How to craft the perfect pitch

Whether you've got 60 seconds, 5 minutes or half an hour you need to be ready to deliver your startup pitch.

Imagine getting ready for a date... 😍

You're pumped about meeting someone and deciding what to wear. This person has potential, and you want to make an awesome first impression. In a flash of brilliance,  you think, “why choose an outfit?” You put on all your favorite clothes and wear them, simultaneously, out to dinner. 🍷

Naturally, you look more ridiculous than attractive. 

It sounds far-fetched, but crafting a pitch often ends up like this. You try and make a really great first impression, but it's damn hard to boil down what you do. So you cram every feature, plan, and business angle into a short interaction.

That, too, looks ridiculous. 🤦‍♂️ 

You need a clear pitch. 

You're going to talk about your startup often - to potential customers, recruits, and funders - so you need a pitch that's clear and powerful.

If you have 15-30 seconds... 😅

You're short on time and short on information about the other person. So limit yourself to the basics: what problem you solve, how you solve it, and who you solve it for. 

How on earth can you distill your startup and currently-crazy life into a few sentences? 🙇You can't.

But remember, you don't want to tell the whole story here. You want to spark intrigueand conversation, and that only takes a few sentences.

To find your starting point, work through these Mad Libs: 

  • If you're [target audience], it's really [negative adjective] to [do painful thing].
  • That's why [your business] is building/offers [adjective] [noun]
  • With [your business][audience] can [verb][adverb]
  • We provide [key value] in order to [attractive goal]

For example, 

"If you're a busy AirBnB host, it's exhausting to constantly flip your home for guests. That's why Guestly offers professional guest-management services, including booking and housekeeping. With Guestly, hosts can book more often with less stress and overhead. We provide peace of mind so hosts - and their guests! - rest easy every night."

Fill in the outline, then write at least five other variations that sound like you. Try crafting one that's serious, one that's fun, and one that totally breaks the format. Edit your versions for pitch killers (see below) and practice them out loud.

If you have 60 seconds...

Intrigue is still your mission. 🕵️ Add in one or two attention-grabbers, like these:

  • We wanted to create [our product] because [interesting past experience].
  • Since founding, we've helped [person] do [compelling testimony]
  • Compared to [competitors], we offer [distinct advantage]
  • We do [verb or noun] better than anyone else because [reason]
  • We're on a mission to [verb] the world by [verb] [noun]
  • I believe in helping [audience] do [verb] [adverb]

Choose a few points that are compelling and use specifics. 

If you have five minutes... 5️⃣

Learn something about the other person and tailor your pitch to them. For example:  

  • If it's a potential funderROI is important. Mention any wow-worthy metrics, your sizable target market, and/or your big vision for growth. 📈
  • If it's your target customer, hone in on their problem and how your solution improves their life. Remember this visual from UserOnboard? 👇

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  • If it's the press, identify a story they can tell. Is your origin interesting? What about the problem you're solving? Hone in on a narrative that will captivate their readers. 🗣
  • If it's an evangelist (someone who will talk about you), imagine their next conversation. They bump into someone and say, "Hey! I gotta tell you about this startup I just met. They [description of who you are and what you do]." Equip them to give a customer pitch. 💁

If you have thirty minutes or more... 👂

Lucky duck! 🦆

The first thing you should do is shut up. 🙊

Listen carefully and attentively to the person you're with. Ask good questions and show interest in their response. Then engage them in a conversation (not a monologue) about your startup. 

If you've had your listening pants on, you'll know who they are. That’ll give you a good idea what to tell them.  👖

Alternatively, if you know you’re going to be pitching someone (say, a group of investors) do your research. How do you fit their investment thesis (the unique reason they select the companies they invest in)? Always be thinking about what your audience wants to hear. ,>

Watch out for pitch killers! ☠️

Part of delivering a good pitch of any length is knowing what to leave out:  

  • Jargon. Unless you're talking to an industry expert, use plain English. 🤔
  • Self-depreciation. In early days, you're a proxy for your startup's value. Let your strengths shine. 💪✨
  • Arrogance. No one's been funded because they were, "God's gift to [industry]." 🙄<>
  • Lies. Don't invent metrics or imaginary team members. It'll catch up to you. 😬
  • Offensive statements. Snarky remarks can make you stand out but steer clear of openly offensive statements. 👎
  • Monotone. If you're passionate about what you're saying, listeners will pay attention. Bring the heat! 💥

Rewrite often 📝

Your pitch will take practice and that's okay. If it doesn't come naturally to you, don't be discouraged. Smoothing out a pitch looks like the "process" below for most people. 👇
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So keep talking to people, keep practicing and keep pitching - even when you screw some deliveries up.  

Your pitch, like your startup, will improve over time.

"Q: What's the secret nobody knows about making a great pitch?
 A: Know your audience."
- Salesforce + Scott Kitun, CEO of Technori

Want to see us cover a topic? Have major startup questions or sticking points? Email andrew@builtbykrit.com