Patrick Nycz is President of NewPoint, a full-service food and beverage marketing agency, and author of Moving Your Brand Up the Food Chain.
Anyone with a winning track record of successfully pitching investors and buyers has figured out the formula. They know their audience, honed their story and separated their brand from the pack. I’ve had the good fortune to witness several winning pitches in my career, and although there is no silver bullet that will help win pitches, here are some mistakes that you should avoid.
Before your business can get up and running, it needs funding. But before you can get funding, you need to convince investors that your idea is worth the risk. Unfortunately, many promising startups never see the light of day because of simple pitch deck mistakes made by their creators.
What are these mistakes, and how can you avoid them?
The Most Common Pitch Deck Mistakes
These are some of the most common pitch deck mistakes that turn investors away:
• Writing a generic pitch deck: A quick Google search will introduce you to hundreds and possibly thousands of templates you can use to write your business plan, pitch deck and other documents relevant to your business. But if you rely on these templates or generic document frameworks, you could be setting yourself up for failure. For example, if you’re writing a pitch deck for a food brand, it shouldn’t look the same as a pitch deck for a consumer financial tool. Food product developers, restaurants and beverage brands all have unique business considerations that need to be present in the format and content of your pitch deck.
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• Writing for a generic audience: Similarly, it’s a bad idea to write for a generic audience. There’s nothing wrong with having a master copy of your pitch deck that you periodically update and tweak for different applications. But when you’re making a presentation for one individual or specific group, your content should be custom-tailored to their perspectives and desires. For example, an investor who only cares about the bottom line will see your financial models as much more important than your initial brand positioning.
• Including too many slides or details: Generally, pitch decks should be concise. If you include too many slides or if you include too many details on each slide, you’re ultimately going to alienate your audience. If you have more information and lots of research to provide, that’s good, but you need to be able to distill that down into a digestible narrative flow.
• Relying on jargon and buzzwords: People hate jargon. Buzzwords are empty. And yet most pitch decks are built using jargon and buzzwords as a linguistic foundation. That’s because these words are readily accessible in our vocabulary and are highly convenient for describing novel business concepts. That said, convenience doesn’t mean compelling; if you want to be more persuasive and appeal to your target audience, you need to describe your business, products and services in clear terms.
• Making dubious claims without support: Investors will be carefully scrutinizing your work, so it’s unwise to make dubious claims without support. You might claim that people are increasingly more likely to be vegan, insisting that your new line of vegan products will benefit from surging demand, but can you back this with actual numbers? Who has done this research? Cite your sources whenever possible and keep your claims realistic and believable if you lack external support.
• Ignoring your weaknesses and threats: A SWOT analysis is one of the first analyses you’ll make for your business idea—standing for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. This will help you generally understand your business’s strategic position. But unfortunately, many entrepreneurs make a concentrated effort to make their business ideas seem as foolproof as possible, so they leave out or downplay the weaknesses and threats. You will earn more respect from investors if you consciously acknowledge these negatives since truly no business is without them.
• Overinflating the numbers: Similarly, aspiring entrepreneurs are often guilty of overinflating their numbers. They intentionally underestimate certain expenses or overestimate their growth potential, hoping to illustrate an optimistic picture of the future of the business. Investors are savvy, so don’t try to play them; keep your numbers in realistic territory.
• Neglecting the ask: You’re making the pitch to ask for funding, so don’t forget to make the actual ask. How much money do you need, when do you need it, and how will you use it when it’s in your hands?
Drafting and Revising
The first draft of your pitch deck probably isn’t going to be everything you want it to be. The second draft might not be excellent either. That’s why it’s essential to revise your work, update it with new information and keep polishing it to perfection.
It’s also important to continue this process after meeting with investors initially. Then, if you get rejected, or if investors are on the fence, get feedback on how your pitch deck could be better and brainstorm ways to make up for your weaknesses. As long as you’re willing to keep updating your pitch deck, you’ll continue to have a chance to get the funding you need.
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Author: Patrick Nycz, Forbes Councils Member