HOW TO WIN A PITCH COMPETITION
We first heard about the MemPitch competition back in November during Small Business Saturday. It was a no brainer that not only would we enter the competition but that we would try to win. We knew that we would face stiff competition, it would not simply be given to us. Honestly, when has that ever been the case in entrepreneurship? At OWLS, we consider ourselves serial academics and probably our biggest competitive advantage is that we understand that winning, whether it be in the marketplace or in the boardroom, is not done when the bright lights are on. It is done in the preparation of practicing potential questions at 2:30 in the morning and watching TedTalk videos while on the treadmill. When Kenda Lawson, my wife and CEO of OWLS, finished her pitch many people asked us how were we able to put together such an awesome presentation. We got that question over and over again. So, we decided to share our path to victory with you. This will work for not only a competition but also for pitching to investors or even a bank. In life many things are out of your control but believe it or not, you can actually control more than you think. Our win was not by luck at all.
DEFINE YOUR MESSAGE
Many business owners try to be everything to everybody which is not conducive to success. Many seasoned investors and entrepreneurs can see this in your pitch (hence the elevator pitch). A successful pitch is clear and does not take 2 hours to explain. So how do you accomplish this? First, you want to talk about what your company does and what purpose does it serve. Next, you want to explain how you are able to serve the market differently than your competitor. While we at it, define also who your target market is. Lastly, you want to display how you are relevant to the market you are targeting. If you are able to do that in about 30 seconds then you are off to a good start. Usually, in a pitch competition, you will get about 60-90 seconds which means you have a little more time to convey your message.
KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE
In this day and age of social media, it is not really all that hard to find out about someone. In preparing for MemPitch we did reconnaissance on the judges (no personal information just professional). We did this to get an idea of what they would want to hear based on their backgrounds. There were five judges in all. We knew that two of the judges were entrepreneurs that built their businesses from the ground up so we knew most of the questions would come from them and they would be general business questions(what do you do? Is the business scalable? That sort of thing.). There were two other judges that had backgrounds in marketing, branding and PR so we studied and practiced those type of questions. Lastly, there was one judge that was well versed in business operations so we expected a particular set of questioning from them. Which leads me to my next point.
KNOW YOUR NUMBERS
There is nothing that will make an investor or judge madder more than not knowing your numbers. Every business owner should know the numbers of your business. Profit margins, generated revenues and cash on hand are just a few that come to mind. If you are a person that has a hard time remembering numbers make sure you have a person with you that does. This is one of the many reasons we at OWLS tell you to have a business plan because your financials should be in there for you to recall.
GET IN THE FILM ROOM