If you are a SaaS start-up, ask yourself “How much does our investor pitch deck look like our introductory customer pitch deck?”  I’m guessing the answer could be “too much”.

Most SaaS start-ups have a great pitch deck for investors.  There’s a lot written about how to do these decks and some truly great ones posted on various blogs.  These decks are also fairly easy to do, as they follow a script:

“We are in a huge, fragmented market poised to undergo rapid growth due to some combination of:

    • cloud
    • big data
    • mobile
    • social

Our gigantic space is filled with dumb, legacy competitors.  Our team is a great mix experienced start-up and big company people. Here are the logos and case studies of our first 3 customers. Please send check to:  …”

Unfortunately, the customer pitch deck is much harder and often it is insufficiently differentiated from the investor deck.  The customer pitch deck will too often include who the team is, how great the company is going to be, and even sometimes a section about the immense opportunity awaiting the company.  Customers do not need this information.

Customers want to know:

  • what problem of theirs you are solving,
  • what results your solution will provide and when,
  • proof your solution is not risky, and perhaps,
  • how your solution differs from the competition.

They will care that you have domain expertise, customers like them (but maybe not too like them!), but they are not interested in how much money you will make!  In fact, they should think you are providing this solution just because “you like helping people” and you did not want to be a nurse!

Clients buying business applications should also never see  “trend jargon” about recurring revenue, subscription revenue versus services revenue, big data, mobile and a lot of the other themes that investors and the press care about.  Prospects should see, in a dramatic way, the results of the proper application of these tools/trends on their business.

Unless you are selling to IT–in which case you are reading the wrong blog–business application clients do not want to hear your technical jargon either.  They don’t understand Hadoop, MongoDB,  HTML5, NoSQL, etc. very well.  (Or is that just me?  Peter Goldmacher, please do not respond to that.)  You may end up needing to make a technical sale, but that pitch should come much later in the sales process.

Investors want to understand your value proposition at an elevator pitch level, prospects do as well during the first meeting.  But for prospects, in the next meeting, you are going to want to make the pain of the problem visceral for them before you demonstrate your solution. Finally, you are going to want make prospects comfortable that you can help them sell the value proposition to their upper management as the deal progresses. Investors don’t need, or want, that level of detail.

If you are an early stage company, and you have not done this lately, I’d suggest having someone close to customers, and not close to investors, re-look at your decks and make sure you are not mixing the two.

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