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3686South: Moonpie, Moonshine, and the Winning Pitch

by Shawn Karol Sandy, on Jun 12, 2015 10:05:00 AM

Last week I attended a fantastic entrepreneur conference in Nashville,

3686South, hosted by Launch Tennessee. The conference was full of innovative, bright, and energetic entrepreneurs, tech incubator talent, sponsors, and investors.

Let me just give you a brief rundown of what made this 2+ day event so special—because you’re going to want to be there next year:

  • 34 startups from the Southern region, pitching for a $36,000 cash prize (3d printed shoes, Internet of Toys, brain-controlled video game for ADHD, digital customs forms . . . whoa)
  • 50 speakers and panelists including CEOs of Eventbrite, Warby Parker, and GM of Uber
  • The CFDA President from New York
  • Venture Capital firms and Angel Investors from Silicon Valley, Boston, and the Midwest
  • Country Superstar JohnRich, Bon Jovi Entertainment, and Ashley Capps Ent.
  • Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam
  • Writers from Inc, Entrepreneur, Crunch, and Forbes hosting fireside chats
  • Edley’s Barbecue, Hattie B’s hot chicken, and Moonpie Moonshine at a whiskey tasting.

Now that I have your FOMO raging (Fear of Missing Out), here’s the big takeaway: not from the presenters or panelists, but from my experience meeting dozens and dozens of entrepreneurs:

You have got to be able to clearly, quickly, and consistently tell people WHY you are valuable and HOW you solve problems in context to your audience.

With this giant networking opportunity full of potential strategic partners, advocates, investors, and customers, it’s critical for entrepreneurs to be able to convey their value in context when they meet someone new {it’s critical for most everyone to accomplish this—but absolutely vital for start ups}.

I probably met 60 or so individual entrepreneurs and listened to the 34 startup pitches—contestants who won their regional start-up events in the Southern Series. I can honestly say, the business model and product offering were not clear to me in but a very few of the individual entrepreneurs I met. And I’m still scratching my head from a few of the hand-selected groups’ pitches. There were several that I still don’t understand what their product or service does, a few that I question why anyone needs their product and there were 2 pitches that I distinctly remember thinking “they have no business being the spokesperson for their company without some serious coaching.”

I’m a tough critic, I know. But the abundance of opportunities to create new businesses and the competition to thrive within existing businesses requires that we get tough with the most basic, fundamental, and foundational things you must do:

Answer the question, “Why am I valuable to you?”

That’s really what people are asking when they say, “What do you do?”

Answering that question isn’t a “one and done” event, like creating those old, outdated elevator speeches. It’s a life skill, evolutionary, and should be the basis for every single sales and marketing message you build (We call them Talk Tracks and all clients go through Talk Track Training).

Building several variations of how you are valuable is critical for everyone. You will never outrun the question, “What do you do?” We are asked that all the time, so why do we not carefully and consistently craft an answer that creates the best first impression and helps people immediately grasp why we are valuable to them?

It has big payoffs when you understand and articulate your value better than your competitors. Just ask the 3686South pitch contestants.

The entrepreneur who won the $36,000 prize was a young woman from Atlanta, Jewel Burks, CEO of Partpic– and she was my pick from the start.

I met her intern at lunch before she even pitched and her intern had the Partpic talk track down cold. She was impressive. Then when Jewel stepped up and pitched the crowd, she nailed it. She was confident, clear, concise, engaging, and related the pain point, expertise, and opportunity to the crowd. And, she was one of just a very few who actually ASKED the audience for their vote. I threw all 3 of my voting tokens in her box.

As a finalist, when she gave her long-form presentation of 5 minutes to the judges {who were all the Venture Capital firm panelists, an impressive and potentially intimidating audience when you consider the BILLIONS of dollars in their portfolios}, Jewel presented an in-depth, comprehensive and appealing look in to Partpic. Her graphics and visuals were well done, she was articulate, compelling, and poised and when it came time for the Q&A, she was cool as a cucumber, answering pointed questions about her revenue/run, competition, and market/category size.

She really deserved to win. She was extraordinary and had an excellent concept/product but her other two finalist competitors helped give the judges more distance in her favor. One finalist—I still cannot tell you exactly how their business will generate revenue and the other finalist was terribly flat, inexpressive, and not very relatable.

Not everyone is going to pitch an investor on Shark Tank or New York for a 3 million dollar round of funding. However, relating your value and meaning to your customers, colleagues, boss, or potential champion is a life skill that each of us should strive to master. Resources—time, money, talent, jobs . . . they are limited, so you must be relevant and compelling to whomever for whatever you’re pitching in order to earn the outcome you want.

P,S. Here’s how you build your answer to the question, “Why am I valuable to this customer/group/audience:

  • What problems do you solve for them?
  • Why are you unique?
  • What results do you produce?
  • How can you relate to this person/group in their context (using their “Value Currency“)
  • Can you give them meaningful and relevant examples?

And if you need more help, contact us and we’ll help you build your extraordinary, compelling, competitive, and consistent communication.

Are you ready to #GrowSmarter? Schedule a risk-free call with a Growth Guide today!

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