Pitching for investment is likely to be one of the more nerve-racking steps in your business journey. It's your Dragon's Den moment, when you find out if you (and your idea) will stand up to the scrutiny of experienced investors. And whether they'll be as excited about your idea as you are. No pressure then!
But once you've come this far, there's only one option – give it your best shot. Here's our advice on how to pitch with pizazz:
Know your audience
Every investor is different so do your research and fine tune your presentation based on their interests, other investments and what you know about their background and personality. For example, are they a detail or big picture person? This knowledge will help you angle your presentation towards their needs and how they like to work.
Tell your story
Nobody wants to be bored to death with numbers, not even investors! To grab their interest, you need to tell them a story. Why did you start the business? What inspired you? What's the problem that you're solving? Where is the business going? Make it as engaging as possible through personal details and human interest. Then once you've got their attention, you can get down to the finer details.
The what, who and how of your business
Outline clearly what your product and service is, who it is aimed at and how you plan to win customers. You need to show that you understand the nature of the market inside out, and have a watertight strategy for making your business a success. You should also have a thorough knowledge of the potential competition and be clear about how your product is different from similar brands on the market. Showing is often better than telling, so if you can demonstrate your product or service, all the better.
Show a business, not just an idea
A great idea is one thing, but you also need to show investors a functioning business. So provide information about your customers, cash flow and the team you have around you (however limited at the moment), as well as how you've built the business so far, bootstrapping and all. This will demonstrate you're committed, you know what you're doing and have the skills to take your venture to the next stage.
When it comes to talking about the investment, make sure you explain how much you need, how you plan to spend it, and what impact this will have on the business in terms of growth and development. Investors want to know you've thought carefully about your priorities, and haven't just plucked a number out of thin air.
Investors are busy people and they're sure to have numerous other pitches to sit through after yours. So, if you've been given a time limit, stick to it. If not, 10 minutes is a good length to aim for, leaving plenty of time for questions at the end. And keep your slides to around 10 to 15 max – no death by Powerpoint!
Don't forget to mention exit strategy
Most investors are looking around five years ahead and want to know how they're going to make their money back (and then some!) within that timeframe. So make sure you can talk about a potential exit strategy, whether that's an IPO, acquisition or licensing, to show this is on your radar.
You know that awkward moment on Dragon's Den when the contestant has no idea what the companies sales total was for last year? Don't let that be you! You're sure to face a grilling at the end of your presentation, so take time to think of all the possible questions and prepare your answers in advance.
You are your business so make sure you are passionate and energetic at all times - you cannot be too enthusiastic in a pitch. And don't rock up in your 'just got out of bed' look. Remember, first impressions count and investing in some new threads could well pay dividends (quite literally!)!
If all goes well, your bank balance will be a lot healthier in no time, and you'll be able to put all those exciting plans into action. So, good luck!