This article is originally published on Democrat & Chronicle, a USA Today network
I was on the panel last Friday at the Tech Startup Expo, approached by business owners and tech company founders who were eager to get more publicity about their business.
Listening to pitches for 45+ minutes straight is brutal. Trying to remember all the people and what their business is about is even harder.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a CEO, a teacher, a journalist or a politician. We all struggle to make our pitches memorable.
Want to get publicity? You’re pitching to reporters about why they should write about you.
Want to raise capital? You’re pitching to investors to give you cash when God only knows if they’ll ever see a return.
Want to make a sale? You’re pitching to your customers why they should buy from you versus all other choices available in the marketplace, including their choice to do nothing.
Want to convince a great candidate to work for you? You’re pitching to him to follow your vision and join the tribe that’s led by you.
My worst pitch happened early this year. I pitched a local business owner about how I might help him. That pitch was so horrible that to this day, I still hide from this guy whenever I see him around.
On the other hand, my good pitches get me responses from movers and shakers who are on Forbes’ “30 under 30” list.
Having been pitching and now occasionally been pitched to, I’ve learned through trial and error, why some of the pitches worked while others didn’t.
So I want to share some analyses on how to improve your pitch and deal-killers you should avoid.
My hope is that you can apply these principles even in non-business aspects of your life.
#1. Do Your Homework on the Person You’re Pitching to
Do you know what this reporter writes about?
Do you know what kind of business this investor invests in?
Anyone who comes up to me saying “Hey Siwei, I’ve been reading your blog...” is guaranteed to get 100% of my attention and respect.
In case you didn’t know how to figure out that I write blogs at my personal website and D&C, there’s a thing called Google. Google my name and see what comes up.
I’ve used the same approach to meet with Sameer Penakalapati, CEO of Avani Technology Solutions, a Top 100 Rochester and Inc. 5000 company.
I admire his work and wanted to meet him in person.
But I didn’t know him, nor he was aware of my existence.
After doing my homework, I knew he wrote blogs. So I read everything he’d ever written and cold emailed him.
The result? I met him at his office early this year. I benefit from the conversation with him to this day.
I love it when people write to me and share the results they get using the stuff I shared on my blog. And I’ve always written back to them.
#2. The WIIFM Test: What's In It For Me?
We all want someone to hear our stories. So we tend to talk about ourselves (who we are, what we do, what our business is about, etc.).
It’s fine to give me some background information about yourself, but if you keep talking about you, you and more of you, my eyes WILL roll over.
I mean, WHAT’S IN IT FOR ME? Why should I care?
A great pitch is all about the person you’re pitching to.
Yes, you have talents and you’re doing interesting things, so do the other 300 million people. Don’t assume that you’re a special snowflake (even if you are one.)
Let’s do a mock-pitch.
You: I’m passionate about cooking. I am an award winning chef.
My response: Good for you. And ??? (Why should I care?)
You: I will cook for you so when you’re home after a long day, dinner is ready. You don’t need to think about “What should I make tonight” and it’ll save you an hour every day from preparing food to cooking food.
My response: I need this. When can you start?
#3. Be Concrete
Does any of this sound familiar to you?
“I'm disappointed in the way we gamify our native advertising. Let's please change our efforts.”
“Our narrative is the most 24/7 thing at our company. Do your best to benchmark it.”
“Your colleagues are increasingly robust, so it's important that we leverage accordingly.”
If you want more meaningless phrases like those, go to Business Buzzwords Generator. (It’s a tool to generate meaningless business phrases using overused business buzzwords by WSJ. Have fun!)
Buzzword-packed phrases like these make it harder to understand your idea.
In a world of information-overload, no one has the time to decipher your “code words”.
When a person pitched me with “My business helps increase social influence”, I got lost instantly. I admit, it sounded good and important, but I had no clue what it actually meant. I hated it when I understood every single word in that sentence, but somehow couldn’t make sense of it as a whole.
If it requires me to figure out what your business is about, it’s a bad pitch.
Instead, think about what specific problem you’re solving?
Key word: SPECIFIC.
Bonus point: If you get more dates using these principles, email me with pictures.
Feel free to send me your pitch (whatever it is about, I don’t care if it’s a pitch to investors, or a pitch to meet me for coffee, a pitch to get a girl's’ phone number) and I will give you some feedback on how to improve it.
You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with subject line “My Pitch”.