Using Similar Decks for Investors and Customers Rarely Works Well
So I had the deck complete. It was a marvel to look at: all shiny and fancy and so on-point. It had all the right information, hit all the pertinent points, looked all hockey-stick enthusiastic and just oozed money. This was the deck that was going to unleash upon our humble startup mountains of cash and rain more coins upon us than water fell from the sky during the days of Noah.
Then reality set in. The deck was not really bowling people over. Investors kind of got the message, but, for customers, the deck was pretty lackluster. There was nothing compelling about the information, and the story we were telling did not resonate with their needs. In short, this marvel of modern “pitchery” we had so highly lauded landed with a big fat thud.
Holy crap did I lay a sticker. All was not lost, but it was humbling to say the least. That the guy who vocally criticizes pitches should get this one wrong was a complete kick in the gut. And it comes down to a simple fact that I completely ignored: the customer pitch is absolutely not the same as the investor pitch.
What investors see versus what customers see in pitch decks are two completely different things. Investors are looking for big market opportunities that can net a significant return on capital. Yeah it serves a need, and yeah it does X, Y and Z, but ultimately it is the four legs as I call it that matters to investors. “Team Market-Product-Traction Investors” figure out the likelihood of this team, in this market, with this product, and calculate whether or not it will result in a homerun investment. That in a nutshell is investor calculus.
Customers are not investors, however. They have a problem and need it solved. To customers, the fact you are tackling a big market is irrelevant. And although your traction is mildly interesting, it’s not important. Your team is a bit more relevant, but it ultimately comes down to the product and how it solves their needs—that’s what you have to solve for.
Now, I might do my fair share of dumb things, but I did edit the customer deck so it differed from the investor deck. I pulled a few slides and modified them to fit the customer situation. The problem, though, was I was now shoehorning an investor-oriented story into a customer-oriented story, and the story never meshed. The whole thing came off as disjointed and lacking; it drained of passion and vision. And that is about the worst thing you can do to yourself, because you are not selling on strength and value.
Build the investor deck and the customer deck separately. Do them at different times, and do not be tempted to leverage a few slides here and there to move things along. Truly put yourself into the head of the audience, and see with their eyes what they see and think and experience. When you do this, you will realize you are building the story very differently for each group.
This article was originally published on Strong Opinions, a blog by Birch Ventures for the NYC tech startup community.