Former “Shark Tank” investor Kevin Harrington has heard hundreds, if not thousands, of pitches in his long career and has given plenty himself.
He’s the man behind the “As Seen On TV” distribution vehicle that launched major brands like OxiClean using infomercials, an advertising industry that’s now worth around $US200 billion.
Harrington is also one of the cofounders of the Entrepreneurs’ Organisation and has worked with founders to launch over 500 products that have brought in more than $US4 billion worldwide.
We recently caught up with Harrington, and he explained his three-tiered pitching system, which he says you should follow whether you’re pitching to a venture capitalist, shooting a commercial, or setting up a crowdfunding page.
1. Tease: What’s the problem?
People have short attention spans. When Harrington develops an infomercial, he makes sure that the problem is teased within six seconds.
In an OxiClean ad, this might be something silly (yet relatable) like a meatball falling onto someone’s shirt and staining it. If you’re pitching your company, your meatball equivalent is the context that elevates your company beyond being simply amusing but rather necessary.
2. Please: What’s the solution?
How can the problem you introduced be solved, and what makes whatever you’re offering unique? Give proof that you know what you’re doing.
In a video, you can show that OxiClean gets out a tomato sauce stain. In an investor pitch, you’re explaining how your service or product will work and how your background shows that you’re the right person to bring this idea to fruition.
A classic advertising technique is using a testimonial that lends credence to what you’re saying. If you’re pitching your company to an investor, use hard data to back up your points. If your company has existed for some time, give specific examples of how you have interacted with satisfied customers.
3. Seize: What are the opportunities?
Now give your audience a deal.
Tell them how much money you’re looking for from them, and explain how it will be used and then returned at a profit to the investor. In the same way an advertiser wants to persuade you that parting with $US9.99 for stain remover is a small sacrifice for all of the stained clothing you’re going to save, you need to persuade an investor that giving you cash is a wise investment that will pay off.
You need to create a sense of urgency, that the investor has to invest now to avoid missing a massive opportunity.
Harrington says that whether you’re writing a commercial or preparing for a pitch meeting, you need to be able to get all three fundamentals of your pitch in and sum them up concisely. A full-length infomercial can run 30 minutes long, and an investor pitch meeting may take over an hour. But in either case, the initial pitch has to be wrapped up in under two minutes.
“The art of the deal is being able to do it all in 60 to 120 seconds,” Harrington says.
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