work to understand who my competition is”.  Go back to the drawing board.  You will have competition!  In the very rare instance where competition is minimal then think about how you can create barriers to entry for them.
  • Describe your competitive advantage.  What is going to really make you successful?  How is your company different?  Is there a distinct (proprietary) technology involved?  Since you WILL have competition…how will you deliver the product or service better?

Once you have a good understanding of what you hope to accomplish during the pitch you can begin to figure out how to get it across to your audience within the time constraints that will be given.

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