Thursday, December 29, 2011

Pitch 101, Part 2 - Styles & Components

This is Part 2 of Pitch 101.

Previously we talked about the Mindset and principal ingredients of the pitching. Today, we're going deeper. Not quite Inception deeper, but definitely more intensive with our exploration of pitching.

What I have for you today is 3 kinds of pitches and what they're made of. There are in fact more than 3 types of pitches, but I thought it easier to explain these three rather than just dummy up five or six examples and pick them apart. I would rather you learn to build your own than just learn how to knock down existing structures.

Type I: The Emotional Pitch
Designed to answer the question "Why should I pick up this product over a competitor/alternate choice?" The emotional pitch deals more in emotion and sweeping the listening audience into a feeling or state of interest by using more evocative rather than declarative language.

A Sample Emotional Pitch
"Superman is a movie where the character is...super. Fighting for truth, justice and the American way, we follow the nearly impervious Man of Tomorrow as he goes toe-to-toe with Lex Luthor his greatest opponent. With every leap and flight into the air, you'll believe again in what makes good versus evil so compelling."

Yes, that's not my best pitch. It's sort of last minute, as I was originally going to pitch you a product that isn't on shelves yet, then decided it's probably not a good idea to reveal it, since it's not actually my product.

But let's take a look at the above paragraph and see what we have. Whenever you want to build a pitch (or deconstruct one) look for USPs (Unique Selling Points, we talked about them in Part 1). In an Emotional Pitch, also look for the 'appeal to the audience' and the 'emotional language'.

The 'appeal to the audience' is where the pitch either talks directly to the audience or makes a claim that satisfies a presumed audience need.

The 'emotional language' is usually the adjectives or phrases that make the audience feel something. The 'something' is deliberately chosen (Happy language makes you feel happy....etc) and is most often a stumbling block in pitch construction because authors/creators think a sentence or phrase conveys one feeling, when in fact, it says something different.

So, what do we have here?

USPs

  • Fighting for truth, justice, the American way
  • nearly impervious alien character, Superman
  • has an arch-nemesis, Lex Luthor
  • Superman leaps and flies
Appeal to the Audience
  • "WE follow"
  • "You'll believe"
Emotional Language
  • "You'll believe again in what makes good versus evil so compelling"
  • Fighting for truth justice and the American way presumes those things aren't present enough in society
  • An alien character leads us to project onto him our deeper desires and interests - we'll humanize him
An emotional pitch is great for getting people to pick up your product over a competitor's, or for demonstrating that you're passionate about the product, without having to expose any sense that maybe you're not comfortable talking about 'what's under the hood'. You don't need a deeper level of mechanical understanding to operate an Emotional pitch successfully. Passion wins. 

Type II. The Mechanical (or Practical) Pitch
Designed to go into the substance of the product, the Mechanical Pitch extols the facts of the product as USPs. It answers the question, "What does this product have that other products like it (or other products I'll see later) don't have?" and it indirectly answers, "Why should I own this product?"

This is most often the pitch used for selling now or used cars (for example), because it's easier to construct than an Emotional pitch and allows the creator some distance between themselves and the audience. 

A Sample Mechanical Pitch
"The Pyromatic 6000 is the tool of the future, the indispensable device that will reduce yard work to a fraction of the time spent by harnessing man's oldest invention: fire! By projecting concentrated jets of super-charged plasma, you'll remove the weeds in your sidewalk, the dead limbs off trees, the old piles of tires and leaves the clutter your precious greenspace. With a revolutionary water-cooled nuclear engine, the Pyromatic 6000 is recharged by a glass, yes that's right, ONE glass of water! Order yours today."

The components of the Mechanical Pitch don't really change. You retain USPs, probably using a lot more of them. Absent is the appeal to the audience (remember, this pitch puts distance between speaker and listener) but it replaced with "claims of use". Gone too is some of the emotional language, swapped out with a "sense of scarcity or urgency". 

"Claims of Use" detail the specific functions or options of the product, giving the audience insight into how it works or where it can be used. The danger is creating hyperbole, which a listener may construe as fact, and then disappointment when your product isn't actually "the greatest thing since sliced bread".

The "Sense of Scarcity or Urgency" is present in a pitch to encourage people to not wait on making a decision. Scarcity and urgency are tools of a "Call to Action", which is the part of salescopy or presentation that (in the words of the guy who taught me this) "gets people off their asses and makes them hand you money for whatever you've done." (Note: Near the end of his life, he stopped saying it was a 'call to action' and starting calling it the 'Fuck you, pay me' moment of writing and presenting. I miss him dearly.)

When a consumer believes a product is hard to find, or that there are few of them and they may miss out, this may lead them to purchase the item sooner rather than later. The danger here is many-fold. You, creator, can assume that they'll run right to your product, and they may not. They may assume they have more time to wait and decide. You may decide that you're not spurring them fast enough because you're impatient or crushingly near-sighted and you've forgotten which one of you is 'in charge' of this buyer-seller relationship (here's a tip: Neither of you is 'in charge', it's a collaborative, cooperative relationship).

Scarcity and Urgency are potential red flags for products, and I urge you to be cautious in using language to suggest or imply quicker consumer decisions. If your product won't actually hold up to scrutiny, why are you rushing? The money, I swear to you, will come. Take the time to make the best product possible, and do whatever is within your budget to prevent having to get underhanded with scare tactics. 

Now let's break this down:

USPs
  • The name, Pyromatic 6000, sounds cool
  • Reduces the amount of yard work someone has to do
  • Shoots concentrated jets of plasma
  • Removes weeds
  • Repairs trees
  • Reduces yard clutter
  • Nuclear-engine
  • Powered by 1 glass of water
Claims of Use
  • Reduces the amount of yard work someone has to do
  • Shoots concentrated jets of plasma
  • Removes weeds
  • Repairs trees
  • Reduces yard clutter
Hyperbole
  • "Indispensable"
  • "tool of the future"
  • Reduce yardwork to "a fraction of the time"
Interest-Building
  • Order yours today!
Type III. The Thematic Pitch
Combining material of the above two pitches, we conclude today with a Thematic pitch. Designed to answer the question "What experience am I going to have with your product?" or "How does the combination of creator and product interest me?", a Thematic pitch takes the best components from the above pitches and turns them all the way to eleven. Or twelve. Or if you're really cool, infinity plus one. 

A thematic pitch uses a combination of USPs, hyperbole, appeals to the audience and a new element "product tone" to grab the audience securely and keep them paying attention. 

"Product tone" is the mood/feel/vibe of your product. Usually an adjective or string of adjectives it's your theme, honed now into a commercial hook. 

A Sample Thematic Pitch, (this one's for Jenn)
"Are you tired of typical games where it's all about rolling a lot of dice and announcing that you'll use a broadsword plus-your mom to kill the dragon that will likely eat you? Are you tired of having to keep quiet about your plans for world domination? Then this is the solution for you. Project Ninja Panda Taco. As a Mastermind ready to dominate the planet, you and a team of minions race towards success, with only player democracy and other Masterminds between you and sweet glorious victory. In this intensely fun collaborative game for up to six, you can make your fondest desires of despotism come true. Pre-orders available soon, stay tuned to Jennisodes.com for more information."

Here, a good presenter brings all skills to bear. Appealing to audience in a conversational, but not oil-slick way and creating interest by evoking desired emotion or experience. These emotions are supported by USPs and validated through more audience appeal, which prompts more USP generation, and everything cycles forward.

The breakdown:

USPs
  • Not a lot of dice rolling
  • Not a 'typical game'
  • This game is pro-world domination
  • A fun game for up to 6 players
  • There are Masterminds and Minions
  • It is a collaborative game
  • Information is available at Jennisodes.com
Appeals to the Audience
  • "Are you tired"
  • "you'll use a broadsword plus-your mom"
  • "this is the solution for you"
  • "you can make your fondest desires come true"
Product Tone
  • Fun, collaborative, atypical game of world conquest
Claims of Use
  • Collaboration, implied without many limits on invention
  • This game is fun for up to six players
  • You get to be a Mastermind, bent on winning
Hyperbole
  • "broadsword-plus your mom"
  • "typical games"
  • "sweet glorious victory"
  • "intensely fun collaborative game"
Interest-Building
  • "Pre-orders available soon"
Wow, that's a lot of information. But a good pitch has a lot of components available for dissection, and not of them vestigial. 

What I recommend you do is write out your pitch, even if you're not done developing the product, and start breaking down the components as I've done here. You'll give yourself a nice road map of what you like and don't like and where you need to go. 

It will be annoying, sometimes, but hard work is always rewarded. And yes, before you say anything else, yes you can do this. Honest.

In part 3, (up after the holiday), we'll look at some sample pitches and we'll talk about what the audience hears/reads/interprets from them.

Happy writing, and enjoy your holiday weekend. Unless you're a jerk or something, but if that's the case, then we're not talking. 

Rock on.