How to pitch your business in 3 minutes

I am Edna, a Startup Support Specialist at Startup Garage, an accelerator program, which is housed-in Invest Ottawa incubator. This summer, we are helping 13 innovative startups from different industries launch and grow their businesses.

How do you catch the attention of your audience? How do you transmit the excitement and value of your product/service? How can you make your pitch memorable?

There is not a unique formula for a perfect pitch. A business pitch will vary depending on your audience (watch David Rose’s TED talk on How to pitch to a VC), your product or service, and your company’s stage. Here are a few tips on how you can nail your business pitch:

Photo by Helloquence

WHO & WHAT

The first question you should ask is WHO is my audience?, and WHAT is the objective of pitching to them? i.e. “My audience are Angel Investors, and my objective is to raise 500k US dollars.” or “My audience are my target customers, and my objective is to create brand awareness.” These questions are crucial for planning your pitch; by knowing your audience, you can emphasize information that is important to them and be able to attain your objective.

The WHAT question is not only applicable to your pitch. For every move, you make during your business journey ask: WHAT for I am doing this? For every decision you make you want to have a goal that would positively impact your business, if you don’t, you should save your resources for something that does.

CATCH YOUR AUDIENCE’S ATTENTION

You can get creative when starting your elevator pitch. You could tell a story (The “Star Wars” Method of Storytelling), a phrase on how your business will change the world, show an image, a fact, ask a rhetorical question or share a meaningful quote. Whatever it is, make sure it is powerful and create a connection with the audience. Your goal is to make your audience care about what you are saying.

And, unless you are Elon Musk, don’t forget to say your name and your role. You are the star at that moment, make sure people know who you are.

PITCH CONTENT

The following is not the final pitch guideline, but it includes the necessary information that any basic pitch should include. Remember to focus your pitch on your audience. It is more about them and less about you.

PROBLEM: what the problem your product or service will solve? Portray your problem as urgent, as a matter that requires immediate attention. i.e., “Every day the automotive industry is losing 5M dollars because...” or “A child is dying every hour due to...” Numbers, especially in term of dollars, are important. They quantify the problem. If you aren’t able to use numbers, use words that mirror the importance of the problem.

SOLUTION: Now that the audience understands the magnitude of the problem tell them how your product or service tackles the problem. What is your business name and concept? Who is your target customer? Why would they buy from you? i.e., NOVAL is a high tech company that optimizes every single manufacturing operation of the automobile factories, our services will save them up to 5M per day on manufacturing costs.”

MARKET LANDSCAPE: Is the opportunity big enough to build a sustainable and scalable business? Is the competitive landscape cluttered or open for disruption? Show numbers, statistics or any other piece of information that supports the number of prospective customers in your targeted area and globally. How much money do they represent for your business monthly or annually? Show the potential of your business.

HOW ARE YOU GOING TO DO IT? Present your business model that is how are you going to make money. Show your go to market strategies, and your growth projections. Financial projections are essential for investors, be ambitious, but at the same time realistic. Your plan and strategies should look consistent with your financial projections.

TEAM: “Ideas are easy. Implementation is hard” — Guy Kawasaki. Someone else in the world is thinking or has already thought of your idea. The real question is who can transform that idea into something big? Tell your audience why you are the right person or ideally team to make this happen. The audience should be asking “Why you?” make sure to answer that. Highlight your experiences, skills, key insights, network, anything that is going to help you succeed.

STATUS, TRACTION, AND OBJECTIVES: This is when you are showing your drive and commitment. What have you done since you started? Where is the business today? Do you have customers? Are you testing your product? Have you been in the press, or have won any prizes? Don’t be shy and show that you have been out there working for your business to take off. Share your current status, your next objectives, and your needs. Your audience may be able to help you attain your goals or referring that technical person that you are looking for.

Photo taken by Marcos Luiz
Remember, you only have 3 minutes for your entire pitch so think of it as an appetizer, give the audience enough and excellent information to get them interested and set up a follow-on meeting.

OTHER (NOT ALWAYS) OBVIOUS GUIDELINES…

  • Be confident and have a positive attitude.
  • Practice. Video record yourself when practicing your pitch presentation. You can evaluate and work on your voice tone, your body language, your timing, etc.
  • Be honest. There is a tendency in the startup world to hype things that are not there. Be cautious with this, anyone who is well versed in the space, could dismantle your claims in seconds and make you look clueless.
  • Dress code. It depends on the event and your audience. Research on how formal you need to be.
  • Presentation tools. Put time and effort preparing a pitch deck (check The Best Startup Pitch Decks). You can use other complementary tools like videos and demos, only use them if necessary; they could be a double-edged sword. Whatever you choose, make sure they are clean, useful and understandable. Remember not to rely on them fully; they are only a visual support (check this video about uSupplyMe).
  • Be prepared for the Q&A — Have appendix slides, or prepare for possible questions. Answer respectively and never get into an open argument with a member of the audience or panel. Knowing your numbers, your market, your competitors, will give you credibility.
Thank you for reading! Please share this post. Sharing is caring :)

Edna Urrego, Startup Support Specialist at Startup Garage.