By Simon Davies, Bastion Brands founder
There is an art to pitching that goes beyond a slick pitch deck and an articulate presenter. In Australia, we don’t have as many opportunities to pitch, therefore we lack experience but place higher stakes on winning, which can affect our performance.
When I started Bastion Brands in 2012, I had no experience in running a business, but travelled a steep learning curve by pitching for projects as often as I could. Now, after plenty of rejections (but many acceptances that have resulted in a successful business), I am launching our Boost Initiative, a confidential, shark tank style competition for healthcare startups to help accelerate their growth.
Drawing from both sides of the pitching process, I’m going to share three things to get your business pitch-ready.
1. Consolidate your business idea
Ideas on their own are worth very little, the value comes from the execution of those ideas. If you have not started the business, you will need to conduct a feasibility study to show you have done the appropriate research and assure investors or potential clients that you have what it takes to succeed.
At this stage, the who, what, when, where, how and why are the most important questions to answer:
- Who is behind this business?
- How are you going to make sales?
- What are the sales forecasts for year 1 – 3 (be realistic here)
- What is your target market? Where are you currently placed in your overall business plan?
- How are you going to manufacture the product or provide the service?
- Why is your business necessary? (What problem does it solve?) Why do you need investment?
If your business already exists, add details about key target markets and current clientele, your unique selling proposition, your reputation, and your track record thus far. Investors and clients also like to hear about potential future markets and how you plan to expand.
Businesses are largely about solving problems, so identify the main pain points your business solves. This will also clarify your primary target market and reach. If you need investment to pivot or change your approach, make sure you have research such as trend data to support why this is a good idea.
2. Research your investor
The foundation of a pitch is a sound business plan and the right research to support; the secondary factor is a personal one.
Do your due diligence on your potential investor or client. This should go beyond financial information and follow what they are interested in, from their business attitude to their track record of acceptances and rejections. An assessment of what the investor or client can do for you beyond money is always helpful.
- Does your investor/potential client have a ‘type’ of business or founder they like?
- Do they tend to back the same sorts of businesses or do they like to have a portfolio of businesses that are very different?
- What are the prerequisites, priority and desirable factors in their decision?
- How much are they willing to invest/spend and what do they expect in return?
- What is the track record/success rate of previous businesses they’ve invested in or had as a supplier?
- And finally, do you think you can work with this person or these people? Don’t discount how much personality compatibility or clashes can affect the ongoing success of your business.
3. Sharpen your pitch
The pitching or tender process requires a specific set of criteria and being across what’s required will help you prepare the optimal selling points and details required by the investor or client.
Open with a concise description of your business. Often known as an ‘elevator pitch’, this is a one- or two- sentence outline of your business that quickly tells people what problem your business solves and entices them to learn more. After this top-line description, support your pitch with the detail and research covering the criteria and aimed at the investor or client’s interests.
Make sure your deck is easy to read and engaging and rehearse your presentation so you are confident when you’re in front of an audience. Also have easy access to facts, figures and research references in case you field a question requiring more detail.
Now here’s the thing: simply getting in the room gives you valuable experience. Meeting a potential investor or client enables you to establish rapport with the people involved. Even if you are rejected you can learn to improve by asking for feedback. And finally, being able to come back after rejection shows incredible resilience and is sometimes more impressive than securing investment or a commission after your first pitch.
Pitching can be a scary process, but the more you do it, the better you get. Start with a firm foundation by knowing your business inside-out, understanding the pitch audience and refining your presentation and you’ll soon find you land pitches more often than not.
Simon Davies, is founder and CEO of Bastion Brands, an award-winning creative agency he founded in 2012.
Bastion Brands recently launched the ‘Boost Initiative’, a confidential, shark tank style competition offering healthcare startups the chance to win $25,000 in marketing, design and creativity support.