Do’s and Don’ts for Your Pitch Deck

I enjoy being an active part of the local startup community.  I have given some pitches, but I’ve listened to tons of them.  Sometimes, they are just open forums where the startup is looking for exposure and feedback.  Other times they are looking for real money.  These tips relate to anyone who is pitching, but this article is really focused on the early stage startup.

Here are some Do’s:

  1. Do provide factual and validated information. If you are ever caught lying, or perceived as deceitful, you’re dead.  Period.
  2. Do tell us ‘Why You’? Ideas are cheap, execution is everything.  Why are you going to be successful with this idea?  Is your team awesome?  Say so.
  3. Do get yourself a clicker and use the space (Time allocated). Engage with your audience through motion, eye contact and body language. The best presentations are conducted by passionate, animated entrepreneurs who do not hide behind the podium. While presenting don’t forget to target your key audience. These are the people who likely have investment funds.
  4. Do rehearse. Practice your pitch, and get the timing down.  Every group will have a different format.  Sometimes you’ll have 15 minutes to pitch and sometimes you’ll have less.  Sometimes there will be lots of questions with little time to respond.  Other times there will be few questions and dead air.  Tailor your pitch to each time frame and practice.  If you are new, put the important stuff up front.  If you are a pro, you will have your pitch timing down and you won’t run out of time in any situation. Be a pro.

Here are some Don’ts:

  1. Don’t use baseless information. This is tough, but try to validate information in any way possible.  What have other companies done in the past?  How long did it take them to break into the market?  What market share does the leader have? Have you ever spoken with a customer to see what they think?
  2. Don’t be sloppy. Nothing makes you look worse than showing up in jeans and a t-shirt (be appropriate for the venue) or have a PowerPoint deck with bad graphics, and a poor layout.  Do your research and make sure you put your best foot forward.
  3. Don’t throw out large numbers. Don’t use the size of the market to try to reflect the size of what you think your business will be.  Any major market is in the billions and trying to relate your company revenue to that is just ridiculous at this point when you barely have a validated product.  Don’t suggest that you can even capture 1% of it, that is an unsubstantiated number (since unvalidated isn’t a proper word).

Don’t create crazy projections.  Be realistic. If you think you can turn your startup into a $100M venture in a niche industry in 5 years, you clearly don’t have any idea what you are talking about.

10 Signs You Have a ‘Hidden’ Fear of Public Speaking

Stage fright, however, may still be at the root of your reaction. Here are 10 signs that you may be dealing with a ‘hidden’ form of fear that’s disguising itself as something else. Overcoming your speech anxiety is never easy. This way involves a little thinking and self-examination to help you figure out what’s really going on.

Worrying About Performance over Process

If you’re worrying about your performance, you’re actually making it more difficult for yourself to perform well. I know: confusing. The best way I can explain this, is to share with you what I call the actor’s paradox. Stated simply, it’s this: You can’t give a good performance by trying to perform well.

Actors in a role are all about truth—the realness of what’s happening in the script and how the character reacts. No good actor ever thinks about himself in the moment of performance. They are there to serve something larger and better: the audience’s belief in the unfolding drama. Your truth is the audience’s understanding of what you’re saying. Aim to serve only that.

Becoming a Mind Reader

Speaking of minds and deciphering their inner workings: how’s your crystal ball? Is it showing you things clearly . . . and are you making sure you’re bringing it along to all of your speeches and presentations?

A classic manifestation of speech apprehension is imagining a) that you know what the audience is thinking, and b) where you’re concerned, it’s bad. In fact, believing that the audience even cares about you or is thinking about you at all is usually an erroneous mindset. Remember: it’s the listeners’ understanding and response concerning your message that matters. And anyway, they’re thinking about themselves, not you.

Preparing So Much that ‘Nothing Can Go Wrong’

Come on, be honest . . . have you gone down this road? It usually involves amassing about three or four times the amount of material that you could possibly get through in your presentation. “I’d better have LOTS of things to talk about, in case I get through all of my content too fast,” you find yourself thinking.

Never mind that if you’re all-around knowledgeable about your topic, that’s simply not going to happen.

 Taking Courses to Become an Expert

Yes, some anxious speakers even go this far. “But I’m not good at [body language] [storytelling] [PowerPoint design]” they say, “so I’m going to learn how to do it before my presentation.” Let’s unpack this response in two stages:

First, that skill you’re obsessing over probably isn’t very important. It may be true that the ability is a trendy “must show” in the business world these days. (And truly, if that’s the case, do you really care?) But what matters to listeners is that you know how to connect with an audience through who you are, not your sleight-of-hand ability with this or that trick.

Mimicking Other Speakers

For this lack of self-confidence, I lay the blame at the feet of our schools, which don’t teach us how to be self-assured speakers. Taught and drilled incessantly in reading and writing (and yes, ‘rithmatic), we are given no instruction or practice in getting on our feet and sharing what we know with audiences. Is it any wonder we don’t feel secure at it?

Thinking About Yourself Instead of the Audience

The best place to start this process is from a high enough altitude where you can see things clearly—in other words, the 30,000-foot view. In this case, that means getting your head in the right place.

It’s natural to think about yourself and want to do well when you speak in public. The problem, of course, is that the speaking situation isn’t about you. The more you think about yourself, in fact, the harder it will be to get on the wavelength of serving the people you’re there to talk to. I call it “living in the audience’s world,” from your initial notes to your finished dynamic performance. Thinking about your own response means you’re not concerned about theirs.

 Imagining Worst-Case Scenarios

You may not have the type of personality that indulges in worst-case thinking, though this too can disguise itself. Because of your own emotional involvement in your response (of course), the possible outcomes that pop into your head may seem perfectly natural. A few moments of rational thinking, however, may evaporate those thoughts.

The point is, if your mind tends to find this groove, it means you’re in negative rather than positive territory.

Believing You Have to Be an Excellent Speaker

Here we have a very subtle and insidious example of hidden speaking fear. Again, many speakers become overly concerned with performance over process, and worse, miss the point of the speaking situation entirely. Perhaps too much exposure to motivational speakers, many of whom are all about the sizzle, is part of the problem.

Your job when you speak to a group is to communicate successfully about this topicThat’s it. Unless you’re a paid speaker, you don’t have to be the King Kong of the convention. As I say to my executive speech coaching clients: “Your job is to be a good CEO [radiologist] [VP of Human Resources] [Sales Director] [board member]. In that role, you’re expected to be a good communicator.” Trying to be ‘excellent’ doesn’t work (see actor’s paradox, above). It also shows that deep down; you may feel you’re not good enough. But ‘good enough’ is the right goal!

Memorizing Your Material 

Eligible for a two-for-one pass with The I Will Over-Prepare School of Survival cited immediately above. When clients say to me, “I tend to memorize my speech word-for-word so that nothing will go wrong,” I invariably reply, “Then everything is going to go wrong.”

Audiences want a speaker who’s knowledgeable about her topic, and can talk to them with ease (and perhaps a note or two). They don’t want someone reading from a manuscript. Nor is a robotic recital of material laboriously learned very exciting to behold. Being present and responding to the speaking situation in real time is organic and engaging.

Obsessing Over Technology

This sign of hidden speaking fear includes anxious thoughts about how technology can leave you with digitized egg on your face. But it also involves becoming so infatuated with PowerPoint that it crowds out other, legitimate concerns about accomplishing what you’re there to achieve as a speaker.

A few years ago, a national association of healthcare practitioners asked me to speak at their annual convention on how to deliver a dynamic PowerPoint talk. You see, their members had fallen hard for Bill Gates’s ubiquitous presentation tool, and now spent all of their energy on bells, whistles, and electronic glitz to blast attendees out of their seats. They had forgotten their primary directive as presenters at an association conference, which was to educate the membership.

The 8 Types of Market Research

Market research can help you solve problems and reduce the risk of making important business decisions. Discover the 8 types of market research you can conduct to identify and solve any business challenges.

Campaign Effectiveness

What it is

This type of market research is designed to evaluate whether your advertising messages are reaching the right people and delivering the desired results. Successful campaign effectiveness research can help you sell more and reduce customer acquisition costs.

When to use it

If the folks at market research firm Yankelovich, Inc. are correct, people see up to 5,000 advertising messages each day. That means attention is a scarce resource, so campaign effectiveness research should be used when you need to spend your advertising dollars effectively.

How it’s done

Campaign effectiveness research depends on which stage of the campaign you use it in (ideally, it’s all of them!). Quantitative research can be conducted to provide a picture of how your target market views advertising and address weaknesses in the advertising campaign.

Consumer Insights

What it is

Consumer insights research does more than tell you about who your customers are and what they do. It reveals why customers behave in certain ways and helps you leverage that to meet your business goals.

When to use it

Knowing your customers deeply is integral to creating a strategic marketing plan. This type of market research can help you anticipate consumer needs, spark innovation, personalize your marketing, solve business challenges, and more.

How it’s done

Consumer insights research should be specific to your business—it’s about getting to know your customers and your target market. Various market research methods can be used, such as interviews, ethnography, survey research, social monitoring, and customer journey research.

Here are some of the characteristics you should understand through consumer insights research:

  • Purchase habits
  • Interests, hobbies, passions
  • Personal and professional information
  • How they consume media and advertising

Customer Segmentation Research

What it is

Customer segmentation studies aim to divide markets or customers into smaller groups or personas with similar characteristics to enable targeted marketing. By understanding how people in each category behave, you can understand how each influences revenue.

When to use it

As soon as you’re ready to start giving customers individualized experiences. Not every customer in your target market is the same. The more you understand each specific persona, the easier it is to focus on delivering personalized marketing, build loyal relations, price products effectively, and forecast how new products are services will perform in each segment.

How it’s done

  • Market researchers use four characteristics to segment customers.
  • Demographic information such as age, gender, family status, education, household income, occupation and so on.
  • Where people live, from cities and countries to whether they are city dwellers or suburbanites.
  • Socioeconomic status, class, lifestyle, personality traits, generation, interests, hobbies, etc.
  • Brand affinity, consumption and shopping habits, spending, etc.

A researcher will identify your current customers and collect data about them through various market research methods, such as surveys, database research, website analytics, interviews, and focus groups. The aim is to gather as much information as possible.

Usability Testing

What it is

Usability testing is concerned with understanding how customers use your products in real time. It can involve physical products, like a new blender, or digital products like a website or app.

When to use it

Usability testing is helpful when you need to detect problems or bugs in early prototypes or beta versions before launching them. It typically costs far less to test a product or service beforehand than to pull a flawed product off the shelves or lose sales because of poor functionality.

How it’s done

There are several types of usability tests, which vary based on whether you’re testing a physical or digital product.

  • Journey testing involves observing the customer experience on an app or website and monitoring how they perform. This type of study can be done online.
  • Eye tracking studies monitor where people’s eyes are drawn. Generally, they are conducted on websites and apps, but can also be done in stores to analyze where people look while shopping.
  • Learnability studies quantify the learning curve over time to see which problems people encounter after repeating the same task.
  • Click tracking follows users’ activity on websites to evaluate the linking structure of a website.
  • Checklist testing involves giving users tasks to perform and recording or asking them to review their experience.

Brand Research

What it is

Brand research helps with creating and managing a company’s brand, or identity. A company’s brand is the images, narratives, and characteristics people associate with it.

When to use it

Brand research can be used at every stage in a business’s lifecycle, from creation to new product launches and re-branding. There are at least seven types of brand research:

  • Brand advocacy. How many of your customers are willing to recommend your brand?
  • Brand awareness. Does your target market know who you are and consider you a serious option?
  • Brand loyalty. Are you retaining customers?
  • Brand penetration. What is the proportion of your target market using your brand?
  • Brand perception. What do people think of as your company’s identity or differentiating qualities?
  • Brand positioning. What is the best way to differentiate your brand from others in the consumer’s mind and articulate it in a way that resonates?
  • Brand value. How much are people willing to pay for an experience with your brand over another?

How it’s done

A researcher will use several types of market research methods to assess your and your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses. Generally, they will conduct competitor research to get a picture of the overall marketplace. Focus groups and interviews can be used to learn about their emotions and associations with certain brands.

Market research surveys are useful to determine features and benefits that differentiate you from competitors. These are then translated into emotionally compelling consumer language.

Competitive Analysis

What it is

Competitive analysis allows you to assess your competitor’s strengths and weaknesses in the marketplace, providing you with fuel to drive a competitive advantage.

When to use it

No business exists in a vacuum—competitive analysis is an integral part of any business and market plan. Whether you’re just getting started, moving into a new market, or doing a health check of your business, a competitive analysis will be invaluable.

How it’s done

A researcher will typically choose a few of your main competitors and analyze things like their marketing strategy, customer perceptions, revenue or sales volume, and so on.

Secondary sources such as articles, references, and advertising are excellent sources of competitive information; however, primary research, such as mystery shopping and focus groups can offer valuable information on customer service and current consumer opinions.

Customer Satisfaction Research

What it is

Customer satisfaction research is a type of market research that measures customers’ experiences with products or services, specifically looking at how those meet, exceed, or fail to live up to their expectations.

When to use it

Customer satisfaction is a strong indicator of customer retention and overall business performance. Successful customer satisfaction research should help you understand what your customers like, dislike, and feel needs improvement. You can use this type of market research to look at quality and design of products; speed and timeliness of delivery; staff and service reliability, knowledge, friendliness; market price; and value for money.

How it’s done

There are several ways to measure customer satisfaction, most commonly using surveys. Net Promoter Score surveys can help you measure customer loyalty. Customer Effort Scoring measures how satisfied people are with customer service or problem resolution. CSAT is any survey that measures customer satisfaction, typically measured using Likers Scale surveys. They can be conducted at different points in the customer experience, allowing deeper insight into that moment.

Product Development

What it is

Market research for product development involves using customer knowledge to inform the entire process of creating or improving a product, service, or app, and bringing it to market.

When to use it

Innovation is hard work. A quick Google will tell you that 80 – 95% of new products fail every year. Conducting market research for product and app development helps minimize the risk of a new product or change going bust as it enters the market. There are four stages where you can use market research:

  • Conception. The moment you’re thinking about adding something new, market research can find market opportunities and provide insights into customer challenges or their jobs-to-be-done, so you can find a way to fill the gap.
  • Formation. Once you have an idea, market researchers can help you turn it into a concept that can be tested. You can learn more about strategizing pricing, testing advertising and packaging, value proposition, and so on.
  • Introduction. Market research can help you gauge attitudes towards the product once it’s in the market and adapt your messaging as it rolls out.
  • Keep making the product better or find opportunities to introduce it to new markets.

How it’s done

Product development research will utilize different market research methods, depending on the goal of the research. A researcher could present focus groups with product concepts and listen to their opinions, conduct interviews to learn more about their pain points or perform user testing to see how they interact with an app or website.

How to Do Market Research

Here are a few steps to guide you through the process of how to do market research:

Identify a portion of that persona to engage.

Now that you know who your buyer personas are, you’ll need to find a representative sample of your target customers to understand their actual characteristics, challenges, and buying habits.

These should be folks who recently made a purchase (or purposefully decided not to make one), and you can meet with them in a number of ways:

  • In-person via a focus group
  • Administering an online survey
  • Individual phone interviews

We’ve developed a few guidelines and tips that’ll help you get the right participants for your research. Let’s walk through them.

Choosing Which Buyers to Survey

When choosing whom you want to engage to conduct market research, start with the characteristics that apply to your buyer persona. This will vary for every organization, but here are some additional guidelines that will apply to just about any scenario:

  • Shoot for 10 participants per buyer persona.We recommend focusing on one persona, but if you feel it’s necessary to research multiple personas, be sure to recruit a separate sample group for each one.
  • Select people who have recently interacted with you. You may want to focus on folks that have completed an evaluation within the past six months — or up to a year if you have a longer sales cycle or niche market. You’ll be asking very detailed questions, so it’s important that their experience is fresh.
  • Aim for a mix of participants. You want to recruit people who have purchased your product, folks who purchased a competitor’s product and a few who decided not to purchase anything at all. While your own customers will be the easiest to find and recruit, sourcing information from others will help you develop a balanced view.

 

Prepare your research questions.

The best way to make sure you get the most out of your conversations is to be prepared. You should always create a discussion guide — whether it’s for a focus group, online survey, or a phone interview — to make sure you cover all of the top-of-mind questions and use your time wisely.

Your discussion guide should be in an outline format, with a time allotment and open-ended questions allotted for each section.

Summarize your findings.

Feeling overwhelmed by the notes you took? We suggest looking for common themes that will help you tell a story and create a list of action items.

To make the process easier, try using your favorite presentation software to make a report, as it will make it easy to add in quotes, diagrams, or call clips. Feel free to add your own flair, but the following outline should help you craft a clear summary:

  • Your goals and why you conducted this study.
  • Who you talked to. A table works well so you can break groups down by persona and customer/prospect.
  • Executive Summary.What were the most interesting things you learned? What do you plan to do about it?
  • Describe the common triggers that lead someone to enter into an evaluation. Note: Quotes can be very powerful.
  • Provide the main themes you uncovered, as well as the detailed sources buyers use when conducting their evaluation.
  • Paint the picture of how a decision is really made by including the people at the center of influence and any product features or information that can make or break a deal.
  • Action Plan.Your analysis probably uncovered a few campaigns you can run to get your brand in front of buyers earlier and/or more effectively. Provide your list of priorities, a timeline, and the impact it will have on your business.

Conducting market research can be a very eye-opening experience. Even if you think you know your buyers pretty well, completing the study will likely uncover new channels and messaging tips to help improve your interactions.

Define your buyer persona.

Before you dive into how customers in your industry make buying decisions, you must first understand who they are. This is the beginning of your primary market research — where buyer personas come in handy.

Buyer personas — sometimes referred to as marketing personas — are fictional, generalized representations of your ideal customers. They help you visualize your audience, streamline your communications, and inform your strategy. Some key characteristics you should be keen on including in your buyer persona are:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Location
  • Job title(s)
  • Job titles
  • Family size
  • Income
  • Major challenges

The idea is ultimately to use this persona as a guideline for when you reach and learn about actual customers in your industry (you’ll do this in the steps below).

To get started with creating your personas, check out these free templates, as well as this helpful tool. These resources are designed to help you organize your audience segments, collect the right information, select the right format, and so on.

You may find that your business lends itself to more than one persona — that’s fine! You just need to be sure that you’re being thoughtful about the specific persona you are optimizing for when planning content and campaigns.

Engage your market research participants.

Market research firms have panels of people they can pull from when they want to conduct a study. The trouble is, most individual marketers don’t have that luxury — and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, the time you’ll spend recruiting exclusively for your study will often lead to better participants.

Here’s a simple recruiting process to guide your efforts:

  • Pull a list of customers who made a recent purchase.As we mentioned before, this is usually the easiest set of buyers to recruit. If you’re using a CRM system, you can run a report of deals that closed within the past six months and filter it for the characteristics you’re looking for. Otherwise, you can work with your sales team to get a list of appropriate accounts from them.
  • Pull a list of customers who were in an active evaluation, but didn’t make a purchase.You should get a mix of buyers who either purchased from a competitor or decided not to make a purchase. Again, you can get this list from your CRM or from whatever system your Sales team uses to track deals.
  • Call for participants on social media.Try reaching out to the folks that follow you on social media, but decided not to buy from you. There’s a chance that some of them would be willing to talk to you and tell you why they ultimately decided not to buy your product.
  • Leverage your own network.Get the word out to your coworkers, former colleagues, and LinkedIn connections that you’re conducting a study. Even if your direct connections don’t qualify, some of them will likely have a coworker, friend, or family member who does.
  • Choose an incentive.Time is precious, so you’ll need to think about how you will motivate someone to spend 30-45 minutes on you and your study. On a tight budget? You can reward participants for free by giving them exclusive access to content. Another option? Send a simple handwritten ‘thank you’ note once the study is complete.

List your primary competitors.

Understanding your competitors begins your secondary market research. But keep in mind competition isn’t always as simple as Company X versus Company Y.

Sometimes, a division of a company might compete with your main product or service, even though that company’s brand might put more effort in another area. Apple is known for its laptops and mobile devices. From a content standpoint, you might compete with a blog, YouTube channel, or similar publication for inbound website visitors — even though their products don’t overlap with yours at all. A toothpaste developer, for example, might compete with magazines like Health.com or Prevention on certain blog topics related to nutrition, even though these magazines don’t actually sell oral care products.

Identifying Industry Competitors

To identify competitors whose products or services overlap with yours, determine which industry or industries you’re pursuing. Start high-level, using terms like education, construction, media & entertainment, food service, healthcare, retail, financial services, telecommunications, agriculture, etc.

The list goes on, but find an industry term that you identify with, and use it to create a list of companies that also belong to this industry. You can build your list the following ways:

  • Review your industry quadrant on G2 Crowd.In certain industries, this is your best first step in secondary market research. G2 Crowd aggregates user ratings and social data to create “quadrants,” where you can see companies plotted as contenders, leaders, niche, and high performers in their respective industries. G2 Crowd specializes in digital content, IT services, HR, ecommerce, and related business services.
  • Download a market report.Companies like Forrester and Gartner offer both free and gated market forecasts every year on the vendors who are leading their industry. On Forrester’s website, for example, you can select “Latest Research” from the navigation bar and browse Forrester’s latest material using a variety of criteria to narrow your search. These reports are good assets to have saved on your computer.
  • Search using social media. Believe it or not, social networks make great company directories if you use the search bar correctly. On LinkedIn, for example, select the search bar and enter the name of the industry you’re pursuing. Then, under “More,” select “Companies” to narrow your results to just the businesses that include this or a similar industry term on their LinkedIn profile.

Identifying Content Competitors

Search engines are your best friends in this area of secondary market research. To find the online publications with which you compete, take the overarching industry term you identified in the section above, and come up with a handful of more specific industry terms your company identifies with.

A catering business, for example, might generally be a “food service” company, but also consider itself a vendor in “event catering,” “cake catering,” “baked goods,” and more.

Once you have this list, do the following:

  • Google it. Don’t underestimate the value in seeing which websites come up when you run a search on Google for the industry terms that describe your company. You might find a mix of product developers, blogs, magazines, and more.
  • Compare your search results against your buyer persona. Remember the buyer persona you created during the primary research stage, earlier in this article? Use it to examine how likely a publication you found through Google could steal website traffic from you. If the content the website publishes seems like the stuff your buyer persona would want to see, it’s a potential competitor, and should be added to your list of competitors.

After a series of similar Google searches for the industry terms you identify with, look for repetition in the website domains that have come up. Examine the first two or three results pages for each search you conducted. These websites are clearly respected for the content they create in your industry, and should be watched carefully as you build your own library of videos, reports, web pages, and blog posts.

Purpose of market research

Market, in simple words refers to that place where there is exchange of goods and services between two different parties namely, the buyer and seller. This market is so vast that it becomes a necessity for a buyer to identify its target audience.

The purpose of this market research is:

  1. To identify the target audience, because if the target audience is not set by the buyer it becomes difficult for the buyers to reach its break even point and its sales.
  2. To know the current market position, analyse and make necessary preparations for the near future to face any kind of risk.
  3. To analyse the various kinds of risk which can come in the business because of seasonal, technological, economical, political or legal factors.
  4. Last but not the least, to interpret if the company is brand loyal to its customers and does it provide service at that point of time or not.
  5. The purpose of marketing research is to make marketing better. It’s the same as with any other research:
  • Health research wants to improve health care
  • Chemical research wants to invent better chemicals
  • Food research wants to establish better nutrition
  • Marketing research wants to improve marketing

There are many things that marketers could improve:

  • Reach people more precisely where they are receptive to your advertising
  • Communicate facts and arguments that have stronger influence on their opinions
  • Convey feelings that resonate better with them
  • Spread content that is more relevant to them

Marketing research helps them by finding out what people are interested in, which information they need to make good decisions, which emotions they like to feel, etc.

There are many methods for conducting marketing research. The most common approaches are:

  1. Online surveys
  2. Qualitative research
  3. Collecting and analysing data from digital customer journeys like website visits and webshop purchases.

Reasons why marketing research is important

Lower Business Risks 

Around half of businesses with employees don’t survive past the fifth year, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The way to make sure that your business survives for longer is to ensure that you’ve got a steady stream of sales and customers. To do that, you need market research.

Regular market research will be your way to check in with your current customers and potential customers to ensure that you’re still meeting their needs. Here’s how you can apply this:

Test new designs and products before launching. Before you go all-in on a dramatic change for your business, you can test it on a smaller subset of your audience to see if the change would be welcome.

  • Find out why customers don’t come back.Ideally, your small business should have recurring customers. If they don’t come back, you can conduct a survey of previous customers or set up a focus group to find out why you’re not making any repeat sales.
  • Get insights on problem areas. If your most popular product sees a big drop in sales for three consecutive months, you need to find out how to fix it before it ruins your profits completely. Survey your most frequent customers about the product and find out where the problem lies. It could be anything from a decline in the product quality or a glitch on your online store. You’ll never know unless you ask.

Know Where to Advertise

One of the problems that small business owners face is a limited budget. Because of this, your marketing budget should be optimized to give you the best returns possible. Your market research can help ensure that you’re reaching your intended audience in the channels where they’re most likely to see your message.

These are some of the budgetary tasks that your market research can help with:

  • Buying ads on social media. If your market research shows that your target audience spends most of their time on Instagram and almost never use Twitter, you’ll know to direct most of your social media ad budget to Instagram and forget about Twitter.
  • Placing flyers and posters.Knowing the physical spaces where your customer spends their time will tell you where you can best place your advertising. For example, university students are likely to be on campus, so placing ads for that market means that you can try bulletin boards on campus or outside local establishments that their crowd tends to frequent.
  • Targeting ads.Online ads such as social media ads and pay-per-click ads can often be targeted with precision. This means that you can target based not just on the usual demographic data, but also based on online behaviors, life stage, and interests. If you truly know your customers, you’ll be able to maximize the potential for targeting.

Set Better Goals for Your Business

When business owners set goals for their business, it’s typically related to growth in sales or customers. But without market research, you won’t be able to know if your goal is achievable and how to achieve it in the first place.

You might say that you want to double sales by the end of the next quarter. With market research, you’ll be able to determine the specific directions you want to grow your customer base.

Easily Spot Business Opportunities

After you’ve done your market research, it’ll be clear to you who you want to reach out to (your target customers), where you can reach them (your marketing channels), and what they’re interested in. Once you’ve defined these, you’ll be able to easily spot business opportunities.

  • Form partnerships with other businesses. Learning about who your customers are, such as their demographics, can help you find other small businesses that serve them. You can approach these businesses for joint promotions that’ll be mutually beneficial.
  • Create profitable order upgrades. Knowing the other products and services that your customers tend to buy can help you come up with add-ons, product bundles, and upsells that increase the average value of each order.
  • Find new locations to sell to.Knowing the geographical areas where most of your target customers live will allow you to create compelling targeted campaigns that suit the needs and culture of that area.

Create Relevant Promotional Materials

If you’ve ever wondered what text or images to put on your fliers, website, or social media accounts, with thorough market research, you’ll know exactly what to do. Since target customers have already expressed all their wants, needs, and frustrations with you, you’ll know exactly what to address and how to address it when you start creating your marketing materials.

Outsell Competitors

The business that knows their customers more tends to win more. If you can beat your competitors at finding out your customers’ needs and you aim to fulfill those needs, you’ve got a better chance of standing out from the competition. Here are some ways you can use market research to outsell competitors:

  • Target dissatisfied customers. Asking target customers about their frustrations with your competitors’ products or reading their product reviews can help you improve your own products and market them to an audience ready to switch brands.
  • Find an underserved customer segment. Your market research might reveal that there’s a segment of the market that your competition has neglected. This will give you a new customer segment to reach out to.
  • Identify unaddressed customer needs. During your market research, you might uncover some customer pain points or desires that you don’t see addressed in your competitors’ marketing materials. Try including them in your own marketing and see if the results show an increase in sales.

Decision-Making Becomes Simple

The need for and importance of marketing research frequently comes up when making tough business decisions. Instead of having arbitrary criteria for the decisions you make as a business owner, you can always go back to your market research report.

While not all decisions should be solved by market research, many of them can be, such as:

  • where to spend your advertising or marketing budget
  • whether there’s a demand for a new product you want to make
  • if you should open a storefront in a new location
  • which products to discontinue and which ones to merely improve
  • how to price all your offers

There’s a real need for market research because it provides you with solid facts. Through market research, you’ll make more informed decisions rather than resting the fate of your business on guesswork.

5 things to do when you create a pitch deck.

There are different types of pitch decks, depending on your audience (DO tailor-fit your pitch deck to your audience) but today, let’s focus on your pitch deck for potential investors.

Here are 5 things to do when creating your pitch deck:

Present a clear, concise idea of what you’re really out to do

Or, what is commonly known as the presentation of the problem and the solution. The quickest way of making your audience understand what your startup is all about is by providing them with scenarios where your product or service comes in to address a pain point, while capturing the most important aspects of your story – what you’re trying to do and why.

Do the math

Show how you earn money. You need not go into the full details but you need to be able to flesh out who pays you and, with a little math magic, give a projection of your revenue based on the market size you’re targeting (or the trend your revenue is increasing based on the customers you already have).

Set out to catch your audience’s attention

The first slide of your deck is your chance to drum up your audience’s interest. Best to give a quick summary of what your startup is all about. Some startups pose it as a comparison to another better-known company (“Uber for Clowns” or “the Spotify for orchestra music”). It does work but do make sure that your comparison makes sense.

Bust out the numbers

No matter how great and attractive your idea is, at the end of the day, investors are looking for something that has the potential to be profitable.

If you have already launched, now is the time to brag about your data – number of early adopters, sales – and provide validation that your solution works. It’s also a good idea to show how huge of a market you’re planning to target, especially if you have yet to launch, to give investors the idea that there is an actual market.

Show off your team

A startup is only as good as the team that runs it. Investors are interested in knowing who the people they’re giving their money to and whether they are skilled enough to handle it. Dedicate a slide in your deck to giving a quick background of each of your team members (or the management team). Information like expertise, previous industry, and other career-related  information relevant to your business and the position they hold is fine. Elaborate during the actual pitch.

12 Tips For Public Speaking

There are few skills that will bring more opportunity into your life than the ability to speak well in public. Below are 12 tips that can make the difference between those speakers who leave a powerful, positive impression and those that are quickly forgotten.

  1. Start strong with a “grabber”

A personal story, a quote from an expert or a shocking statistic – something that takes a hold of your audience and gets them hooked and opens their mind to your message. Give the audience a chance to see your personal connection to the topic.

  1. Practice.

Rehearse out loud with all equipment you plan on using. Work to control filler words; Practice, pause and breathe. Use a clock to check your timings and allow time for the unexpected.

  1. Know the setup.

Arrive in good time to check out the speaking area and get practice using the microphone and any visual aids.

  1. Visualize yourself successful.

See yourself at the end of the speech surrounded by people asking questions, visualize the applause.

  1. Don’t apologize

The audience probably never noticed it.

  1. Get experience.

Take every opportunity you can get to speak (and listen to other speakers). Prepare well ahead of time. Experience builds confidence, which is the key to effective speaking.

  1. Speak with an intent to move people to action.

Know what you want your audience to do immediately after hearing your speech. If nobody does anything different than they would have done before you spoke – the value of your speech is zero.

  1. Structure your material in three sections

Grabber, middle, close. Know your material. Get really interested in the topic. Find good stories.

  1. Know the audience.

Try to speak to one or two people in the audience as they arrive – they will be your allies in the audience – it is easier to speak to friends than to strangers.

  1. Relax

Begin with a well prepared grabber. A relevant personal story is a great start.  It establishes your credibility.  It connects you to the audience and creates the right emotional atmosphere (and calms your nerves).

  1. Pauses

Include 3-8 second pauses at key moments – just before key statements or just after a story – this really brings the audience into the speech.

  1. Smile

Look like the content matters to you – if the audience don’t feel that it is important to you, it will be really hard for them to feel that it should be important for them.

There are many resources available for those who decide that they wish to become influential.  However, nothing can help the person who does not practice.  No tool is as powerful in allowing you to practice than the webcam.  Make it a habit to switch on the webcam for 3 minutes each day and practice expressing yourself.  Explain why your project is important.  Explain why someone should work on your team.  Explain your tips for success in your business.

A great musician practices a symphony hundreds of times before playing it in front of an audience.  A great speaker practices the words before they find themselves on the spot.

Effective ways to improve public speaking skills

Following are some helpful tips for improving your public speaking skills:

Prepare with practice.

Once you have prepared a presentation or speech by giving it a logical flow and making it more vibrant with the addition of examples, stories, and visually appealing props, only then your true preparation begins. If you are wondering what that means, remember that practice is the key to preparation. Practice your speech/presentation alone or seek to speak in front of other people until you can speak fluidly with confidence and comfort. This may sometimes require you to tweak your words during practice but it’s preferable to do so in practice instead of doing so at the occasion where you intend to take the mike.

Accentuate your strengths.

Analyze yourself as a public speaker and identify your true strengths and weaknesses. Most of us tend to imitate other public speakers who are popular amongst the crowd. However, the best way is to be yourself and focus on your own strengths. For instance, you might have a good sense of humor that helps in grabbing attention of the crowd, you may be an interesting story teller, or you may be good at clearly explaining complex ideas. Whichever is your strength, utilize it wisely to keep your audience paying attention.

Keep your ears and eyes open to feedback.

Although, all sorts of public speaking do not involve direct interaction between the speaker and his audience, there are various ways in which audience is able to provide feedback. If the audience cannot speak their opinion out loud, as a speaker you should be able to look for nonverbal cues such as the body language or facial expressions of the audience. The feedback, thus, provided by the audience can prove to be a helpful guide in improving one’s public speaking skills.

10 Tips for Improving Your Public Speaking Skills

Here are a few tips to help you improve ones public speaking skills:

  1. Know Your Audience. Your Speech Is About Them, Not You.

Before you begin to craft your message, consider who the message is intended for. Learn as much about your listeners as you can. This will help you determine your choice of words, level of information, organization pattern, and motivational statement.

  1. Watch for Feedback and Adapt to It.

Keep the focus on the audience. Gauge their reactions, adjust your message, and stay flexible. Delivering a canned speech will guarantee that you lose the attention of or confuse even the most devoted listeners.

  1. Use Humor, Tell Stories, and Use Effective Language.

Inject a funny anecdote in your presentation, and you will certainly grab your audience’s attention. Audiences generally like a personal touch in a speech. A story can provide that.

Use Your Voice and Hands Effectively. Omit Nervous Gestures.

Nonverbal communication carries most of the message. Good delivery does not call attention to itself, but instead conveys the speaker’s ideas clearly and without distraction.

  1. Use Audiovisual Aids Wisely.

Too many can break the direct connection to the audience, so use them sparingly. They should enhance or clarify your content, or capture and maintain your audience’s attention.

  1. Nervousness Is Normal. Practice and Prepare!

All people feel some physiological reactions like pounding hearts and trembling hands. Do not associate these feelings with the sense that you will perform poorly or make a fool of yourself. Some nerves are good. The adrenaline rush that makes you sweat also makes you more alert and ready to give your best performance.

  1. Organize Your Material in the Most Effective Manner to Attain Your Purpose.

Create the framework for your speech. Write down the topic, general purpose, specific purpose, central idea, and main points. Make sure to grab the audience’s attention in the first 30 seconds.

  1. Let Your Personality Come Through.

Be yourself, don’t become a talking head—in any type of communication. You will establish better credibility if your personality shines through, and your audience will trust what you have to say if they can see you as a real person.

  1. Don’t Read Unless You Have to. Work from an Outline.

Reading from a script or slide fractures the interpersonal connection. By maintaining eye contact with the audience, you keep the focus on yourself and your message. A brief outline can serve to jog your memory and keep you on task.

  1. Grab Attention at the Beginning, and Close with a Dynamic End.

Do you enjoy hearing a speech start with “Today I’m going to talk to you about X”? Most people don’t. Instead, use a startling statistic, an interesting anecdote, or concise quotation. Conclude your speech with a summary and a strong statement that your audience is sure to remember.

  1. Practice Does Not Make Perfect

Good communication is never perfect, and nobody expects you to be perfect. However, putting in the requisite time to prepare will help you deliver a better speech. You may not be able to shake your nerves entirely, but you can learn to minimize them.