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Leila Nosrati: Pitching & the Pandemic: Think Like a Buyer, Pitch Like a Pro - COVID-19 Edition

“Just because you don’t have to wear pants when you pitch doesn’t mean you shouldn’t.”

If someone gave you this advice last year, when you were preparing to pitch your new products, you might have wondered about their well-being. Well, you also might have wondered the same if they told you that this year you’d be figuring out how to pitch “virtually,” all while home-schooling your offspring and trying to survive a global pandemic.

Yet, here we are. So now we need few updates to “Think Like a Buyer, Pitch Like a Pro.”

Let’s not bury the lede -- your "Journalism 101" assignment remains the same, meaning your pitch should get to the point quickly and cover the story completely:

  • Headline & Subtitle - the name of your product (and a tagline or slogan, if you have one)

  • Who - is it for? Age range? If it’s a game, how many players and what environment (party, family, etc)?

  • What - is the unique hook or selling point of your product? What’s new about it?

  • Where - do you see it being merchandised? What category? Next to what other product in that category?

  • When - should it be played? And how long will it keep people occupied?

  • Why - should it exist? Does it satisfy an unmet need? Is it capitalizing on a trend? Why would people want it? Function? Material? Play pattern? Is it some zany new thing that has never been seen before? Or is it an improvement, added value, or does it offer a new perspective upon what already exists (which is ok, but be prepared to explain its significance). What are the “comps”? Or the inspiration?

  • How - how is it played? (Best if you can show people actually playing with the product/ prototype vs just describing it). How much is it designed to cost (each party, that is wholesale, retail, etc.)?

More than ever it will be important to deliver this information in video format. And not just any video. You’ll need a crisp presentation lasting no more than a couple of minutes, with good lighting, an uncluttered screen, and clear sound. One way to ensure its “crispness” is to use a well-thought-out-and-rehearsed script. Choose the order of how you will present the information and use a similar cadence across the different products you pitch.

Does this mean that traditional one-sheets and PowerPoints are dead? No. But more than ever, they need to take a back seat.

But enough about the format – the content is infinitely more important.

The best pitches will feel like conversations, even if they aren’t because you are not together in person. Consider this - you have a number of audiences, all with different objectives. Licensing agents, manufacturers, and retailers all play different roles in getting your products into the hands of its end-users.

Think past your own game when pitching. That is, customize your message to your different audiences, demonstrate that you anticipate and understand their unique needs, and show them that you intend to address those needs.

How have the roles of your various audiences changed these last several months? Each player is now facing down its own version of a new reality, and at the moment this reality is changing daily. Things are not the same today as they were at the beginning of the lockdown, and they’re still different today vs. even a couple of weeks ago. So it’s even more difficult for them to visualize what life may be like in 2021, when the products being pitched now will be available for sale. Naturally, fear and uncertainty are playing a bigger-than-ever role in decision making, meaning the emotional landscape in which you’re pitching has changed.

This makes it all the more important for you to demonstrate that you know your market. What will your audience have to give up in order to give your product a chance? Put yourself in their shoes: if you were responsible for maximizing revenue and profit for a set amount of time, space, or budget, what would it take to convince you to adopt a new item?

How to do this in a time of uncertainty? Show your audience that you’ve considered a variety of possible scenarios for what life will be like when your product hits the market many months from now, weighed the probability of those scenarios, and that you’re presenting them an offering that will address those scenarios.

Here are three examples:

1. You might predict that the online channel will grow and influencers will gain more power. If you believe the likelihood of both of these scenarios is higher than average, how is your product development taking this into account? Should that make a significant difference in marketing spend, and if so, how? What if you believe the likelihood of those scenarios is low?

2. Perhaps you believe that, while unemployment will improve at some point, and that “revenge spending” will be a thing, many consumers will be saddled with debt and deferred payments, and lower-income households will be slow to recover from the effects of the pandemic. If you believe the probability of this is high, then how would you adjust for your product line’s price point mix and the weight of your offering for the Value channel? If you think the probability is low, how would your offering change?

3. Some believe that second and third waves of the virus will force movie theaters and theme parks to continue to remain closed, and that streaming services continue to gain momentum while simultaneously fragmenting consumers’ attention. What do you believe will be the probability of these scenarios, how will they impact the way consumers will spend their entertainment budgets, and how will your product offerings address this change in the landscape?

The good news is that, even in this time of uncertainty and change, what hasn’t changed is the larger category in which you’re selling your product. While people are fearful about both their health and their incomes, your section of the store (or, let’s face it, Amazon’s category menu) has a specific role that remains the same. So, as “The Rock” would say, “Know your role…”

And that role is to provide fun -- an escape, or an opportunity for the caregiver or gift-giver to bring home a little slice of joy. You’re not selling toothpaste or incontinence products, or the weight-loss products we’re all going to need after this is all over.

So demonstrate to your audience how your product is a bridge between the fear and uncertainty we’re all experiencing and your category’s mission of occupying time with fun. Show them how your product will facilitate them meeting their objectives while allowing them to differentiate themselves from their competitors.

Finally, if you are fortunate to have a pitch format that will afford you the luxury of feedback, take notes, and be open to opinions and suggestions. This is especially important at a time when none of us can predict the future. You don’t have to adopt all of or any of the feedback, but you would be wise to listen for common threads. If you hear similarities in feedback from more than one person, there may be something to it.

Pitching is daunting, and ever more so now! It’s this way for everyone, so I hope this is helpful as you craft yours. Chin up, keep your pants on, and good luck!


Leila Nosrati

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