“If I am to speak ten minutes, I need a week for preparation; if fifteen minutes, three days; if half an hour, two days; if an hour, I am ready now.”Attributed to Woodrow Wilson
When creating a pitchbook, a common assumption always seems to creep into the process; the longer the pitchbook, the better the outcome. I can see the logic. If the pitchbook is 100 pages long and provides a hefty thump when dropped in front of a client, it must have some pretty good stuff in it, right?
This is a huge (and expensive) misconception. The length of a pitchbook is the wrong yardstick by which to measure success. Instead, the focus should be on the pitchbook’s ability to convince and persuade as effectively and succinctly as possible.
Yes, some clients may still need to hear that thud to consider a pitchbook worth their time, but that’s what “leaders” and support materials are for. Your goal in any client meeting should be to demonstrate value, and this is achieved by providing insight quickly and precisely.
Filtering and culling content, especially if you start with a 100+ stack of pages, is an art worth mastering. I’ve written a few posts about this process, but one thing I’ve found to always be helpful when subtracting pages is viewing each page through the filter of “so what?”
The "so what" question is pretty simple; for each page, and even for each portion of each page, you should ask yourself out loud “so what?” What does this tell me, what does this add, and what does this contribute to the story? If no insight is provided, and the content is not a needed stepping stone to build toward an insight, then it doesn’t pass the "so what" test and should be removed or replaced.
As a practical example, consider the commonly-used top shareholder’s table from an ECM pitchbook. You’ve probably seen this multiple times in your career.
Putting yourself in the client’s shoes is the best perspective by which to ask "so what." Yes, you’ve provided the obligatory list of top institutional investors. But CFOs already know this and probably have an existing relationship with them; after all, they are invested in the company. Your table hasn’t provided any new insight.
This may lead to the conclusion that this page should be scrapped, but before you do this, think back, why did you add this in the first place? It didn’t just appear by itself.
Maybe the page was originally conceived as a springboard into the idea of a non-deal roadshow. The page in question just didn’t serve that purpose.
But a variant of the top 20 list could. Rather than looking at the target company’s investors in isolation, look at them across a portfolio of peers. The first column of the table still shows the top 20 institutional investors, but instead of providing already known metadata, it provides a benchmarking peer perspective. A heat map can show the overweight and underweight positions versus the target company and against a portfolio excluding the target company.
This page definitely passes the so what test. Not only does it give CFOs the information they need, but also sets the schedule for the non-deal roadshow; these are investors worth meeting.
The objective of the "so what" test is to eliminate or replace any content that doesn’t support the story you’re trying to tell. As such you need to:
- Ask "so what" from the perspective of the client. Does it provide anything new?
- Consider if it supports the objective of the meeting.
If the content doesn’t pass both questions, it needs to be eliminated or replaced.
I’ve been using the "so what" filter since I was an associate many moons ago and still use it to this day when producing a pitchbook. Critical to becoming a client’s “trusted advisor” is empathy for her situation. Applying the "so what" filter has proven to be a good litmus test for this as it takes into account what the CFO has access to and what she already knows. Downloading market data and putting lipstick on it isn’t enough to win over clients—they have already seen the data. It’s on you to bring the insight and applying "so what" makes sure that you do so.
I’d love to hear any techniques you have adopted to ensure only the best materials are presented to your clients. Email me at email@example.com.
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