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Good pitches vs. bad pitches — Ramit’s analysis

Ramit Sethi

Like a parent who sees his child’s first (horrible) drawing, I have to pretend to still love you while lying to your face.

On Monday, I told you how one of my first big breaks came from pitching online companies to improve their websites. That single pitch showed me it was possible to do more than make pizzas for $4.25/hour.

I could tell you story after story, but I decided to show you with real money: I’ve set aside $1,000 to pay for the best pitch that comes in by Friday. I emailed this offer out to over 350,000 people 2 days ago.

gob_bluth

I knew I’d get hundreds of pitches for proofreading services. I summarily deleted those because nobody cares and as an Indian guy, I can spell better than all of you, anyway.

BUT — big props to anyone who actually submitted an idea. It’s so easy to sit around and dream about what we’d do if only (INSERT DREAM). But when faced with a real opportunity, few seize it.

Today, I’m going to reach into my mailbag for some quick critiques of posts. I’ll point out some deal-killers you should avoid when pitching, and I’ll show you what makes a good pitch.

If you’re wondering what qualifies me, I earned over $25,000/day as a consultant before I stopped to focus on my business. I’ve also helped thousands of people start businesses.

Whether or not you’re submitting a pitch, you can use these analyses to improve anything you write. My dream is that some of you adapt these techniques and use them in the bedroom. If you do, email me, with pics.

OK, let’s get to the critiques.

 

THE BAD: What’s wrong with these pitches?

Pitch #1: What’s in it for me?

Hi Ramit, I was just brainstorming about business ideas last night so this email had pretty great timing.

I’ve transitioned to a completely organic lifestyle and want to be trash-free. I’ve noticed that a lot of organic/ non-gmo/ all natural products (cleaning supplies, soap, cosmetics, etc) are packaged in plastic or non-reusable contraptions. It makes zero sense and is counterintuitive.

My “pitch” is to use bioplastic packaging for these types of products, which is not something that I’ve seen companies do. I make my own soap, lotion, shampoo, etc. and would use bioplastic packaging to sell my products. Simple and much better for the environment.

Even if I don’t get picked for best pitch, I would like to know what you think. And if you have any suggestions for how I can accomplish this or anyone I can contact, I would really appreciate your help/ input.
Thank you,
Priti

 

My response:
WHAT’S IN IT FOR ME?

A great pitch is all about your client.

Ramit’s #1 rule of marketing: Nobody gives a damn about you. It’s always about them.

Nobody cares about our talents or interests — cleaning houses, managing projects, upgrading computers, or planning vacations. They’re too busy to think about how your skill will help them.

But when you offer a service that solves their problem and show them how it’ll benefit them, you’ll grab their attention.

YAWN: “I’m passionate about interior decorating and organizing stuff.”

I NEED TO HIRE THIS PERSON: “I will organize your office so you’ll complete projects faster, your files will be within instant reach, and you’ll spend less than 3 minutes a day organizing your desk — which means you can finally get home in time for dinner every night.”

Use this phrase:

“I can help you _____ so that you can _____.”

Pitch #2: “I’ll work for free”

I own over 1000 cookbooks and have read ALL of them. I will send you a recipe a day for a month from the BEST tried and tested recipes from the BEST of the books. If after that time you don’t find the service worthwhile, pay me nothing. – Colin

 

My response:
When you’re first starting out, it’s natural to wonder “Why would anybody pay me?”

Without a good answer to that question, many people fall back on the gimmick of offering to work for free. Classic rookie mistake.

Note: Working for free can be a highly strategic move. I’ve done it many times. But you have to do it strategically, not debase yourself because you don’t know any other ways. In other words, as someone who hires people, I don’t want free — I want my problems solved.

While you may think free is an irresistible offer, when executed inelegantly, it conveys two subtle messages to the person you’re trying to do business with:

  • “I don’t think my work is worth very much.” In fact, it’s worth so little, you’ll give it away. Why would I get excited about something that’s worthless?
  • “I don’t understand how valuable your time is.” Even if I don’t have to pay anything to work with you, I still have to spend time to communicate with you and check in to see how everything is going. In many cases, the time costs for a service are higher than the dollar costs. In other words, I’d rather pay a premium and know that someone will delivery exactly what they promise. I don’t waste my time.

Of course, the biggest deal-killer is the belief that you have nothing to offer. If you think that, you won’t even try.

More specifically, I don’t want free. I want the best.

One of my goals this week is to show you that you have a valuable skill you can tap to start earning money on the side.

 

Pitch #3: What are you offering?

Ramit,
I can help you prioritize, manage, trouble-shoot and then implement new ideas for your business. I am an engineer, which essentially means I solve complex problems for a living, and then figure out how to mass produce them. I am looking for a new challenge, and you could use my rare combination of an engineering brain with communication skills and big picture thinking.
Let me know if that’s something your company could benefit from,
Rachel

 

My response:
Not bad…but this pitch requires me to work. Delete.

In other words, why are you making me do all the work to figure out what you’re offering?

Don’t make busy people do the work for you. In order to accept this pitch, I have to decipher what exactly Rachel means. “Prioritize, manage, and trouble-shoot” could be a technology solution, HR initiatives, productivity systems or a whole host of other problems I’m facing.

What specific problem will you solve for me?

BONUS HINT: Rachel received my email at 12:11 and replied at 12:27 — 16 MINUTES LATER. A well-crafted, personalized pitch should take much longer. What the 3 above pitches have in common is that none of them were about problems I care about. Reading through my blog or my twitter feed will give you hints about what I need and what I could care less about (for example, you’d know just from this last month that I have absolutely no need for recipes right now).

Get this right and most of the work is already done. I call this “front-loading the work.”

“Why would someone actually pay me?”

Years ago, I was doing a presentation and, in an offhand comment, I mentioned that I hate cooking, am terrible at it, and want someone to cook for me.

An ambitious reader in San Francisco emailed me and said, “Ramit, I can teach you everything about cooking in just a weekend, and you’ll master 5 great dishes.”

That’s a great pitch. But he had it all wrong.

I replied: “Thanks for the offer! But you don’t understand. I don’t want to learn — I want someone to do it for me.”

So he sent me another pitch to make my meals for me — and I was thrilled to hire him. I got delicious food without the hassle, and he made multiple times more than he’d planned.

Why? He solved my problem.

I didn’t care if he went to culinary school or had a popular food blog. He was better and more enthusiastic about cooking than I was, he took my guidelines and made delicious food, and that was enough.

He didn’t have to be the world’s best chef. He just needed to be able to solve my problem.

Back in college, I believed you could only make money if you were a prodigy or had a unique idea.

Then I got paid to show venture capital firms how college kids use online videos, music, social media, and photo sharing sites.

Any of us could do that. But these savvy venture capitalists didn’t know how and they wanted to see how young people used these websites so they could better understand the market.

Rather than spending days to figure it out on their own, they hired me because I knew more than them and could teach them effectively.

They didn’t care about how much I charged, either. I charged them a lot and saved them thousands of dollars in wasted time.

There were millions of people who knew social media better than I did. But I got paid because I packaged that knowledge to solve a problem that was valuable to them.

You don’t have to be brilliant or have an amazing idea.

You just have to solve a problem that someone is willing to pay for.

Pitch me and make $1,000

Big props to everyone who’s submitted pitches so far, but I know you can do even better because of what you learned today.

If you haven’t submitted a pitch yet, go for it — what’s the worst that can happen?

If you already submitted one, but want to revise yours based on these critiques, go for it. Just submit another pitch.

Remember, I’ll accept the best one and pay a minimum of $1,000 for their help. Not for charity, not because I like you, but because the pitch solves my problems. That’s business and that’s how you grow — by helping others.

I hope it’s you.

If you’re still struggling with an idea, click here for access to my idea generator tool — including two “Quick Start” guides and a 20-minute audio strategy session on how to find the right profitable idea for you.

This contest is closed. I’m no longer reviewing pitches, but thanks to all who participated!

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