Custom is king. I’ve raised millions for businesses I own and I’ve invested millions in other companies. If there is one thing I have learned from giving and listening to pitches it’s that tailoring your pitch to your audience dramatically increases your probability for a second conversation (by the way, a second conversation is the goal of every pitch, not getting a commitment by the end of the mtg).
Everything in our world is rapidly being customized and targeted at specific audiences. “What is your niche?” was not a common question a decade ago but try watching an episode of Shark Tank without hearing it in every conversation. Target audiences have grown much more nuanced and the tools to reach them have propelled this possibility forward.
A decade ago, people applying for jobs had one resume that was sent in for every possible opening. Now the rule of thumb is to tweak your resume to match the job description for every individual position and company you are aiming for. Even in home buying a decade ago, it was rare to see an interested buyer write a letter to the seller to tug on their emotions. Now it’s commonplace for sellers to read through a stack of letters from prospective buyers about the dreams they have for living on the property in transition.
The point I’m making here is you have to know your audience in today’s economic climate and position your pitch so that it’s targeted directly at them. I’ve seen people pitch the same slide deck to a corporate foundation one day and a private investor the next, neither moving forward into further conversations.
You may not give a perfect delivery, but there is such a thing as a perfect pitch: It’s the one that is tailored to your audience.
Why is this important?
Risk is your enemy when trying to raise funds. Perceived risk will keep any investor from wanting to have further conversations with you and your team.
- De-risk the investment opportunity by showing how your business overlaps with topics, issues, business models, investments and industries they are familiar with. Help them see themselves in the story. Help them see similarities between the worlds they are already engaged in and where you are headed with this business. 80-90% might be the same, but what 10-20% needs to be adjusted for each audience?
- De-risk the investment opportunity by building trust and showing them you have done your homework about who they are. They are not just an end to a means, a name on a list, but people you desire to partner with on this passionate pursuit toward impact and scale. Knowing about their story and something as simple as including their name or logo on the pitch deck can provide a string impression that this presentation was crafted specifically with them in mind.
- De-risk the opportunity by stewarding their time well. Don’t tell them every aspect of the business model or your whole life story in the first pitch. That’s a classic sign of desperation. Let them see your passion and subtly tip your cap to other topics you could dive into to increase confidence, but let them lead you. Follow the leading of their questions even if it doesn’t cover one of the points you wanted to make. Listen to their question and answer exactly the question that has been asked. Nothing blows up a potential investment more than not answering a given question or giving irrelevant information. Pick up on social cues. If the investor is signaling they are ready to end the meeting, follow their lead. Either you are wasting your time and theirs because they are not a fit or they are willing to do further due diligence at a later time. There are rare moments in which you will change someone’s opinion by continuing to blabber on about your product-market fit. Instead, by ending a mtg early you set the stage for maintaining a relationship with the investor for introductions to others in their network or for future rounds. Never burn a bridge you don’t have to in fundraising, it can always come back to hurt you. Leave them wanting more, not less. Steward their time, follow their lead and end the meeting before it grows stale.
So we’ve talked very little about crafting a deck and that’s mainly because there are so many great resources out there to help you with this but few that point out the aspects above. Check out Get Backed by my friends Evan and Evan, Here’s the original deck we used, here’s one of my favorite decks. Less is more. Practice with unbiased people who will be candid with you. Give your pitch to 10 audiences you know before you do it in front of an investor you don’t. Here are some podcasts where we walk through pitches we love.