As nervous start-ups face off against the intimidating ‘Dragons’ of South Africa’s version of Dragons’ Den, they will attempt to pitch their business idea to five potential investors. Some get it right, others fail epically.
When it comes down to it, you only have five minutes to convince people your product is disruptive and something people will actually buy.
As a tech startup, you are probably fluent in the language of investors, tech journalists and entrepreneurs. But sometimes, your needs call for you to step out of the tech bubble and pitch to an audience that, figuratively, speaks an entirely different language.
Recently, we faced this challenge when pitching our new product Katana at Grow Fashion, an event for fashion e-commerce business leaders. We were a bunch of tech nerds pitching a virtual customer service solution at a fashion event. This called for an entirely unique approach to our standard tech pitch.
Watch Dragons’ Den SA on Tuesdays on Mzansi Magic, DSTV Channel 161 at 19:00pm.
To prepare, we did our due diligence and even pulled a couple all-nighters. But it was all worth it when we saw the line of executives waiting to give us their business cards as soon as we got off stage. Next time you pitch, here are some things to keep in mind to make your pitch stand out:
1. Do some research.
Find out who your audience is. Cater the pitch specifically to their problems and needs. An effective pitch is a relevant pitch. For our GrowFashion pitch, we asked our friends who worked in e-commerce their pain points.
We learned customer engagement and loyalty are major issues for many online brands, so we focused our pitch on the importance of a unique customer experience. We touched upon the limitations of creating a great customer experience online and how important it was to have human-to-human contact to create brand loyalty. In this way, we began framing our product as a solution in a very organic way.
2. Connect with your audience on a human level.
No matter how revolutionary your product is, it cannot sell itself. Introduce yourself them as person with a life outside of your startup. Share pictures, an embarrassing “fun-fact”, or just give them some family background.
Remind your audience that you are human too. It’ll give them something to remember you by.
3. Tell a story they can relate to.
Once you understand their pain point, make it known you’ve experienced it too. Share an anecdote and give them some insights into how this makes you feel as a customer. We walked our audience through the in-store shopping experience and what we loved about it.
“We walk into a store and people know our name, ask us personal questions, and tell us how great we look in a particular pair of shoes…” This got them to consider how we can transfer this experience to the digital landscape, something we know they’ve been thinking about.
4. Share facts.
Build trust. Get them to think about you as a thought leader, not as a salesperson. Put together some compelling quotes from articles and interviews.
For us, it was all about how improving the customer experience can help retain more customers, create stronger brand loyalty, and establish a more engaged community. At this point, we had our audience thinking: How can we improve our customer experience?
When you show you are well versed in a subject, your audience starts to trust you.
5. Be subtle – don’t give it all away.
This one can be a little tricky. While it’s important to showcase your product, there’s no need to walk through each feature like you’re selling a car. What is it that is going to attract people to your product or service?
When you present your startup as a solution to their problem, you begin to create interest. Show them a preview of what you’ve got, but hold off on the tutorial until they’ve made the transaction—leave it up to the audience to connect the dots.
6. Make them laugh.
Crack a smile and remind them, yet again, that you are human. Don’t risk taking yourself too seriously. Say something silly. If you’ve lost their attention, you’re likely to get them right back with a little unexpected humor.
7. Create a sense of urgency.
Point out their competition. Find an example of how one company is using a similar product to convince them that they must act now.
We introduced our audience to Amazon’s Mayday video chat customer support to reminded them they were late to the game. Just how much longer are they willing to wait before a competitor beats them to market and lures their customers away?
8. Make a bold statement.
Make it really easy to extend your reach beyond the conference. Come up with a few unique statements that are less than 140 characters long. These tweetable lines will get your audience sharing your pitch with their networks.
9. Make your final words count.
Give your audience a reason to come see you after your pitch. Your last line is what they will walk away with.
Ending with a generic “Come sign up for our product now!” leaves your audience with only one reason to approach you. Try a friendlier, more approachable conclusion: “learn more” or “come say hi.” You’ll have the opportunity to attract a much larger, more enthusiastic crowd.
Using these tips to pitch our startup at GrowFashion got us the attention of Fortune 500 companies and taught us how to make a valuable connection with our audience and leave a lasting impression in less than five minutes.