Did you know that seven out of ten startups fail?
There are endless reasons why. But one that stands out is that your pitch sucks.
This means that businesses are losing before they even begin.
The companies that see explosive growth are the ones that blow customers away from the get-go.
They use data to tell a compelling narrative that makes a customer’s mouth water.
Your pitch should show (not tell) people who you are, your experience, how you’re unique in your industry, and what you have to offer.
It’s also an invitation to a long-lasting relationship.
Most businesses live or die by the strength of their pitches. This fact is unfortunately learned the hard way too often.
The trick is to not guess.
You should know, without a shadow of a doubt, what you have to say matters to potential customers.
If your goal is to land those big-ticket clients — the ones that all your competitors are drooling over — it begins with making your pitch a well-oiled machine.
And how do we do that?
One word: Data.
What does the data tell us?
The data is already out there. You just need to collect it, analyze it, and use your findings to craft a homerun of a pitch.
Vennli is a private company that focuses on helping others use data to develop effective, actionable growth strategies.
Recently, Vennli conducted a study that illustrates the importance of data and its relevance to a successful pitch.
The study surveyed 200 professionals who either worked at reputable marketing agencies or as in-house marketers for well-known brands.
Only 34% of respondents based at marketing agencies expect the reputations of their agencies to be a significant factor in the success of their pitches.
As it turns out, it’s just 15% of in-house marketers who consider reputation a deciding factor when selecting agencies’ pitches.
The Vennli research further showed that 89% of agencies with a pitch-win rate above 50% are using data to plan and develop their pitches. That’s pretty telling.
It’s also clear that data informs pitches starting at the earliest stages of pitch development.
So now you know that being data-driven plays a crucial role in the success of your pitch. What else does the Vennli study tell us?
Data lends credibility to your claims
A successful pitch uses real data to prove what you’re pitching.
It’s that old adage of showing rather than simply telling.
Let’s say you offer local businesses web design services. You could use previous clients as case studies, showcasing measurable improvements as a result of your service.
That adds much more credibility to your pitch.
Clients want to be confident that if they work with you, it will yield a return on their investment (ROI).
Offer a unique perspective, backed by real data.
Of the many types of pitches that the marketing professionals see, creative and unique pitches are often the most successful, according to the Vennli study.
Makes sense, right?
Big-ticket clients have surely heard more than their fair share of pitches, which probably get redundant.
The Vennli study showed that, among those who rethought clients’ existing marketing strategies, 41% believe doing so was a major factors in distinguishing them from competitors.
In fact, almost all those surveyed consider re-thinking a client’s current strategy to be important for a pitch in some way or form.
Here are six ways to perfect your pitch.
1. Keep the purpose of a pitch in focus
What exactly is the purpose of a client pitch?
It’s actually not to generate a sale or close a deal.
That’s a common misconception and a mistake.
According to venture capitalist and marketing specialist Guy Kawasaki, the purpose of your pitch “is to stimulate interest.”
And what stimulates more interest from a company than when your product or service is a solution to one of their problems?
This makes the “problem” and “solution” parts of your pitch particularly important.
The majority of the remainder of your pitch will contain information that supports how you propose to solve the problem.
In this way, your pitch is an invite to a more meaningful conversation. Entice and engage are two great words to keep in mind as you perfect your pitch.
Kyle Zamcheck, COO of Jackrabbit Mobile and executive communications officer, would say that your PITCH should leave People ITCH-ing for more.
Susie Kelly, founder of Spot on Marketing, is a great example of how to use data for pitching clients.
She uses tools such as SEMrush and Google Analytics to discover weak points in a leads websites. Bounce rate, traffic, and average time spent on page are key metrics.
Susie is then able to tailor her pitch to clients by making them aware of any pages that need improvement. Afterwards, she offers to improve their SEO with related services.
A simple outreach template like the one below from Hubspot can help get your foot in the door. It address both the problem and solution.
Doing background research on your big-ticket clients like this will help you figure out their goals and problems.
Which brings me to my next point.
2. Do your homework
This is perhaps the most important step.
If you want to land big-ticket clients, you need to know who you’re working with. This means you need to do some homework on leads.
Strategically choosing prospects will ensure that you have the highest chances of success. Your service should match their goals and needs perfectly.
This way, both parties benefit equally and they will be more likely to work with you.
First, you need to find and study potential clients.
How do you do that? Social listening.
This is the process of paying close attention to an industry and individual businesses. Scanning tweets, social media posts, and mentions can reveal a lot about a company.
You can come across opportunities like a request for proposal, where a company publicly seeks services.
Mediatoolkit offers a free trial that will help you perform social monitoring like this.
Enter a brand name to collect reports about:
- Their most effective social channels
- What time of day brings the highest levels of engagement
- How large their reach is
- How often their brand name is mentioned
Creating a data driven pitch with this information will make you stand out among competitors.
You could create a breakdown of how many users they are reaching, at what time, and how they are performing against competitors.
For insight about a leads website, use SEMrush. Simply enter their URL into the form on the main page.
This will reveal a websites traffic levels, which keywords they rank for, backlink sources, and more information you can use in a pitch.
Bring to their attention which keywords they are ranking for the best, who they are competing the most against, and whether organic or paid traffic is optimal.
Some leads may not even know these metrics themselves, making your research that much more impressive.
But, who says you have to do this alone?
Partnering with other agencies can speed up the process of pitching and landing clients.
Rather than looking at competition as a bad thing, you can see it as an opportunity to form an alliance.
Together, you can pool your resources to help clients achieve bigger results. During the research phase, both agencies can compile more data, too.
Whether your agency goes solo or partners up, understanding a leads customer base is essential, too.
This is why it’s wise to first take a look at any testimonials or reviews that they’ve published.
You can discover exact customers they’ve had in the past. Extract information such as pain points, interests, or demographics from these.
From there, create a consumer persona to present in your pitch. Xtensio is a great tool for piecing one together.
Make sure to take advantage of market reports, as well. These contain consumer behaviours and demographics about a prospects industry.
Shopify offers free reports that can be very useful in this case. Just take a look at this one from the consumer electronics market.
This and more information about a lead’s target audience can be found in these type of reports.
Use these tools in combination to to gain a concrete understanding of a client’s business and their customer base.
But it’s not enough to just understand it, you have to show it to them. In your pitch, include a buyers persona, charts, graphs, and all of the data you’ve collected.
When you go to make your pitch, you won’t want to contact just anyone. They need to be in a position to accept a service.
Think CEOs, CMOs, and other positions of power in a company. You can find them through social media like Twitter or Linkedin.
You can use a template like the following from BreakthroughEmail to begin your pitch.
When you are speaking with a prospect, you want to talk about them and less about you.
Otherwise it may sound like a sales letter.
And they probably already get a lot of those.
Instead, a pitch should focus on collaboration and working together to achieve a goal. Jeff Coon, a Stream Creative partner, touched on this exact approach:
“Prospects are always impressed when they see us present data from tools like Hotjar, HubSpot and Databox.”
“They’re even more impressed when we show them how we can leverage the data and insights to focus on continuous improvement for their website and digital presence,” he added.
The key to present all of the data you’ve compiled to prove you understand their market, audience, and brand as a whole.
3. Remember that pitches have structure and flow
If the prospect of creating an effective pitch seems overwhelming, this next tip should alleviate some of that concern.
Like a pitch deck, your business pitch has a specific structure.
There’s some creative freedom. But your pitch structure should be pretty consistent.
A simple way of deconstructing a pitch is with four components, including the:
Although a pitch doesn’t necessarily have to unfold in that exact order (“introduction > problem > solution > proof”), a successful pitch should have all four parts.
Additionally, each piece the content in your pitch should fall under one of those four categories.
The introduction is where you give your audience a concise explanation of your company.
Let’s look at an example with MetaCert’s pitch deck.
The first slide has very, very little text, but manages to give you a clear purpose behind the pitch.
Then the second slide — which is technically the first as the previous was a pitch deck cover — adds some additional information about the company, including the mission statement and main objective.
As an extension of your introduction, you might also explain how your company is positioned in the marketplace and use data from your research to prove those claims.
The “solution” of your pitch is your product, service, or whatever strategy that you’re pitching to your client in an effort to solve a specific “problem.”
Both are integral to the structure and flow of your pitch.
For MetaCert, the problem is the lack of security when it comes to opening links to sensitive websites from within mobile team messaging apps like Slack.
These apps weren’t build to include native security to detect malicious links, MetaCert says in the pitch, priming the audience for their solution.
Which is their own security software that can work as an add-on to team messaging apps.
The solution is MetaCert’s software, which is what’s being pitched to potential clients and business partners.
Matt Burch, vice president of strategy at Paramore Digital, emphasizes a client’s problem and builds anticipating for the solution in a pitch.
His company calls this technique their “make ‘em sick, make ‘em well” philosophy.
The best pitches are able to not only present but also agitate the problem.
Explain the possible repercussions of not finding an effective solution in a timely manner. What do they stand to lose if they don’t have a solution?
If you can get them to start sweating over the problem, your solution can coming riding in on its white horse and save your day.
Of course, putting the “make ‘em sick, make ‘em well” philosophy into practice requires you to put the components of your pitch into a certain order.
And that’s where flow comes in.
It takes some strategy to build anticipation for your solution in your audience. For this reason, you should break your pitch into distinct sections.
This will make it easier to organize the supporting data accordingly.
Similarly, your pitch should be short ‘n sweet, lean ‘n mean.
If your pitchy is wordy, your audience could start zoning out, and it’s hardly through any fault of their own.
Imagine that you’re a successful venture capitalist who has funded numerous successful startups and been behind countless product launches.
Each day, you’re inundated with pitch after pitch from an endless succession of hopeful entrepreneurs-in-waiting.
When you’re hearing lots of pitches every day, there’s some inevitable redundancy. For one thing, pitches are inherently boring (although they certainly don’t have to be — and we’ll circle back around to that in a moment).
Hearing pitches day in and day out, you quickly hear similarities and can begin to predict certain hyperboles — such-and-such product is a “game-changer” or such-and-such product is “revolutionary.”
Document analytics company DocSend recently partnered with the Harvard Business School on research on business pitches.
Specifically, they wanted to find out what determines whether a pitch is a success or a failure.
According to the study, a hallmark of successful pitches is concision. A business pitch is most successful when a minimum amount of valuable, relevant data.
It’s the old “less is more,” “quality over quantity” principle.
So you can avoid getting lumped into the “failed pitches pile” by paring down your pitch.
But how do you know when your pitch is at risk of information overload?
Founder of Oxygen Financial Ted Jenkin suggests to keep time constraints in mind.
Depending on the situation, you’ll likely be quite limited in the time you have to deliver your pitch, which likewise limits the amount of information you can feasibly communicate in that time. This forces you to leave out any additional points that aren’t absolutely essential to your pitch.
“Make sure your pitch is succinct and thorough at the same time,” Ted says.
“I own three businesses and often advise others on how to get [clients] for their new venture.”
“You must realize that you have less than two minutes in general to be able to get the core of your message across to your future lenders.”
But remember that there’s a difference between a pitch that’s short ‘n sweet and a pitch that doesn’t include enough information.
Aim to remove all of the fluff and keep what big-ticket clients really care about.
4. Be able to adapt your pitch for different audiences and situations
One of the best ways to make sure you deliver a winning pitch to a big client is to anticipate and prepare — as best you can anyway — for the uncontrollable variables.
Have you ever heard of an elevator pitch?
Specifically, make a note of variations you can use for each story element or example included in your pitch.
Below is a great example of a personalized template that you can tailor to your own audience.
Not every prospect has the same goals, needs, or budget. That is why it’s key to be flexible in how you reach out and offer your services.
This takes us back to performing research. If you’ve done your homework, you probably already have a good idea about what the prospect is trying to achieve.
The big-ticket clients you want have surely heard tons of pitches, so it takes a little something extra to distinguish yourself from the rest of the crowd.
In the Vennli study mentioned previously, “creativity and the ability to deliver unique strategies” was cited as the main characteristic of winning pitches.
A client wants to feel excited about working with you. This means you need to make a lasting impression.
It all begins with a good subject line.
Seeing as 47% of emails are opened based on their subject line, you need to stand out of the crowd to get your foot in the door.
Specifically, emails with personalized subject lines are opened 22% more often. To take advantage of this, use a prospect’s name in the subject line.
It’s also wise to add it in the opening of the email.
Let’s say that the prospect you’re pitching is an e-commerce retailer and you’re an inventory management company.
You wouldn’t want to claim that you’d help them get more clients, since it’s probably not at the top of their priorities.
Instead, you’d mention that your services can help them increase their revenue, profits, and warehousing.
That’s much better.
It’s crucial to speak in their language.You might have all of the fancy features and technology, but they mostly care about growing their business.
Align your pitch with what they really want and you’ll get better responses. From there, closing the sale also is different depending on the exact prospect.
Continuing off of the warehouse management example, you may need to give the prospect a demo of your product.
If you were just offering a service like web design though, a portfolio could suffice.
You’d also adapt the pitch to say their website needs to be mobile responsive and faster.
See how it changes based on the exact prospect?
With practice, you will get better at tailoring your pitch to the wants and needs of the client.
After you have a lead interested, you’ll need to perfect how you pitch payments.
Getting paid is a big part of offering a service after all, wouldn’t you agree?
The average marketing budget is approximately 11%, as you can see from this study done by CMOsurvey.
You’ll want to take this into consideration when brainstorming pricing.
I’d recommend that you take either a value based or hourly approach to requesting payment.
Let’s begin with the first.
Value based payment means that you are typically going to ask for a one lump sum for the service you offer.
The price is based off of the perceived value the service will bring to the client.
If you redesigned a businesses e-commerce store and it could earn them tens of thousands of dollars over time, charging more makes sense.
It’s common to request 50% upfront and 50% after the service is completed.
But, let’s say that you write blog posts for clients instead.
An hourly rate would suffice since the project is smaller and easily trackable.
Likewise, you could offer the client to pay in retainers. This means that they pay you in monthly installments for a set amount of services.
An example of this would be charging $2,000 per month for producing 20 blog posts.
Whether you’re pitching prospects, a product launch, strategy, or even yourself, a great pitch doesn’t just happen. Especially if you want to land those big-ticket clients.
But that doesn’t mean your pitch can’t be a success.
As you’ve seen, the data shows that preparation is largely the key to a successful pitch.
In particular, conducting thorough research and making the resulting data the backbone of your pitch is what’s usually the difference between success and failure.
Similarly, it’s important to familiarize yourself with some key details, including how to structure a pitch, anticipating your audience’s questions, and addressing common issues.
But beyond data and preparation, research has shown that creativity is often what gets your audience’s attention.
All of this, along with personalizing how your outreach will help you land bigger clients.
What do you think is the “secret ingredient” for a successful pitch?