My weekly post on Seattle 2.0.
As someone with a big idea, it’s easy to feel confident in what you’re doing. It’s harder to explain it. Perfecting your pitch is critical for acquiring a team, users and funding. It’s also critical to ensure you understand what you’re working on and building the right solution.
The pitch for LazyMeter progressed significantly since we started. It began as “a new approach to task management.” Along the way it was also “a task-based, personal-communication system” and “a to-do list with social features & game mechanics”. Today, it is simply “we are ending procrastination and forgetting.” At each stage, the pitch was received better, and we could eventually win over the audience with a conversation. But it wasn’t until the current version that the power of a strong pitch became clear. Our audience instantly understands the problem we are working to solve, their questions are more about specific features than explaining the pitch, and they actively make an effort to get involved. I no longer feel like a salesman, and gain a wealth of insight about the ideal feature set.
Based on our experience fine-tuning our pitch, here are the top warning signs that your pitch needs more work:
- They don’t get excited: Interest is not enough – they should be excited by the opportunity of what you’re doing.
- They ask you to explain your pitch: When your pitch needs work, the questions you get are mostly about clarifying what you just said. Listen to these questions, as they will help you fine-tune your pitch the most.
- They don’t ask you about specific features: Getting feature requests is a very good sign. It means they understand the product, and tells you what it would take for them to use it.
- They don’t give you positive feedback: Most people are polite, so don’t feel confident if they don’t give you negative feedback. Realize that no positive feedback may equate to negative feedback.
- “I want that” vs. “good luck”: An easy way to determine if you’ve gotten through to them is that they want to know when they can try your product, and they ask how to follow your progress, versus just saying “good luck with that.”
- Your mailing list doesn’t grow: Many people will ask for your business card and/or URL. What’s more important is whether you see any quantifiable results, such as your mailing list increasing after events where you’ve pitched, or an increase in twitter followers.
- They don’t remember you: If you see people you’ve pitched to, and they act like they’ve never met you, then try again from a different angle.
- You’re selling: An imperfect pitch requires a lot of effort to sell the idea after the pitch, while after a perfect pitch it’s more likely you’ll have to listen.
- You don’t like pitching: You avoid pitching because you don’t want to explain your startup again.
- They tell you about another product that does exactly the same thing: Sometimes mastering the problem you’re working on is not enough – you also need to differentiate your solution.
By recognizing these signs, you can work to improve your pitch. Pay close attention to how your audience reacts, and start by changing what doesn’t work. For LazyMeter, we quickly found the technical term “task management” was too confusing, and switched to “to-do list”. While it’s important to use different terminology, you should also re-generate your pitch completely to get to the core problem you’re solving (in our case, we finally realized that procrastination and forgetting is the problem, and not to-do lists which are actually a solution). Keep playing with completely new ways to describe your project, especially when with a less formal audience. You’ll be amazed by the progress and how people react to the same idea when presented differently, and when you nail your pitch, you will know it.