Topic 5. Position Your Product

Your pitch is an essential tool to engage customers, as well as investors, employees, mentors, etc. It tells people why they should care about your business and want to learn more. Featured thought leader, David Mandell is co-founder and CEO of Pivot Desk (Techstars 2012, Acquired by SquareFoot), former managing director of global communication for Deloitte Consulting, and a Techstars EIR. His experiences have given him insight into great messaging and product positioning. In this module, David shares actionable insights on how to effectively communicate your business through your pitch and drive customers to your solution.


What's Included in this Guide:

Your Pitch Is Critical

Identify the Pain Points

Build an Emotional Connection

Know Your Positioning

Simplify Your Pitch

Let's get started
Part 1.

Your Pitch Is Critical

Pitching is more than preparing for a Demo Day; it’s a critical part of building your business. In this section, you’ll learn how to identify if your pitch is working or not, and how to use it as a testing ground to gain customers.

Founders suck at pitching. The reason is that people haven’t taught them the right way to pitch.

Pitching isn’t about preparing for a single day event, like a Demo Day, it’s a constant, on-going, iterative process. You need to learn how to pitch your business for the rest of the life of your career.

When you’re asked, “what do you do?” your pitch has to be so inherent and ingrained that you can launch into the pitch about your business at any moment.

There will come a time when you’ll be so sick of your pitch that you won’t feel like saying it with the same vigor, but the fact is, you must. For each new person you pitch to, it’s the first time they’ve heard the pitch, so you must have it 100% down and deliver with the same enthusiasm.

Why Is the Pitch Critical?

Early on, founders aren’t focused on their pitch, they’re worrying about building the business, growing customers, iterating on the product, and they don’t want to be bothered with developing their pitch–this is a mistake.

Having a good pitch does two things: keeps you focused and helps you test the business.

Maintain Focus

You don’t have enough resources and money to not get your pitch down. The only real weapon you have is focus, and focusing everything you have in one direction towards one goal. As soon as you start spreading resources, you’re lost.

When you have a good pitch about why you’re doing what your doing, why you’re better than the competition, etc., everyone comes to work knowing WHY they’re doing what they do, and understanding the goal of the company.

The pitch helps everyone maintain focus, because if something comes up that isn’t pertinent to that one goal, that focus can help you decide whether or not to spend time on that task. Getting the pitch down is about moving the business forward.

Test Your Business

The pitch helps you test your business. If you think you’ve nailed the pitch, but no one is reacting, then you haven’t nailed the business. You need to continue to identify what pitch connects with your customers. And once you decide on a pitch, everyone in the company should know it.

Part 2.

Identify the Pain Points

Nobody cares about what you do, only how you’re going to help them improve their life. In this section, you’ll learn how to identify your customer's pain points, and give them a reason to listen to your solution.

Identify the Pain Points

If you remember one thing from this module, make it this: nobody gives a crap about what you do; they only care about how you’re going to help them. I’ve found that 99.9% of founders do this wrong: I ask them to tell me about their business, and they proceed to tell me about what they DO, not how they are going to HELP me.

What customers care about, and what they want to know, is how you are going to solve their problems and make their life easier.

Here is a description of what we do at Pivot Desk:

Pivot desk is a technology enabled, real estate platform that handles monthly financials and communications between leaseholders and tenants.

Not very interesting is it? If you were a customer, would you really care to learn more? Am I telling my customers how I’m solving their problems? No.

In comparison, here is an example of our pitch when talking to a potential customer (entrepreneur):

Real estate is static; businesses are dynamic. When you’re out there busting your ass to build your business, the last thing you want to do is to bet your business on a 5-year lease, when you don’t even know how big you’ll be five months from now.

Pivot Desk helps you grow your business the way it should be, not the way real estate dictates. We help you share your extra space with a business that needs it, or find the right space for now without committing to a long-term lease.

Remember: People care about how you are going to make their life better.

Part 3.

Build an Emotional Connection

Businesses are built on pain. And until you can connect with your customer’s pain points, they will not care about your solution. In this section, you’ll learn how to build an emotional connection with your target audience and give them a reason to listen.

Build an Emotional Connection

Nobody buys because of logic. They buy because of emotion and justify the purchase with logic.

The critical piece to remember when developing your pitch is that you must open up an emotional window within your target audience’s mind, and connect with their pain—or they will not care about you.

If you think about it, businesses are built on pain. When you can open and connect with a customer’s emotional pain and understand what they’re dealing with, only then will they give you permission to go deeper and share more about your company.

It’s important to know every single one of your constituents’ pain points, and know how to communicate with them.

I Hate Real Estate

At a large real estate broker event there were lots of founders pitching real estate solutions, I was 14th in line. With each pitch, I noticed the audience became less engaged and start looking down at their phones. I knew that when it was my turn, I had to connect with their pain and gain their attention.

This was the pitch I delivered to brokers:

Hey, I’m David Mandell. I started Pivot Desk because I f***ing hate real estate!

I hate real estate because it puts you between a rock, and a hard place, when you’re trying to help customers.

You spend your time between a static infrastructure and dynamic companies, and trying to fit those two companies together, not making anyone happy—struggling with both sides.

What I’m trying to do is give you a tool, a solution that help you, help your customers. That lets you become their partner, more than a salesperson, and still close the leases your landlords demand.

Can you feel the difference in emotion? First, I connected with their pain, and only then did they give me permission to talk more about what we do at Pivot Desk. If I didn’t connect with their pain at the beginning, no one would have listened to me.

I Have One Pitch

Entrepreneurs ask me how many pitches I have in my pocket… the answer is one. I have one pitch, but I start it differently depending on my audience (as per the examples above).

You need to develop one pitch that works for everyone.You may start it differently depending on your audience, but it’s the same pitch, every time.

Remember: The pitch is about connecting emotionally, identifying with your constituents’ pain, and them giving you the permission to share more about what you do.

Part 4.

Know Your Positioning

Building a positioning statement and pitch for your business means truly understanding your target audience, their pain points, your competitors, and more. In this section, you’ll learn to use the five components of a positioning framework to develop your pitch.

Know Your Positioning

When you’re developing the positioning for your pitch, make sure you have very specific answers to these five components of this positioning framework.

1. Target audience - If you are trying to sell to everyone you will sell to no one. You need to specifically identify your target audience.

Pivot Desk's target audience: Commercial real estate brokers and entrepreneurs.

2. Pain points – Clearly identify your constituents' pain points and be able to communicate this back to them.

Pivot Desk's customer pain points:

  • Brokers: Finding a space that is good for the customer and their landlord.
  • Entrepreneurs: Finding a space that works for their business or finding other businesses to share existing space.
3. Value proposition – Clearly identify what are you offering to your constituents that helps make their lives easier.

Pivot Desk's value proposition:

  • Brokers: We help you find solutions for customers you could never help before; we help you become their partner instead of a salesperson.
  • Entrepreneurs: We help you grow your business the way it should grow, rather than as real estate dictates.
4. Competitors
You may have competitors in the traditional sense, but competitors don’t necessarily mean other companies; they can be whatever is distracting your customer from using your product or service (Examples: time, hanging out with friends, time on their phone, etc.).

Pivot Desk's competitors: Commercial leasing and asset management companies.

Differentiator – Identify what makes you so different that your constituents should care about what you do.

Pivot Desk's differentiators:

  • Broker: Ability to help customers in a non-traditional way. 
  • Entrepreneur: Ability to find a space that fits the current size of one’s company, and helps companies avoiding debt from a long-term lease.
Here is Pivot Desk’s positioning statement:

We provide a matching marketplace that help brokers find space for companies that aren’t ready to sign a long-term lease. We help growing companies either find the right space for the size of their business without a long-term lease or share their space of that long-term lease to partially cover the cost.

You must answer these five components as specifically as possible to understand your business. The positioning statement is not your pitch, but the positioning framework can help you design the foundation of your pitch.

Part 5.

Simplify Your Pitch

As much as you may want to, you can’t say everything in your pitch. In this section, you’ll learn how to simplify your pitch to get the reactions you want from customers and investors.

Simplify Your Pitch

When I went through Techstars, I had 80 different versions of my pitch before Demo Day, and it’s changed since then.

So take to heart, entrepreneurs, when you want to develop your pitch quickly, don’t. It takes a lot of work, iterating, and testing.

Once you think you have the pitch down, start pitching people. Begin to watch their reaction, see if it resonates with them. If you see a quizzical look on their face or they say something polite and then walk away, this is a sign that the pitch isn’t working and they don’t care about what you do.

On the contrary, if they are asking for more information or indicate they know someone who could benefit from your product/service, then you’ll know that the pitch is starting to work.

Remember: Continue to iterate and practice your pitch.

Simplicity Is Complex

It’s tempting to say all the wonderful things your business does in your pitch, but you can’t. Your pitch is about simplicity—and simplicity is really complex.

It takes diligence to get rid of the extra and connect with your constituents’ pain points—only then will you be given permission to share more about your business.

My advice is to always be adjusting and testing your pitch, and watching people’s reactions. Continue to try different things until you get it down.

Once you get your pitch down, say it over and over, so at any point you can launch into your pitch. It doesn’t matter if you get sick of saying the pitch; it’s your job to get your pitch down for the life of your company.