So, you have a great business idea — now what do you do? Well, it’s time to start planning and pitching your startup to potential partners, investors, clients, friends, family, and other decision-makers. Though we are all navigating uncharted waters this year, the world is still hungry for your entrepreneurial creativity.
You may still be wondering: What exactly is a pitch? Most of us have heard of the famous “elevator pitch,” wherein you condense your new product down to whatever you can say in three to five minutes. While pitching in real life may not be as dramatic as having only three floors to get your idea across, it needs to be every bit as concise and fast. Your pitch is your business dream and all the details you’ve worked out to make it a reality, sized down to the bare essentials and made as undeniably attractive as possible.
It’s as crucial to know when to pitch as it is to know what goes into a great pitch. You never want to pitch an investor prior to having your formal business plan in place. This business plan needs to provide laser-like detail on your target market, the problem your business will be solving, your business model, your full financial projections/current holdings, and a thorough presentation of competitors.
In this guide, we’ll help you craft the perfect business pitch and connect you with our business formation services page to ensure you get your new idea up and running.
This is often one of the first questions people ask — and there is no correct answer! However, small business owners should have a few different lengths of pitches available depending on their situation. The “best” answer to this question often simply comes down to time.
Always be prepared to give a one-, five-, 10-, or even 20-minute pitch, each one going into a little more detail. You won’t pitch large companies the same way you will single investors. Small business owners should always ask, “Well, how much time do you have?” so they know which pitch to use. We will cover exactly what should be included in the pitch in the section below.
Concerns about confidentiality are understandable when pitching. Keeping a designated pitch diary is advisable. Protect yourself by keeping detailed notes on all of your ideas, with dates. Do the same for all conversations wherein you have discussed your idea with investors so that you will have a paper trail of proof that the idea was yours should an ownership challenge ever arise.
While non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) are common in the business world and you certainly can ask for an NDA with potential investors, many may be unwilling to sign. You will then be forced to weigh your options and figure whether the prospective capital gains would be greater than any risk you are running by exposing your product idea. Always share only the details of your business that you must; never share secrets until contracts are inked.
If you are the creator of an invention that you will be pitching, it is vital to seek patent protection before talking about the invention to anyone. Once you have spoken publicly about your invention, it is no longer eligible for a patent.
While every pitch should be highly focused on the particular investor in front of you and thus different from the last, there are some items that go into all good pitches. Learn to tweak these to your advantage by reading the room. Do your homework on the past portfolios of investors and make the wording unique so your branding stands out.
Here is a preview of the 13 tips to perfect your pitch:
Lead off with a fun or gripping story relative to your new business. You should talk about how you identified or realized there was a problem and how your product or service could fill it. This is the hook to get people interested right away in your pitch, so it’s really important! The key here is to include human elements.
You will want to highlight the specific lives of people in your story and how those lives were positively impacted by your business idea (or negatively impacted because they were without it). Always strive to show in your intro story how or why your product line is essential.
Investors want to know whom they will be working with. Why is this a good business opportunity for them? Do you have a co-founder or other marketers on the pitch deck to introduce? Do this in a jovial, fun, and engaging way — don’t just state names and ages.
Emphasize why you and your team are especially knowledgeable or skilled in the problem that the business will address. If you are a new freelance engineer who has taught at MIT for the past 20 years, this is information your investors need to hear.
Take a moment to underscore your target audience (the people who will be using your product) and why they matter. Why is this group so interesting/profitable/untapped? You need to emphasize the depth of your market research here and show investors that you have proven a clear need or demand for what you are pitching. Numbers are key in this segment of your pitch.
For example, let’s say you are a former aesthetician in a dermatologist’s office who is starting your own business around a beauty product you have developed. Insert specific information here about how your years in the office revealed hundreds of cases of customers who were in need of exactly this product.
Investors need to know about your company’s bottom line, precisely how you are making that money and what this revenue stream looks like for the future. They also need to know how you have structured your company: LLC? Corporation? Partnership? This is your chance to show them that you have done your research: Present the most precise numbers and other data that you can.
What exactly are you spending money on, and how do you plan on monitoring your costs? Will your company be outsourcing anything? If so, what, to whom, and for how much? Take this opportunity to impress your potential investor by illustrating that you have thought of innovative approaches to revenue and have spent the time to attentively anticipate challenges your business may face in the days to come.
Talk efficiently here about how you will get new customers and continue to grow your market. What’s your plan to get out of Mom’s basement and into stores in your area? What marketing tactics are you using or do you plan to use, and why? This section of your pitch needs to avoid conjectures and be based, much like the previous section, nearly entirely on hard numbers so you can prove you have spent adequate time on research.
For instance, if you are founding a graphic design consultancy, don’t spend this section hypothesizing about the number of clients you can take with you from the agency you’re leaving. Have those very real numbers in your hand because you have already had very real conversations with these customers. Be able to show your audience how you will pivot off those early clients to a wider customer base via social media, improvements over similar products, or any matters of intellectual property that will set your company apart.
This section of your professional presentation should also be extremely data-driven. Provide money numbers, time frames, and scaling ratios here to showcase your company’s past milestones. How much have you grown since your business’s inception? How did that growth occur? How will you attract potential customers once the newness wears off? Be specific, positive but not boastful, and able to freely show charts, graphs, or other representations of your company’s upward track.
Every business has at least one major competitor. Most have many. Never make the mistake of declaring that your product or service has no competitors. This will not only make you sound unappealing and arrogant in your pitch, but it is also simply never true. This portion of your pitch should offer a smart shoutout to the other companies in your field with whom you will be directly competing.
Why are these businesses your competition? Provide hard data. What does your idea have that theirs does not? Where might they have the current edge on your idea, and what do you plan to do about that? Insert details here that specifically address how your company will stand out from the crowd.
Though many entrepreneurs may not find this part of the pitch the easiest, you cannot be shy about the amount of money you actually need. State a realistic, verifiable figure and articulate why that is the precise figure you need. This may take some number crunching and careful, reasonable estimations on your part.
Your number should not be too high or too low; it should be as exact as you can possibly make it and backed by research that you can quote or show. If your foundational research has shown that it is going to take $2 million to launch your freelance ad agency, don’t forget to figure in taxes. The first year of business can be notoriously unstable, and you don’t want to under-pitch and then have to worry about money again later.
It’s hugely important to understand who you are pitching to. What appeals to your audience? Are these numbers-only Wall Street types or are they more of the Silicon Valley variety that may be receptive to aspects of your human story? Can you tailor your pitch to something that they will personally connect to?
Remember, your pitch is not about you; it’s about your listeners. You need to appeal to them on every level available to you. Use pathos, ethos, and logos to your advantage. Are they parents? You could connect via pathos by sharing a story on how your child inspired your new fintech firm. The key here is to read the room and respond to the setting it gives you rather than relying on a canned, one-size-fits-all approach to your pitch.
You don’t want your pitch to be all words if you can help it. Visual aids are your best friends because they will stick with your audience members longer than most of what you say. Samples of your product or services should always be present, but include other visual supports here, too. PowerPoints, charts, graphs, and infographics are all excellent.
Don’t worry if you are not particularly savvy with this sort of thing. A host of free presentation software is out there to practically do it for you. Most of what you will be responsible for is inputting the information correctly and clicking a button to make the presentation start.
The end of your pitch is as important, if not more so, than the beginning. There are many popular ways to close a pitch, but you want this portion of your talk to be as original as you and your idea. You want to leave your audience with a powerful impression and some of how that will be achieved may rely on who they are. You may stress the urgency of the product for some and argue why it’s better than all its competitors to others.
Whatever closing pitch strategy you elect, you need to practice multiple varieties of it. Test your comfort level in implementing humor, pathos, or repetition in your closing, and be ready to use any of them at the drop of a hat.
We’ve saved the most important step for last: Practice your pitch! And by “practice,” we do mean over and over and over until it’s as natural to you as breathing. Your pitch should not feel stiff, but like a conversation. It should be flexible; you should work on it until you’re comfortable with any question that an investor may pose that could shift the pitch’s tone or direction.
You can practice your pitch in a wide variety of ways, too. Join your local Toastmasters club, talk to strangers on the street, make your family and friends your audience, or schedule meetups with mentors. Choose a practice style and space that is comfortable for you so you will be fully ready when the real moment comes.
Great pitches do not fall out of the sky any more frequently than angel investors do. Innovation and practice make perfect! Your business pitch needs to start and finish creatively and be a well-oiled machine by the time it reaches its first audience. If you project confidence throughout your pitch, that will resonate with your listeners and incline them toward hearing more.
ZenBusiness can help take the heat off growing your business by offering everything from registered agent services to help with regulatory compliance. Let ZenBusiness handle the paperwork so you can get back to polishing the perfect pitch!
A pitch can be given anywhere, from a board room in a major corporation to a street corner while you wait for the light to change. Pitching is all about reading the moment and knowing what to say, how much, and to whom.
That depends on the scenario you are in. As a small business entrepreneur, you need to have several pitches of variant lengths (one, five, 10, and 15 minutes) ready to go at all times. Always ask how much time a potential investor has and let that guide you to which pitch is right at that moment. Having multiples of varying degrees of detail also allows you to scale up easily if your audience expresses interest and you get more time.
Once you have concluded your formal pitch, take control of what happens next by suggesting a follow-up coffee date, handing over your business card, or directing the potential investor to your website. Making a plan to talk again in some capacity allows you to keep this opportunity fresh in your investor’s mind while you wait for an official response. If there is any aspect of your business formation that you are currently unsure of or need help with, contact ZenBusiness for professional, customizable assistance.
Great pitches can be found in many places online, such as in articles, blogs, or YouTube videos. Professional sites like LinkedIn offer real-world examples of pitches and advice on how to improve them through community networks within your field. You can also get a sense of good pitching skills by watching popular television shows like “Shark Tank.”
All small business owners face rejection at least once, and most do many times. Pick up and move on to the next investor, but always incorporate useful advice or adjustments that were offered to you by the investors who passed.