Category Archives: Pitching to Investors

A Successful Pitch May Come Down to Your Words

A Successful Pitch May Come Down to Your Words  
What to Say and What to Avoid 

Mindy Barker | Barker Associates

Lately, we’ve been talking a lot about pitching investors. We talked about the importance of your story coming through loud and clear and why you need two pitch decks. And with all this “talk,” it now comes down to your actual words.  

You have a limited time to tell your story and make the best impression. Knowing what will resonate with potential investors, and perhaps, more importantly, what will not resonate with them, can make all the difference in whether you receive funding. Even if your pitch deck is perfect, it can easily be derailed by poor word choice. How you choose your words says a lot about you, your views on your business, and how you would fare as a potential partner.  

Overall, your pitch will tell your story, including information about the problem (briefly), target market, revenue or business model, early successes and milestones, customer acquisition, team, financials, competition (briefly), funding needs, and exit strategy. As you’re talking about each, there are words and phrases you should avoid, as what the investor hears when you say them will be entirely different than what you intend. Take the following chart as an example of some of those situations. 

Words/Phrases to Avoid What the Investor Hears/Thinks 
Buzzwords (i.e. disruptive, visionary, innovative)  Disingenuous; insincerity 
Solo entrepreneur No one can do it alone. This person will burn out. 
No competition  No market or you have not done your   research 
“No brainer”  Arrogance 
Guarantee  Amateur – there are no guarantees in investing. 
Any word or phrase you cannot explain well Unprepared 

A Quick Note on Buzzwords  

People tend to use them because they think it will make them sound like they know what they’re talking about. But those people aren’t fooling anyone, particularly sophisticated investors. A “buzzword” is defined by Merriam Webster as “an important-sounding usually technical word or phrase often of little meaning used chiefly to impress laymen.” By the definition alone, you should see why you should exclude them completely. You want to impress the investors (who are not laymen) the right way – with legitimate numbers and proven strategy, not by trying to sound impressive. 

Powerful Words/Phrases that Strengthen Your Story 

Instead of the above words and phrases, focus on the following powerful ones that show you mean business: 

  • Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) – explain how much your customer acquisition strategy costs and how it can be reduced over time. 
  • Lifetime Value – explain how your customers will eventually cover the cost of operations. 
  • Churn – explain how efficient you are about retaining your existing customers (eventually generate enough value to pay back their acquisition cost and help you generate a profit). 
  • Burn Rate – explain how much cash you have remaining to operate and how efficiently you are operating your business.  
  • Cost of Goods Sold (COGS) – explain the sum of all costs that go into offering your product. 
  • Gross Margin – explain how well your business is performing. 
  • EBITDA – understand what this means and have projections to back it up. 
  • Use of Proceeds – explain how the investor’s money will be spent and make sure it is not to increase the existing C Suite or Founder’s salary. 

These are the terms investors want to hear. Not only do they demonstrate that you know your business inside and out, but they also give more credibility to your numbers. A win-win for investors! 

Other Pitching Tips 

Now that you understand the words and phrases to avoid and those to focus on, other pitch tips include: 

  • Stay professional 
  • Be on time and respectful of your time limit. Show that you value the investors’ time. 
  • Be confident, but not arrogant. 
  • Focus on the solution, not the problem. 
  • Don’t attack the competition. Instead, focus on your strengths. 
  • Think and talk long-term. Investors are not interested in quick wins. They’re looking for companies that are going to make an impact on their industry. 
  • Communicate your “why” passionately and infectiously.  
  • Understand that there is a difference between creating a great pitch deck and creating a great pitch. 

Going into any pitch is a nerve-wracking experience. Even with practice, you may struggle to find the right words, which is why focusing on them from the start is so important. There are many available pitching tips out there, but word choice alone can make or break the deal. At the very minimum, they can give some extra positivity, and who doesn’t need that on pitch day?  

Barker Associates has extensive experience with assisting companies in preparing their pitches, including the keywords they want to use (and to avoid). Schedule a free 30-minute consultation with this link to my calendar to talk about how we can work toward getting you the investment money you need.  

The Pitch Deck – Something so Important, You Need Two of Them

The Pitch Deck 
Something so Important, You Need Two of Them 

Mindy Barker | Barker Associates

As someone who regularly helps others prepare to pitch to investors, I see one situation far too often. This may all sound a little too familiar to you as well. You are an entrepreneur who has done everything right. You developed a product or service and turned it into a successful business, that business began generating revenue, and now you are ready and willing to scale, but need investment money to do so. Then, you seem only to hear a resounding NO from the investors you approach.  

Why? More often than not, it’s because the investors have no indication of what you are actually offering them. And understanding what you offer comes down to two simple words, with not so simple connotations … “pitch deck.” Yet, if I can share one piece of advice with you, as I do in my book, Pitching to Win: Strategies for Success, it’s that one pitch deck is never enough. If you are serious about scaling your business by pitching to investors, then you must have two pitch decks – one to send to investors and one to use in your presentation (or pitch).  

Let me explain. Some investors will not agree to meet with you until they have first reviewed your pitch deck. As such, they may ask you to email it to them before scheduling an actual pitch. And just as much as an email is not the same as standing in front of someone delivering a presentation, your pitch decks likewise cannot be the same.  

Understanding how they are similar, and how they are different, is key to getting that next phone call, presentation, or meeting. To that end, I have put together the Top Five Tips for ensuring you have two pitch decks that will get you the right attention when you need it. 

Pitch Deck Creation: Top Five Tips 

1. Be Proactive 

Research the investors who are already investing in similar products or services. If they have similar interests, they are the ones most likely to invest in you. Try to determine what types of questions they asked before and incorporate the answers into your pitch decks from the start. 

2. Create Pitch Deck #1 

This is also called the “Handout Pitch Deck.” It is the one that you will email to investors when asked for a copy. The key to this pitch deck – it must stand alone. It cannot rely on your verbal explanation of the content because, quite simply, you will not be there to explain it.  

The Handout Pitch Deck must quickly communicate with words (but not too many), numbers, and graphics your “Why me?” to potential investors. 

3. Create Pitch Deck #2 

Use Pitch Deck #1 as a foundation to create Pitch Deck #2. Pitch Deck #2 is the “Presentation Pitch Deck.” This version is based on you delivering your pitch, aided by high-level slides with few words and many images. It does not, and should not, stand on its own. Pitch Deck #2 will have very few words and numbers, if any. Instead, it will function much like a television or movie screen, as your priority is having the audience focus on you and your messaging, rather than reading slides. Remember, at the end of the day, this pitch deck is a sales presentation.

4. Ensure that Both Decks are Concise, Professional, and have Visual Appeal  

Pitching is never the time to get into the intricate details of your past experiences or even your product or service. Get to the business of what investors want to know:  

(a) what your business is all about and  

(b) most importantly, how it is going to make enough money to return 

      multiples of the amount of money you are asking them to invest. 

5. Update Both Pitch Decks Regularly 

Consider this scenario: a potential investor asks you to send your pitch deck via email or present it to a group of investors. You respond that you will get it to them in a couple of weeks. Chances are that when you finally prepare your pitch deck, the investor will have already moved on to other projects and entrepreneurs who are ready to take their money

You want to be able to distribute Pitch Deck #1 or present Pitch Deck #2 at a moment’s notice. Just as every professional has an up-to-date resume to present at any time, a growing entrepreneurial company should have both pitch decks ready to email or present at any time.   

The creation and management of your pitch decks are critical parts of the capital raising process. Remembering that the difference between the two decks comes down to your voice is of the utmost importance. Pitch Deck #1 must stand on its own, capturing your voice, without the benefit of you speaking, while Pitch Deck #2 exists to bolster your voice as you present. Barker Associates has extensive experience with assisting companies in preparing their pitch decks. Schedule a free 30-minute consultation with this link to my calendar to talk about how we can work toward getting you the investment money you need. 

Pitch and Storytelling According to “Schitt’s Creek”

Pitch and Storytelling According to “Schitt’s Creek” 

A Successful Pitch is the Result of a Good Story 

Recently, I have been watching the Schitt’s Creek series on Netflix … for the second time, and enjoying it even more this time around. When I watched it the first time, I found myself getting irritated. But several Schitt’s Creek fans I knew encouraged me to stick it out, and I am so glad I did. What I learned watching the entire series twice is that each character surprises you from many different dimensions throughout the six seasons, representing numerous similarities to the world of pitching investors.   

The story centers around an ultra-wealthy family that loses everything. The first episode shows the authorities taking all of their possessions, forcing the family to move out of their large estate. They soon learn that they can retain a small town they purchased as a joke years earlier. So, they get on a bus with their suitcases and head to their new life. They are immediately immersed into a stark contrast from the luxurious lifestyle to which they had been accustomed. Yet, despite the lack of luxury, their experiences in this small town teach them many lessons they never would have learned before about life and business, including how to pitch to investors. You can see why my interest was piqued! In fact, I was so interested in the story that I watched an interview with the two creators. 

One of the creators insisted on developing the backstory of each character for hours prior to starting the script, while the other got increasingly frustrated with the time and energy “wasted” on backstories when they had an entire script to write. However, he soon realized that the investment of time in creating those backstories was one of the primary reasons for the success of the series.   

The parallelism to pitching to investors was uncanny. An essential element of a successful pitch to investors is having a compelling backstory. It is far beyond the “script,” or in this case, pitch deck. Working on the story behind the company so that it is authentic and backed by sustainable facts is the key to reaching investors. And connecting with them authentically through your story, coupled with ensuring you are the right fit for their investment criteria, will ultimately secure the investment!  Success! 

I recently became an investor in the Seattle Angel Group and immensely enjoy the education the group provides for both investors and companies preparing for pitch competitions. Bob Crimmins, a repeat successful entrepreneur, was one of those educators, and he was fascinating. He called successful stories “Cogent Stories,” as they are believable and can help an investor understand how they are going to invest their dollars now and receive a significant return three to five years later. As I watched Schitt’s Creek, I thought a lot about Bob and the impact of “Cogent Stories.” Apparently, they work for more than investor pitches. They are also what is behind a hugely successful series. 

Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming! (Spoiler alert here – if you have not watched the entire series you may not want to read further, but schedule a chat with me (link to my calendar) to discuss your backstory and pitch deck.). 

In the show, Johnny Rose (the family patriarch), Stevie (the hotel clerk), and Roland (the mayor of Schitt’s Creek) are business partners and pitch investors, achieving success at the end of the series. There are many circumstances that bring these individuals together, and their collective growth leads to the overall success of the pitch. 

Johnny Rose had been a successful businessman and made a lot of money with his business “Rose Video.” The events that led to the loss of his fortune were based only on his business partner’s actions. The business itself was successful. While Johnny’s story is fictional, similar stories happen every single day in the “real world.” What happened to Johnny could happen to anyone if they are not paying attention to governance, controls, and  financials.  Yet, the loss of Johnny’s fortune was itself a growth experience. 

Stevie was working the front desk at the hotel in Schitt’s Creek, feeling like she was a failure.  In an effort to “get her life together,” she decides to branch out and interview for a professional position with an airline. After she secures the position, she learns it is not for her after all.  This experience actually creates a huge appreciation for who she is, her talents, and her previous role. Similarly, for the C-Suite to be successful, confidence and self-identification for the position must exude when the investors begin their due diligence.  

Roland is the mayor of Schitt’s Creek, which is a position filled with pride, in part, because it was bestowed upon him through birth rite.  Roland struggled with who he was, and there were many times that his self-discovery process irritated Johnny and Stevie. But despite all of those irritations, he showed he was trustworthy and loyal to them in many ways as their relationship grew.   

Through trial and error, often hysterical ups and downs, these three professionals began to trust each other. They respected the talent and contribution they each brought to the team. Johnny knew that Roland would always have his back, and vice versa. One of my favorite episodes is when Johnny and his wife, Moira, are celebrating their wedding anniversary, and they run into some of their old “rich” friends, along with their new friend, Roland. The encounter is a life lesson in itself. Johnny and Moira attempt to fit in like they used to, but soon get irritated and offended when their old friends begin to talk negatively about Schitt’s Creek. Johnny, standing up for Roland, who is even more offended, mentioned that while their so-called friends never reached out once after they lost everything, Roland and Schitt’s Creek welcomed them with open arms.  

This episode reminded me of the loyalty, communication, and respect needed among team members working toward pitching to investors. Working as a team to strategize and execute a fast-paced growth company takes perseverance, intellect, the ability to deal with ambiguity, and many other attributes that can only be achieved when there is open communication among team members who trust each other.  At the end of the day, it must roll up into an authentic story about who these people are because that’s what investors are investing in … the people behind the company.  

When you are preparing to pitch to investors, the best thing you can do is work on your “Cogent Story.” Take the time to create all aspects of your strategy prior to the pitch, similar to how the creators worked tirelessly on creating the backstories of their characters on Schitt’s Creek.  Your story will be more authentic, your confidence will increase, your team will be stronger, and your chances of success will increase exponentially. Barker Associates has extensive experience with assisting companies in developing their backstories and preparing pitch decks. Schedule a free 30-minute consultation with this link to my calendar to talk about how we can work toward getting you the investment money you need.