I like to walk. It is my meditation. It is my exercise. Mostly, in a city like New Orleans, it is my inspiration. Yesterday’s sunshine found me wandering down the riverfront. A quick stop in the French Market to make a $5 investment in sunglasses which I had managed to forget and then into Jackson Square. There, in the noisy crowded confines, stood artists, mystics, and street performers. Each of them fighting for the attention of the waves of people moving by.
I spend a lot of time working with startups, and some really big companies (love you guys, you pay my bills), on their pitches. So, as I sat there enjoying some music and sunshine and others saw showmen, musicians, and hustlers, I saw pitches.
The loud blare of a trumpet shatters the loud but indistinguishable buzz of the square. People stopped walking and turned towards the source of the sound. In that instant the band had created its own spotlight on this sunny day. The band leaps into a boisterous rendition of an overused and cliched tune. But the rhythm and the sounds of the brass band quickly draw a crowd.
What is your startup’s horn blast? Is it your mission, the benefits your product offers, the uniqueness of your solution? If you could yell just one thing at a crowd of people what would make their heads turn? What would draw a crowd?
The list of things that New Orleans has contributed to American music would fill an Amazon distribution center. One of these is the introduction of “call and response.” Popularly recognized in the song Minnie the Moocher, this element draws the crowd into the song, blurring the line between performer and audience.
As a startup you need your pitch to pull in your audience. Get them nodding yes as you state the problem you seek to solve. Get them to raise their hands and identify as a customer that values your solution. Make them feel ownership in your effort. In an age when the line between customer and collaborator is blurred by crowd sourcing and open innovation you need them to be part of your pitch not passive listeners.
Fill The Bucket
Lyrics to the songs get changed to speak of it. Stories of the performers’ lives are shared to show how it helps. It is used as a prop. What is the it? The bucket. The call to action is never left alone for long. The existing contributions are displayed as social proof and drivers for those who have not yet reached into their pockets. The audience is never in doubt as to what they should do, that others have done it before and how what they do impacts the musicians world.
Buy something. Try something. Support something. What is your call to action and how are you making sure your bucket gets filled?
New Orleans is full of lessons for startups and one of the reasons I am so grateful to be here. Quality musicianship is not enough in a city full of players. It takes a touch of showmanship. And so it is with startups these days too.
Oh, and by the way I also know where you got your shoes :)
More catalyst on pitching can be found here in my curated magazine