So you woke up this morning with a fantastic idea that's going to change the shape of shoelaces (or books, or music, or snack foods) as we know it. You've been sketching on napkins all morning, or scribbling notes into your phone, or calling friends and telling them about your Big Idea. You're going to change everything—and not just for the world, but for you.
How do you take your great idea from a fantasy to a reality? Figuring out how to pitch your startup is an art and a science.
Identify your customer
It cannot be said enough; no company is so ubiquitous that its customer base can be defined as “everyone.”
One of the most important steps any would-be entrepreneur can take is to define their average customer as specifically as possible. If, for example, a company is selling geeky T-shirts, some elements that they might fit into their customer profile:
- Age: often teenagers through forties
- Often with a small amount of discretionary income
- Often fans of science fiction, fantasy, and related TV and movie properties, as well as comic books
- More likely to live on either coast in the U.S. than in the more central parts of the country
- Of an age that they may be having kids
Having an accurate understanding of who your customer is determines everything about your pitch. Don't neglect this step.
Make your pitch about your customer
When you start creating your elevator pitch, your instinct is to start at the beginning. You'll want to tell everyone about how you came up with this idea, why you're the right person to put it forward, and how you're going to succeed.
Fight the instinct with everything you have.
If you want your pitch to succeed, you need to make your pitch about the customer. Selling and marketing is harder and more complex than ever before. You need to show the problem that your startup will address—tired parents can't accurately track when their child eats, or women who are also geeks struggle to find clothing that is tailored for them that features their interest—and then show how you will solve it—create an app that is simple and intuitive which parents can use to track various things, or a clothing line that will particularly cater to geeky women.
It doesn't matter how great of an entrepreneur you are, if you can't show a problem and its solution, your business won't succeed.
Leave yourself out of it until the end
Now, there is a place for you to talk about why you're the best person to sell your business, but the place to do that isn't at the beginning of your pitch. And remember to focus on the parts that sell your business. Don't worry about how the idea came to you in a dream, talk about your experience running your Uncle's store while you were in college, the lemonade stand that you successfully ran throughout high school, or your previous successful startup attempts.
Investigate alternative sources of funding
When you're working on funding your startup, you may be unsure of where to begin. Banks are a classic place to go for a business loan, but with the rapidly changing culture of online business, it may feel difficult to explain to a buttoned up banker why your revolutionary idea deserves funding.
Kickstarters and other crowd-funding solutions are very successful for some businesses, but in general, you need to push hard through social media to get your idea up and running, and it can take some funds to develop adequate materials to properly promote your Kickstarter without already having the money you need.
Many small business centers and development centers around the country have different funding competitions based around the TV show Shark Tank, which puts entrepreneurs directly in front of interested investors.
If you're interesting in beginning your own business, a smart first step would be to connect with the small business administration branch in your area, which would let you get the inside track on local funding solutions that might be available.
All in all, remember to put your business first when you're talking about your business. This means that you start with your customer, talk about the problem they're facing, and then show how your product will solve that problem.
Tell us the best tips and tricks you've learned as you've pushed your own small business!