Earlier in my career I had the opportunity to sit on an investment screening committee — where every month entrepreneurs would pitch their ideas to us in hopes of raising angel investment funding. An effective investment pitch has lots of components (strong idea, big market, IP, strong team, exit strategy, etc.). But, the most compelling pitches were those who could paint a picture of the future that I could not have fathomed before the meeting. The ones who took something that I thought I knew about and changed my thinking about that topic and the opportunity related to it. The ability to do that well is an art, and it’s an incredibly valuable skill.
Tommy Swanhaus has made a career of bringing visions that only he can see to life in incredibly successful ways. From being the youngest producer in history to sell a TV show to a major network to creating the first film streaming platform (long before Netflix) Tommy has been incredibly successful at bringing dreams to life. During our interview on The Art of Communication Tommy talks about his approach to getting buy in from investors to take on innovative new projects. Hera are a few of the suggestions that he made (and a few that I have added from my own experience):
- Tailor your message — You must communicate your message in a way that resonates with the specific audience that you are talking to.
- Simplify your message — Talk about it in simple terms that anyone can understand. Don’t make it overly complex and loaded with technical jargon. Tommy uses his mother as his barometer. If she can’t understand it then he still has work to do.
- Tie it to their everyday experiences — I used to present a very complex innovation analytics model to leaders of CPG companies. I learned that when I started by telling them to “remember the most recent innovative product that they became aware of and think about how they decided to buy or not buy it.” And then tied each step in the framework to that experience, that it was much easier for them to understand the model.
- Use comparisons — Show how your market/opportunity/business is similar to something previous that your audience is familiar with that was ultimately successful. Today, you tend to see a lot of pitches for the next “Uber” of XXX industry. The idea is that this provides a model for the audience to be able to latch onto.
- Show them — People believe in things that they can see. So, leverage prototypes, visuals, videos, examples, demos, test markets, etc. as much as possible to give them a glimpse of your idea.
- Leverage partnerships — Build partnerships with companies who are successful in areas related to your vision. Tommy was one of the first Google and Youtube content partners. This builds credibility, but also can really help with execution and can also be a great source of potential funding.
- Connect them to future customers — Leverage testimonials, examples, proofs of concepts, etc. to clearly state the big problem that is being solved and how it has already helped your target customers.
- Be willing to invest in yourself — Tommy had to leverage his own capital to launch a number of his ideas and prove them out before he was able to raise additional funding.
At the end of the day, if they can’t see your vision clearly they are not going to invest in it making this a critical skill for entrepreneurs. Check out the episode for more guidance on how to bring your dreams to life in the mind of others.