Alright guys, are you ready? I’m about to rail on the idea of using a pitch deck template. If you’ve read some of our other articles about templates or downloaded our free pitch deck template then you know I am clearly not a fan of pitch deck templates.
Although we have a template you can use, we seriously don’t think any final pitch deck should be from a template. But, if you’re someone who want to save money in the long run, save themselves some precious time, and secure funding from investors in a shorter time frame, then keep reading because this article is for you.
Warning: if you don’t want to hear about why using a cheap or free pitch deck template will actually cost you more money in the end, then you should definitely leave now.
Still with us? Okay, good. Now let’s get down to business.
Pitch Deck Template Overview
When I started out in business, I remember not even knowing what a deck was. People used business plans for a long time to get investment and loans (or equity and debt funding).
Now more than ever, pitch decks are being asked for and demanded by investors and accelerators alike. Banks are even coming around to pitch decks, slowly. Although most debt financing, like you would get from a loan or bank, still requires a business model to validate operations details and business solvency.
In response to this increased demand from financiers there has been a drastic increase in the number of downloadable, free pitch deck templates being sourced on the web. While this number increases, so too does the amount of startups and entrepreneurs searching for them.
The appeal to use a cheap out of the box solution is certainly there. And totally understandable if finances are tight and you are in a crunch. Most of our clients come to us needing their deck done in a pinch and for these people, the pitch deck template comes off as a cure to this immediate fire. After all, something is better than nothing right?
Well let’s see…
Case Study: Getting Your Deck Done in a Pinch
So let’s take Brad for example:
Situation: Brad’s startup is launching an awesome new platform. Brad knows he needs a “pitch deck” to tell the world about his startup and to prove his case for investment.
Timing: It’s 1AM, and in two days he has a big pitch presentation scheduled.
Objective: Not to mention, he just met his perfect investor, who is anxious to review his deck and he wants to impress them.
Persona: Brad fits in the “founder in a time crunch” category, the most susceptible consumer of the free pitch deck template.
Synopsis: Looking for a fast fix, Brad scours the internet trying to find something that he can fill in and throw his logo into. Something with some direction. (What even goes in a pitch deck?) After all, Brad has a lot of stuff going on trying to run and grow his company. There are customers to find, sales to make, code to write, and employees to manage and that’s just page one of his todo list.
And voila! Would you look at that, there on Google is a veritable pitch deck template smorgasbord right at Brad’s fingertips. Problem solved!!
Or have the problems just begun?
The Dark Side of Pitch Templates
Where did these templates even come from? Sometimes you’ll find examples of unicorns that got backed during the early days of no pitch decks really existing. Firms like Pitch Deck Fire didn’t exist and that’s partially why we do now. Using these early templates even from companies that are now worth millions is a mistake and will devalue your brand and marketing efforts overall.
In addition to the actual real decks described above, Brad is likely finding pitch templates being hawked by slide design tools in order to get him to sign up for their platform. Most are even posted by people and companies that sell other things. In some cases, they are even being sold by design houses that have done nothing more than renamed their generic presentation templates as pitch deck templates in an attempt to cash in on the popular use case.To sum it up…these pitch templates aren’t supplied by experts. And using them for anything more than a starting point will hurt you in your quest to impress investors and get funded.
Standing Out: The Key to Getting the Investment Conversation Started
Why do pitch templates hurt? Because any expert worth his or her salt will tell you what you already intuitively know – templates are cookie-cutter. Marketing that is cookie cutter doesn’t cut it. You wouldn’t get funding by copying someone else’s business exactly and using a templated deck is the equivalent in the pitch and investment space.
In order to stand out and tell your unique story to a potential investor, you need to be the opposite of templated, cookie-cutter, vanilla plainness. You need to be a big, gooey, misshapen, chocolate chip, marshmallow, peanut butter cookie that is going to stand out and excite potential investors. You need to stand out among the rest to look delicious from the first moment. They need to see some future potential in what you are doing and your capability to get it done. “That cookie is going to be so good. Look how they made it. I bet people will line up around the block to buy one of these.”
And yes, that’s right, I did just compare your startup to a cookie. Don’t be cookie cutter, be The Cookie.
Is anything else you put out there templated? Did you use a stock icon for your logo? Did you use an out-of-the-box website theme, colors and all? Do you fill in marketing collateral MadLib’s style and hand them out to your clients?
If you do, please stop marketing like that now. You are wasting time and money and you can see it in your conversions and sales.
Pitch decks are you most important investor facing marketing.
Consider this: If your pitch deck is one of the most important pieces of marketing collateral you have, then why would you use a cookie cutter approach? You wouldn’t expect your customers to be impressed by something they’ve seen before with your name slapped on it, right? So why devalue your brand like that? You can’t expect investors to be impressed by your pitch deck after you used a free template. This isn’t their first rodeo.
“Strategy is about making choices, trade-offs; it’s about deliberately choosing to be different.” -Michael Porter
Why Doesn’t a Pitch Deck Template Work?
- Investors have seen that template before
- Templates are lifeless and provide no expertise
- Your story is unique
Investors Have Seen That Template Before
Venture capital firms are bombarded with hundreds of investor pitch decks per month. The larger the firm and the more well-known it is, the more they’re presented with. With that virtual stack of pitch decks on their desk, only the most visually appealing presentations with a clear message are the ones that stand out above the rest.
Templates are Lifeless and Provide No Expertise
Plus, with so many pitch decks passing through their offices each year, you don’t think investors have seen that pitch deck template before? You don’t want to provide investors with recycled material. If you do, two things will go through your investors head:
- Your pitch deck blends in with the others, and now to make matters worse…
- The investor thinks you’re lazy, unprofessional, and not very creative because you used a free pitch deck template you found online.
In the investor’s eyes, everything you choose to do reflects on your ability to make the right decisions and execute well – Especially your Pitch Deck.
You need to put money behind your marketing before you can use investor’s money for marketing to your customers. They need to see how you would use their money and they need to see your customer efforts already working to some degree. At the root of it all, spending money on your marketing is really money being put back into the business. And it will pay off.
Your Story Is Unique
You have to be able to find your story and tell you story because marketing yourself is marketing your brand. We can’t stress this enough. Not to mention this is something that applies to your entire marketing strategy, and not just your pitch. Storytelling is half the battle when it comes to winning over investors because they aren’t going to buy into your brand or your solution, if they can’t see themselves buying into you.
How to Spot a Pitch Deck Template and How to Make Sure Your Deck Doesn’t Look Like One
All the pitch deck templates out there have roughly the same 10-15 slides. Over and over again, each one possessing the same characteristics and structure. They have simple one word titles, simple static graphics and just barely convey the basic categories of information you as a startup should be sharing with potential investors to secure funding. In the eyes of an investor, everyone is the same until proven differently. Remember, you are you unique and your solution is unique.
You are The Cookie.
If you walk into your investor presentation without having invested in your idea yourself, you are showing immediate signs of weakness. Add to that any lack confidence or the appearance that you don’t believe in your mission or story – and you’re destined to fall short of your intended goals.
The initial investor meeting is where you separate yourself from the pack – your story is not the same as any other startup in any other industry – especially your own.
You and your startup have a different business model, a different solution, and a different attitude. Your pitch deck cannot be held down and held back by mediocrity or bare minimum design solutions that a pitch deck template provides. Instead you need to showcase the type of creativeness that a pitch deck custom tailored to your startup, can provide. Don’t ignore the bigger picture and the story arc behind it.
Because You Have The Framework It Doesn’t Mean You’re Done
Templates may be a way to fast track the design aspect of your pitch deck, especially if you’re someone who feels artistically challenged. A design solution sure, the best design solution definitely not. And scalable to other marketing activities – oh man we sure hope not.
A design solution doesn’t mean a well designed solution.
Sure, you’ve got the pitch deck template, but the content and graphics portion still relies heavily on you. It’s up to you entirely to fill in the content and alter the design to fit your company without any expert consultation or advice. At the end of the day, with a pitch deck template you’re still alone without much help.
Design, story, and effectiveness.
With the investment you make with an expert in pitch deck design, you lean on their years of experience to get it right. Take the design solutions team here at Pitch Deck Fire for example: clients work with three experts.
We have experts in storytelling, experts in pitch deck writing, and experts in pitch deck design. Our experts guide you through the process of creating a pitch deck and ask you all the right questions in order to get to the root of your company. We want to help you fine tune and develop your investor presentation.
What Happens if You Use a Template?
Short answer? Nothing.
A lot of wasted time happens when you start with a template. You risk turning off your investors from the start. Nothing is not what you are looking for. It’s not necessarily you, it’s your undifferentiated approach.
Or is it you? Maybe you’re your own worst enemy and you’re getting in the way of successfully marketing your startup to investors. Maybe looking at the cost side of things has you convinced it’s not worth it to have compelling design, storytelling and scale for all your future marketing efforts. And if you are having trouble marketing your startup to your investors, chances are that you’re probably having trouble marketing to your customers too.
We look at pitch decks like one of the most important early marketing investments you can make. They get you thinking more about your company and help get your story down better. They help you see the potential of what could be, better than trying to do it all yourself. And they also help you talk and communicate your value to customers – which at the end of the day – makes your entire fundraising journey easier and more compelling. After all, it’s all about the customer in the end.
We’re not telling you to go out and hire a five figure design agency to help you, but we are suggesting you give us a call, so we can help you hit the ground running the right way from day 1. We’re here to save you from both doing it yourself and having to pay too much to get it done. Pitch Deck Fire is the lowest cost solution for that reason, and it’s not even a cost, it’s an investment in you, your business, and your future. We’ve built our killer design capabilities to become your trusted long-term partner in all your startup design needs. Let’s start with getting that pitch deck right.
Let’s Revisit Brad…
Let’s talk about Brad again: Unfortunately, Brad chose to use a pitch deck template for his investor presentation. He downloaded a pitch deck template from one of those deck builder websites, filled the pitch deck in, imported his logo, and clicked save. When he went to export it, he realized that he was in a free trial and had to sign up for a subscription to download his completed pitch presentation. What happens next? You can practically feel Brad’s wallet being tugged on here.
- It will take longer to get funding
- He won’t get to work with his top choice investors
- He’ll have a lower valuation
- He may not get funding at all
- He won’t have anything he can use for attracting customers and making a stronger case
Longer to get funding means more chance of failure
Brad sends his deck to that interested investor. But a few months later, he still hasn’t heard back from her. She has been turned off by the uninspiring pitch deck design of his presentation. After all he couldn’t pull the trigger on investing in his brand and message – why should she? Brad only had one shot to grab her attention and ultimately, he failed.
We are in business so this doesn’t happen to you. Setup a call with us today to talk through your needs and objectives. And let us help you make the most of your time and money
You only get one shot – Do you really want to trust a template?
Brad hasn’t received much traction from the events he pitches at or from the pitch decks that he sends to potential investors. A funding round that he hoped he could close in 3 months has dragged on to a year and Brad sees his window closing.
In the meantime, Brad has had to outlay considerably more seed funding from his own bank account and maxed out credit cards to cover the many months of runway that have passed since his projected runway ran out.
The business is limping along, and there are so many, much needed product fixes and marketing efforts piling up on the to do list that Brad is overwhelmed.
In addition he’s struggling with customers too. There isn’t really anything left to put towards marketing now. And he can’t seem to get them interested or on-board.
A Lucky Break for Brad; At such a High Cost
Finally Brad get’s an interested investor to agree to fund his project. By this time, he’s already talked to hundreds of investors and friends of friends – not customers. He’s heard so many “no’s” that he’s become exhausted and knows he is running out of time. He’s desperate.
Brad decides he is going to take funding from investors who don’t normally invest in his industry, out of desperation, linking with investors who don’t have connections that he can leverage.
In this desperate case, he gets the funding he needs, sure, but he misses out on so much of the intangible value of having the right investors on early rounds. He’s also given up more equity than he even thinks is worth it to continue building the business.
In short – those early round investors are the ones that believe in you and your mission, the ones who will go to bat for you and will do everything to help you succeed. The one’s that care about you keeping your equity and staying interested in the business. And the one’s that have leverage to get knowledge and experience on your side.
Seagull Investors Aren’t a Life-raft
Instead, Brad is left with seagull investors. They are never there, but they swoop in every once in a while to shit all over everything. These investors put tons of pressure on Brad and constantly lord unreasonable targets over him so they can take what’s left of his company from him. They lead Brad down paths into partnerships for their own self-interest and they urge him to make short term thinking decisions to recoup their investment faster.
Do you want to be stuck in that situation? I think not.
A Lower Valuation and Unseen Costs
Brad found that at the negotiation table he had a lot less power. By the time he sat down to talk with investors to speak numbers and lay out the terms for their investment, he was so cash strapped that it made him desperate.
And because he used a pitch deck template, Brad’s investors had a significantly lower opinion of him and his marketing capabilities. So in the end, they placed a lower valuation of his company and got a larger percentage ownership. Years in the future, this meant that the investors got to keep more of Brad’s hard earned profit. Do you see the importance of a professional pitch deck versus a downloadable or free pitch deck template? The repercussions are night and day. This is why early marketing investment is an investment. Not a cost. What you see as a shocking $2000 can end up costing you millions in the end.
Funding Isn’t Guaranteed
In the end though, Brad was lucky to get funding at all. Time and time again we see far too many startups fall flat on their face before they are able to raise the funds they need to succeed. It’s the initial steps that you take in the beginning that go the longest way in the future. This is a main reason why we believe that using a pitch deck design expert is an investment in the future of your company. You don’t want to wind up like poor Brad.
Funding isn’t a guaranteed outcome of any pitch no matter how great your deck, company, team, and traction are. But those who start off right and improve as they go have a better chance at success.
What are you missing out on?
- Customized branding
- Pitch Deck expertise and storytelling
- Time spent on the business and not the pitch deck
- Better customer conversations and messaging
- More sales and traction
A pitch deck template is a passive vessel for your brand and not a generator of your brand. Working with a pitch deck design expert can bring fresh ideas to life and provide your brand with design solutions you never thought of before. Here at Pitch Deck Fire, our pitch deck writers excel at catchy copy that explode with your brand message and market your startup to its full potential. Not to mention our killer pitch deck designers develop custom graphics, icons, and other design elements that you can use beyond your pitch deck. These are important qualities that no downloadable or free pitch deck template can offer you.
Pitch Deck Expertise and Storytelling
A pitch deck template will give you the buckets, but it will not fill them. A pitch deck template will give you some direction, it will tell you what kinds of information to write where, but it will not give you any assistance. You need to either know, or be able, to figure out the content that you need to include. You’ll need to write the actual words on the slide and adapt the slide template to fit your content. And we get it, you’re busy and you have a lot going on.
You also don’t know what investors want to see, so you’ll spend a ton of time researching each slide and developing the content yourself. Think about this though: working with an expert means they walk you through it all, practically leading you by the hand throughout the process. They design pitch decks day in and day out, they eat-sleep-breathe pitch decks. Pitch deck designers hear the things you say in between the lines and they look for and develop the story for you in a visually-compelling way.
Time Spent on the Business and Not the Pitch Deck
Founders who decide to work with a pitch deck design service (especially a reputable one) will find that it frees up their time to be spent continuing to grow their company. Their design firm spends the time to build the best pitch deck possible, asking for input at various points in the project to make sure this operation is thorough and custom-tailored. This way, founders and startups are spending minimal time ensuring the deck in on track and in their voice. I know speaking personally from us here at Pitch Deck Fire, we see our startups go from spending 80+ hours building a pitch deck on their own (struggling with research and design that are far outside their wheelhouse) to jut 3-4 hours working with our team. Now that right there, is true convenience.
Better Customer Conversations
Because of all the time spent going through your pitch and getting your business’ unique value proposition and message defined, you have stronger customer conversations from day one. This leads to customer traction which can be key to getting investment faster. It can also mean the difference between meeting you revenue commitments and getting higher initial valuations for your business. Ultimately, your customers are why you exist and the more you can get in touch with them, the better you will be across all levels of your business.
They influence your ability to build and not over-build the right products. They help you understand their problems and how you can best solve them. Building your company around what your customer is actually willing to buy and solving their problem will make you innovative and better able to deal with competitive pressure.
More Sales and Traction
And ultimately customers give you cash and commitments that help you see where to spend your time and invest in your company the right way. It helps investors too. Companies often come to them with half-baked ideas that might work, but without customer traction behind them, the investment is too risky to take on.
Customer traction through sales is a great way to bootstrap your company. If you can’t bootstrap, commitment is key to demonstrating traction. How do they respond to the prototype? What do they like and not like about it? What are your plans to address this? How many people do you have on your impact list?
These forms of traction can really go along way to making a better, stronger case for your business. It will keep you out of desperation mode. It will also make a better business overall. Add anything you do with traction into a great deck to make it even better.
If you want your pitch deck done right the first time, use a pitch deck design service — like Pitch Deck Fire.
Pitch Deck Fire is a full service marketing and design solutions firm that specializes in pitch deck design and investor presentations. Our pitch deck design team diligently tells each company’s unique story in a way that will impress investors and help them secure business startup funding.
“No one remembers you for standing in the crowd . But they do remember you for standing out of it.” -Eddie Harris