Kelsey Raymond

Kelsey Raymond | Courtesy of Raymond

The best advice given to Kelsey Raymond about pitching her business was the phrase “details over dinner.”

“You don't need to try to jam all the details in,” Raymond said. “You don't need to try to tell them everything. You need to pique their interest, you need to get them willing to say, ‘Let's talk about that more.’ And that's when you can share all the details over dinner.”

Raymond is the founder of Influence & Co., a content marketing and public relations agency in Columbia. She was also a judge at Missouri Startup Weekend earlier this month. She spoke with Missouri Business Alert during an event on March 10 about helping entrepreneurs pitch their businesses.

Watch the full conversation:

'What is the problem you are going to solve?'

A good elevator pitch can be broken down into three parts: the problem the entrepreneur is solving, their solution, and what makes it unique, Raymond said.

“When you have a short period of time, don't get bogged down in the details,” she said. 

Raymond suggests entrepreneurs should focus on the qualifications that help establish their authority to solve the problem their business hopes to achieve.

“It might be because they personally have experienced the pain, and they are so passionate about finding a solution,” Raymond said. “It might be that their education or their lived experience gives them a unique perspective on this problem that others are not looking at it the same way.”

Hear more on the Business Brief podcast:

Common pitching mistakes

Entrepreneurs often give too many details when pitching their business without establishing their problem and solution, Raymond said. Entrepreneurs will talk about the specific aspects of their product without explaining how those features help their target market.

“The mistakes that I see people make so often is they get really into the weeds on the details, or the features, instead of really focusing on the benefits,” Raymond said.

Additionally, as an angel investor herself, Raymond does not like when entrepreneurs speak on the size of a potential market without a solid plan to capture a business’ first customers.

“That is my biggest pet peeve, honestly, in hearing startup pitches is that there's always this, ‘It's a huge market if we just capture 1%,’” she said. “And I'm like, ‘Cool. Tell me how you're going to capture that.’”

Entrepreneurs need to have specific plans on how they plan to reach customers. This could be spending large amounts on a paid social media campaign or leveraging the founder’s social media presence. Just saying a business will use social media or word of mouth is too broad, Raymond explained.

“Tell me your plan to getting those first customers, because that is the hardest part of running a business,” she said. “Getting those first people to buy in and physically give you money for something is not easy, and so I want to hear what the plan is for that.”

Adjusting the pitch for different audiences

Business pitches will change based on the audience an entrepreneur is pitching, whether that be an investor or a customer, Raymond said. 

Customers are looking for a custom pitch that will solve a specific problem they are facing. This pitch may evolve as the business evolves and offers more products or services.

“The entirety of the pitch is like, ‘You have this pain. We have the painkiller,’” Raymond said. 

Investors, on the other hand, may seek out more information on the business if they are not in its target market. They want to understand the entrepreneur’s plan to execute on the business, the size of the market and the unique ability of the founder to solve a problem that matters to their audience.

“Proof points,” or points that the business will be successful, may be more important to investors,  Raymond said. These proof points can be about existing customers or the entrepreneur’s past successes in starting businesses.

"If I'm investing, I'm not just investing in the idea, I'm really investing in my belief in you as a founder to execute on this idea," Raymond said.

Emily Hood is an audience development intern at Missouri Business Alert majoring in journalism with an emphasis in social and audience strategy.

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