With CES buzzing with attendees and activity and Mobile World Congress just months away ask yourself: Are you — and your pitch— ready for the action? Dan Cohen and Isaac Applbaum team up to walk you through what you need to make an effective pitch.
As 2015 rolls in, industry watchers see an upbeat and evolving market for consumer and ‘prosumer’ mobile technology, with abundant injections of venture capital to ensure 2015 is another year of strong growth and record investment in technology and mobile startups.
The stakes are high – and immediate. Whether you believe it’s wild times ahead (with the venture community going to continue to party like it’s 1999), or you think it’s a calm before the storm, this is the time to think — and re-think— how to talk about your product, your company — or both.
Using external forces to help shape your pitch:
In an email leaked as part of the Sony hack, Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel predicts a vast correction is headed our way. He warns that “VC dollars are being spent on user acquisition despite unknown LTV of users— a recipe for disaster.” That statement has no doubt prompted the industry to start asking some tough questions. (How would you respond to Spiegel’s comments and the concerns they raise about user acquisition?)
At the same time, a recent report from VisionMobile’s App Economy report pegs the market size of app developers at over 5.5 million entities and increasing. There are vast growth opportunities ahead for indie app developers, established app companies and the many vendors that provide them what they need to make their apps amazing (from cross-platform tools to push notifications). Against this backdrop, you need to continually ask yourself if you are talking about your venture and vision in a compelling way – and one that is aligned with the times. (What’s your mobile strategy?)
Whether you agree or disagree, Silicon Valley legend Marc Andreesson’s 18 tweets in September 2014 were a dire warning of a tech bubble about to drive significant change. He isolated the pressures facing both investors chasing wins and startups seeking funding. (Are you ‘ready’ for a tech bubble and the aftermath? What would you say?)
Now look inside, use your experiences to help shape your pitch:
Great communicators are humble. They recognize it’s never about what they want to say; it’s all about the audience. Simply put, it’s about what the person on the other side of the conversation needs to hear in order for them to do what you, the communicator, want them to.
Here are some suggestions on how to use this moment to up your game and prepare to make your most effective pitch ever. Period.
Tell a story.
Imagine sitting with a talented entrepreneur, one with a game-changing idea and boundless energy, but who takes 30 minutes to ramble through the opportunity they see and how they plan to grasp it. Sound familiar? This happened to us last month in three separate conversations with three entrepreneurs in three different industry spaces – including the digital marketing space.
What if, instead, the entrepreneur has shared a quick story to describe the opportunity ahead? It would make a world of difference for one big reason. Ideally, telling a powerful and granular story can take a complicated topic like technology tools and place them squarely in the realm of the everyday.
To retool your pitch to stress your relevance and value within this realm, here are some leading questions to consider.
· Do you have a story about how your product or service can uniquely solve a billion dollar problem?
· Could you put a personal face on that? Have you turned one of your customers in to an internal superstar by revolutionizing their results?
· Is this a replicable model?
· Is this a product built for tumultuous times?
· Finally, is there a granular fact that is memorable?
Use plain language.
While your service or product might be a complex technology solution that would mesmerize the cast of the Big Bang Theory, think first about whether your audience is ready to dive down into the weeds with you. A rule of thumb: if you aren’t talking to an industry veteran of 10 years, then to try to use plain language like you are talking to a friend over a beer. Instead of ‘demand centered lead generation’, consider phrasing it: “we help people use technology to sell products to big companies at the moment they are ready to buy.”
Often, what entrepreneurs are doing can be so powerful and transformative, however, in speaking to potential investors, the idea gets lost in industry jargon.
Consider replacing some of your lingo with plain-speak. You will have thousands of conversations each week. Try to use each one to balance your tech-talk with compelling and easy-to-understand language. Remember: you want the investor or strategic partner to be able to communicate what you want them to take away from the conversation long after you have engaged them.
There is one caveat. Often there are ‘hot’ industry buzzwords that can connect your idea to a larger movement or trend. Don’t miss the opportunity to ride that wave. If you are going to connect your idea to a buzzword (like “Big Data”), then make sure you can quickly and plainly articulate your unique connection. It will be a very crowded landscape so it’s important to stand out.
What is your 7 year vision?
Entrepreneurs can often achieve overnight success. But, in reality, that reward comes after several years of hard work. It is a very fine line to balance the immediacy of the opportunity you present to an investor or customer with the picture of a long-term and stable partner. At one level, you are a nimble newcomer with new ideas. At the other end of the spectrum, you must communicate that you are a seasoned entrepreneur with the business acumen to make it through the long haul. Cover both ends by preparing to answer some challenging questions, like the ones below, that show you think in years, not quarters.
· How can you transport an investor 5-7 years into the future and paint the most vivid portrait of what success looks like? Is it a compelling vision?
· What is your strategy to thrive if/when times get difficult? How can you make that your moment?
· What validators do you have that agree with you that you can cite or quote?
Borrow a page from Coach John Wooden of UCLA who famously stated: “Be quick, but don’t hurry.”
Adding a sense of urgency, while bathing it in your confidence to achieve the vision, may be a great place to start. Surely, with trade shows and conferences kicking off to set this year’s technology agenda, and the heightened concern among VCs about user acquisition strategies and startup valuations, there’s no better time than today to retool your pitch.
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Isaac Applbaum is an Angel Investor (and Chief Evangelist for Radius).
Dan Cohen is Founder of Full Court Press Communications, a full service strategic communications firm.