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How to Write a Pitch for Non-Technical Decision Makers

Kim Brebach - Monday, June 01, 2015

Technoledge | High Technology Marketing Hints

A pitch is a presentation to a potential client with the end goal of securing their business. Knowing exactly who you are pitching to and tailoring your pitch to speak directly to them is key to closing the deal.

Non-technical execs are often the ones who make the final buying decision and they only care about one thing: how your technology solves their problems. Here's how to write a pitch that explains high tech complexity in plain English - using splitting the atom as an example.  

'Two peoples divided by a common language' according to  George Bernard Shaw or Oscar Wilde (or both, depending on whom you believe) in relation to the British and the Americans.

It’s much the same with technical and business decision makers.

The techies are the first to appreciate what a smart technology does, they get excited about speeds, feeds and specs, and they love talking in jargon and acronyms. Yet, the business guys don't care how your technology works and they hate 'technobabble'; they're only interested in how it will solve their business problems. More importantly, the business guys are the ones who hold the purse-strings. (Discover how we 'do' content marketing for high tech markets).

How to write a pitch: find a common language  

In the B2B high tech space, a lot of the selling is between techies (yours and theirs) who speak the same language.

The techies decide and write up their recommendations for business managers like COOs or CFOs, even business-focused CIOs.  At some stage, though, you'll need to pitch your technology solution directly to a business-focused decision maker, if you want him to open his wallet. He won't, if you use the same impenetrable language the techies use.

When you’re pitching your technology to non-technical people like business managers, investors or partners, you need to speak their language - unless you want to see their eyes glaze over. You want to get them excited, which means showing them how your solution addresses their  concerns - like returns on investment, project milestones, performance guarantees, cost savings or regulatory compliance. This is what turns them on.

 

What do technology buyers care about

What's in it for them? That’s the first question to ask when pitching to business buyers of technology. Put yourself in their shoes and ask:  How does this product help me solve my problem? How does it help my team become more efficient? How does it increase our revenues and profits? How does it save us money? How will it reduce risk?

 

ROI is a major driver

Even when you’re pitching to tech-savvy CIOs, they’ll want to know if your technology will free up or use up their precious IT resources. A cost justification (we'd call it an ROI calculator) isn't easy, so many marketers don't attempt it. We do and, if you have facts at your disposal, it's one of the most powerful tools you can use in a hi-tech market, where competitors are mostly trying to dazzle with speeds and feeds.

Here's an example:

We prepared an ROI calculator for an enterprise security vendor, which incorporated these verifiable elements:

  • Probability of a major data breach (from Computerworld research)
  • Average cost of a data breach (from the Ponemon Institute)
  • Risk reduction due to the solution (actual client data from a Pilot Project)
  • Solution cost (total costs for the same client, taken from the proposal).

Other factors such as damage to reputation are harder to price (but are immeasurably high), so we stuck to figures supported by credible sources. Even at 20% probability of a data breach (which has since risen, as has frequency) our client's solution was a fraction of the cost and represented a very favourable ROI. 

(By the way, the client won the deal and we incorporated a 'sanitised' ROI calculator into a White Paper on how to justify the cost of an IT Security solution. It became this client's most downloaded resource). Find out about writing white papers in How to Write White Papers Your Audience Will Love.

How to write a pitch: know what technology investors care about

Technology investors aren't the same as technology buyers. They're investing in your company, not buying your technology to solve a business problem.

Their questions are more like: Why should I invest in your technology and not another? How long will it be before I see a return? What do advisors and analysts say about your area and technology? How is your financial modelling affected by projected market predictions? What is the risk?

Here's an example:

One of our biotechnology clients has a potentially game-changing technology for the treatment of human diseases. To attract more investors, especially major US institutional funds, our client needed a very strong business case in the form of a slide deck, which could be presented in person as well as distributed.

In the existing deck, the science was impenetrable, and the slides of eye-watering complexity and daunting number. Our first task was to decide:

  • What the audience cared about (risk, return, time frames, precedents, proof)
  • How long they'd listen
  • What headlines would grab them
  • How much technical detail they needed to know.

To avoid 2 presentations (one for in-person presentation, one for online distribution) we provided links to the technical detail, so the big picture was clear to everyone and the proof was accessible for those who needed it. Then we went through and chose 1 major point per slide, with no more that 6 proof points, then dressed the lot up with arresting images and design. 

How to write a pitch: find their pain points

It's easy to make assumptions about pain points, but don't. Ask and you'll know.

Here's an example:

One of our clients develops software that protects finance industry customers against online fraud. The CEO was convinced that Australia's big banks would knock the door down to buy the product, especially because of the price, performance and ROI. Yet, despite years of presentations and demonstrations, not a single bank bought a licence. 

Eventually the CEO found out why: he has misjudged the pain points. For one bank, it would have cost about $50 million a year to supply the solution to all its online customers and, with annual profits of $6-7 billion, that would’ve been small change. However, it only cost the bank $20 million a year to compensate those customers who had been victims of fraud. Based on these numbers, this issue not a burning pain point.

(By the way, affordable online fraud prevention was a pain point for credit unions, our client's uncontested market space. The company pursued this opportunity and ended up owning 99% of the credit union market).

How to write a pitch: avoid jargon

Using jargon is the fastest way to lose any audience, reading, watching or listening - but what is it exactly?  These definitions come from a Helpful Hints Bulletin (the US Dept. of Agriculture):

  • The technical terminology of specialists in a particular activity or area of knowledge
  • A kind of speech abounding in uncommon or unfamiliar words
  • Unintelligible or meaningless talk or writing
  • Language vague in meaning and full of circumlocutions and long high-sounding words
  • Pretentious or unnecessarily obscure and esoteric terminology.

The last three points will ring true if you've ever watched politicians on TV. It's why most of us tune out and turn off. That's also what audiences will do if your website, presentations, white papers and videos use jargon instead of clear English. Yet, if you turn the TV off tonight in annoyance, you'll probably turn it back on tomorrow. It's not the same with your targets; once they're gone, they won't come back.

Try explaining how to split the atom

Good technical writers grasp complex technical issues quickly, translate them into plain English and make their readers comfortable to be in competent hands. That's the hallmark of good writing. A good technical copywriter can explain the most complex technologies in plain English.

Here's an example: our take on splitting the atom:

An atom is the smallest particle in a chemical element such as hydrogen or oxygen. When an atom splits in a process called ‘nuclear fission’, a great deal of energy is released that can be harnessed for nuclear weapons and nuclear power generation. 


 

A diagram is always helpful with technical concept. Also, if the words are too simple for your audience, you can always add more detail'

Here's an example - our atom-splitting expanded:

Atoms are made up of neutrons, protons and electrons. At the centre of every atom is a nucleus. Elements with large nuclei, such as uranium and plutonium, lend themselves to nuclear fission. When an atom’s nucleus splits or fissions, many neutrons are released. When these hit other atoms, they cause them to split, which starts a nuclear chain-reaction which releases huge amounts of energy.

In a nuclear bomb, the chain reaction must be sped up to cause an explosion. In a nuclear reactor, the chain reaction must be slowed, to create heat to turn water into steam for power generation.

More hints on writing in  10 Rules for Great Copywriting from David Ogilvy and 3 Reasons why Great Content must be Disruptive.

What's in it for you

Whatever the form of your communication (written, verbal, webinar, video, audio, infographic), if you cut through to your targets, you'll attract, engage and convert them to buyers or investors more quickly, and reduce both acquisition costs and sales team churn.

What's in it for you? To win the game more often, using measurable processes that deliver consistently. This is risk minimisation for marketers, not just business buyers.


Kim


Kim Brebach
Content Chief

Kim loves people and words. He is our lateral thinker, ideas guy and genius story teller. He can conjure engaging technology yarns out of thin air.


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I was particularly impressed with Technoledge’s approach. They suggested re-casting White Papers to multiple decision makers in parallel mini-campaigns. Within a week the new approach yielded 7 times more downloads. We only need to target one type of decision maker now.
Phil Jacobs
CMO, Intelledox

 

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