Three rules to successfully pitch your ideas in any situation

pitch your ideas

By Mars Dorian, {grow} Contributing Columnist

Learning to successfully pitch your ideas in this competitive environment is no less impressive developing your own Jedi mind trick. You create something so irresistible and hope your target literally buys into it without debate.

Whether you want a new job, a freelance gig, or a project realized, learning how to pitch your ideas can lead to many prosperous opportunities.

I’m no pitching expert, but over the years, I’ve pitched a lot of creative projects and learned many insights from my experiences. In this post, reveal my three core lessons which are relevant in most situations.

1) Use your target’s tools to pitch your ideas

A few days ago, I was about to pitch a narrative book concept to a small Berlin-based art book publisher. About two hours before the interview, Captain Obvious hit me: My pitch target was a print publisher, and my entire presentation consisted of digital artwork. Duh!

So I dashed toward the nearest copy shop, printed out 8 samples on expensive and thick paper and fanned the artwork out during the pitch. The publisher inspected the printed samples up close, rearranged the order and wiped the thick paper with her thumb like a delighted pastry chef. She was hooked and eager to work with me.

Years ago, an Australian friend of mine wanted to work for a chocolate bar company in Melbourne so he could learn the tools of the trade. My friend had learned how to create chocolate bars at home and brought the result to his job interview. The CEO was impressed and hired my friend who now runs his own successful raw chocolate biz.

Clients usually love the products they use and sell. It’s obvious to make them part of your pitch.

2) Customization is king

Never create just one presentation for every target audience. It reeks of desperation and disrespect.

I always create a “core” pitch, which includes a summary, a few character designs and the synopsis of the story as well as 5-10 samples pages showcasing my artwork.

I then adapt this core pitch to each (potential) publisher, depending on their submission guidelines and ‘mission’ statement:

  • What do they love/hate to see in the pitch? (see their submission guidelines)
  • Are they more mainstream and commercially-oriented?
  • Do they follow a social cause?

When you approach (big) companies, you also have to adapt your pitch depending on the subgroup within the company structure. In publishing for example, you need to approach editors differently than agents even though you want both to help you publish your book.

  • A Berlin-based indie filmmaker buddy of mine once explained his approach to movie pitching.
  • When he pitched his film concept to producers, he’d talk about the universal appeal of his story, the foreign markets it could sell to and mentioned similar, commercially successful, movies.
  • When he pitched to actors, he’d speak about the complex characters and the challenge to portray them on screen.
  • It was still the same movie project, but my buddy changed the entire pitch based on which ‘subgroup’ of his target audience he needed to convince.

I believe this is true regardless of industry.

In my case, I pitch to (comic) book publishers. Big ones focus mainly on profit maximization, which means I have to prove my project’s mainstream appeal.

Small publishers often target niche audiences, which means they’re open for more experimental and edgy works.

Another positive side effect of customizing your pitch to each client is likability. If your pitch is relevant, you prove that you respect them. Respect breeds rapport.

3) Details matter, especially online

Back in my early days, I had foolishly believed that pitching your ideas via email was the easiest path to success. I mean, you can pitch fast to anyone around the freaking planet … and for free!

While that rings true, online pitching is still harder than in-person-pitching, because you lack the human element. There’s no voice, no face-to-face connection, no tonal nuance, and no (micro)gestures we’ve developed for thousands of years to better communicate with each other.

Online, you’re just a faceless and anonymous blob that’s one tap away of rejection. That’s why your pitch material has to be TOP-notch on every level:

  • Learn submission guidelines by heart. Another advice from Commander Obvious, but
    They send the wrong file format, ignore the formatting rules or include unrelated material.
  • If you botch your intro, your client won’t even download your attachments. All your precious work wiped away with one lackluster ‘meh’. That’s why in the first line, you explain why you picked them and why your offer is relevant. Like good movie teasers, intros should trigger your target audience’s curiosity to check out the whole shebang.
  • Keep your files small and in one place. When I pitch my artwork-heavy concepts, I put all of my files into one compressed PDF with my contact data on every page. Even if they delete my e-mail to reach inbox zero, they got my contact info in one place.
  • Have at least one professional check your pitch before you send it out. They’ll always spot mistakes. In my case, I always ask a pro writer or artist.

Conclusion

Stepping up to pitch your ideas can seem scary but it’s straightforward, especially if you understand the basics and do your homework about your target audience. What one pitch advice can you share in the comments? I’d love learn myself.

Mars Dorian is an illustrating designer and storyteller. He crafts words and pictures that help clients stand out online and reach their customers. You can find his homebase at www.marsdorian.com and connect with him on Twitter @marsdorian.

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