There I was, stood in front of 300+ people with a dry mouth and cold eyes staring back at me. If I’d been teleported there and told to talk about my product, I’d have choked. Luckily I had a secret weapon. My creds deck.
You may well have found yourself in a similar position before. Needing to present your business at the drop of a hat. For those of you who were prepared, no doubt you had some form of creds deck.
Done well, a creds deck is a Swiss army knife for businesses and you’ll find yourself using it often. If you’re not quite there yet, then have no fear.
In this article, I’ll go through the main things to consider to have your client saying “yes” in no time. We’ll cover:
- Be the right size for the client.
- Establishing structure & narrative.
- Addressing problem, solution, and outcome.
- Developing a USP
- Mastering the design basics.
- Engaging your audience.
- Customising your presentation.
One of the more frustrating ways of learning you’ve lost a pitch is to hear: “we thought you were too big”. For many, this seems counterintuitive. Bigger is better right? And most agencies would tout their creds as large and sophisticated. But for some clients, big means impersonal and intimidating.
When you’re building your creds deck you need to find the balance between credibly large and personably small. There are two simple ways to do this:
- Leave your company info for the end of the presentation. Spend as much time as possible talking about your clients’ needs. This builds the clients interest in your ideas, rather than your size. As they say, it’s not your size, it’s what you do with it.
- Talk about how you have solved problems for similar clients. I know you’ve framed that case study for the Coke campaign and placed it next to photos of your firstborn. Unfortunately, it’s going to frighten off that fitness chain you’ve been hoping to land.
Structure and narrative.
Imagine the scenario. You’re in a bar and someone you don’t know starts talking to you about their job. They don’t give you any context and you have no idea how long they’re going to talk for.
But they keep. On. Going.
Like awkward small talk in a bar, lack of context or structure in a presentation is frustrating. A clear structure let’s people understand why you’re stood in front of them, and what they can expect. This is important because humans are flawed. We have short memories, poor attention spans, and need constant reminders to understand what you’re talking about. This goes double for meetings before lunch or on Friday afternoons.
Understanding this gives you a secret weapon in communication. Use the following to create a structure that is clear and succinct.
Include an agenda and highlight progress through it at key points in the deck.
Call out the purpose of each section clearly.
Wrap up each section by highlighting the key points.
Use consistent design for slides that act as breakpoints in the presentation.
Provide a summary that reiterates the main points of your presentation at the end. By including the above, you will make it both easier to understand the content of the presentation, but also easier to put together. If you’re interested in learning more about alternative narrative structures, check out this handy infographic from visme.co.
Problem, Solution, Outcome.
All too often we talk about ourselves before talking about our clients.
We talk about our products and our business before talking about the clients problems. Consequentially, our audience has to initially figure out how you can help solve their problems. If our job is to make our clients lives easier, then we need to make it obvious.
Using a problem, solution, outcome approach to structuring your content makes it clear how you can help and what it will do for their business. The approach is simple:
State the problem. State the problem you solve in terms of time, resource or revenue.
Define the Solution. Showcase your product by showing how it solves client problems. Most agencies spend their time in this section.
Show the expected outcome. Give clients a taste of what they can expect. Use forecasting, show competitor examples, provide case studies. Use evidence to make your solution real.
If beauty is only skin deep, then humans are pretty shallow. It’s well established that we judge value by appearances. With this in mind, a beautifully designed deck is key to selling.
Keep the following principles in mind and you’ll be doing better than 90% of your competition.
- Use a consistent colour palette.
- Apply the 60%, 30%, 10% rule to your colours.
- Keep design elements balanced and use distrubution.
- Keep the margins of the slide clear.
- Use slide types consistently and avoid moving headings.
- Use consistent, readable and attractive typography.
- Use appropriate imagery for your brand.
For more detail on each of these points, check out our indepth article on the suject.
Developing a USP.
Creating a unique selling point (USP) is not a simple task. Many businesses offer similar services with low differentiation and do just fine. But in the context of a pitch, we need to find the special value that makes us stand out.
To find your USP, consider the following:
- What are you great at?
- What do believe in?
- What is your focus?
- What unique partnerships do you have?
- How do you bring together different parts of your business to create something unique?
From these you can start to explore creating a story that showcases key attributes. Ultimately you may not find a true USP. But finding a way to articulate the difference between you and your competitors can go a long way.
You can find a more formal approach to USP identification on mindtools.com.
You’ve mastered your presentation. It says all the right things and looks amazing. You talk for over an hour, barely pausing for breath. Finally, you reach a slide with “Thank You” in size 70 font. the client looks up from their phone as if waking from a deep sleep. You shake hands and part ways.
By failing to engage clients in presentations we miss an opportunity to make them think. The good news is, increasing audience engagement is simple. Remember to include the following in your next session:
Ask questions. Seek confirmation of your assumptions, ask the audience to share their problems or include portions of the presentation to workshop ideas.
Take polls. Take a show of hands on opinions or problems or to check understanding.
Quizes. If the mood is right, a quiz can create a competitive and playful atmosphere, but requires the right moment. Tools like Kahoot are can help to organise this, but introduce an element of risk if the technology fails.
It’s tempting to make a great creds deck and put it in front of as many clients as possible with minimal changes. Whilst this can work, the benefit of modifying insights about the brand can be a powerful signal to clients that you take their business serious and is an opportunity to connect your solution with their needs.
To make this work for you, find a section of your deck that can include a standardised set of insights for a client. Some data sources that can help with this include:
- Google Audience Profiles
- Google Shopping Insights
- Think With Google
- Google Trends
- YouTube Reach Planner
- Keyword Planner (Part of Google Ads)
- Facebook Audience Insights
- SEM Rush
- Answer the Public
By including a few slides that provide customised insight for the client you can frame your offering in a way which addresses their needs and make a more compelling case for your business.
Bringing it together.
While pulling together the bones of a pitch deck is a big investment, the reward is a much less time consuming process for future pitches, with better results. To find out how we grow our agency partners create amazing pitch presentation, book a free 1hr consultation.
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