First you need the idea, then you need the pitch.
1. Expect to have ideas . If you believe you’re incapable of coming up with ideas then you won’t come up with any. Put aside any negativity about yourself or you creativity and expect to have ideas.
2. Keep and open mind. Ideas can come from anywhere and some of the best ideas will seem daft or impossible based on your current knowledge, experience and assumptions. Try to be prepared to explore new ideas and to change your view of the world.3. Keep a written record of your ideas, ideas that inspire you or ideas that are new to you - When you write things down you are more likely to remember them and if you don’t you’ve got a record to refer back to. I keep a record of all the ideas I see, read/hear about or have and I review it regularly. My written record has also evolved into this blog full of ideas.
4. Try to learn something new every day. Talk to other business people, talk to your friends and neighbours, talk to anyone that looks interesting and will talk to you. Read websites, magazines, books whatever medium you prefer try to read something that will expand your knowledge everyday. I enjoy business/entrepreneurs biographies and histories especially those that explain where the business or idea for it came from.
5. Talk about your ideas. Talk about your ideas to anyone who will listen, more often that not it’s my wife who has to listen to my ideas, if she’s not around however I’ll talk to myself! Failing that write down what you’d say to someone to explain the idea. The point is that in explaining the idea you’ll usually spot flaws or areas for improvement thus making the idea better.
6. Ask questions and listen to peoples problems, hopes, dreams and aspirations. As a small business consultant I always ask people what problems, issues or challenges they face in their business (or job), there are often good business opportunities in solving those problems. Peoples hopes, dreams and aspirations can provide ideas for example a business like Red Letter Days helps people fulfil their dreams by providing experiences such as driving a supercar or flying a plane. Weight Watchers appeals to those hoping to loose weight.
7. Research see what else is out there that is similar. Evaluate potential competition and keep notes on what you find. Use the search engines to look for similar ideas, businesses or products and take notes on them.
8. Draw a mind map. A mind map is a diagram used to represent words, ideas, tasks or other items linked to and arranged radially around a central key word or idea. It is used to generate, visualize, structure and classify ideas, and as an aid in study, organization, problem solving, decision making, and writing.
9. Synthesise ideas. Put two or more unrelated ideas together. One way to do this is to brainstorm with your team. You’ll get the best results if you’ve followed steps 1 - 6 first as you’ll have a larger pool of ideas to combine.
10. Sleep on it. Go away for a while and think of something else, often your subconscious mind will continue to work on the problem and will come up with new ideas or refinements on the ideas you already have.
Advice to pitchers (from Peter Jones - Dragons Den):
1) Dress appropriately. You wouldn’t ask your bank manager for a loan dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, and you shouldn’t expect me to invest in you if you don’t know what is appropriate to wear in a given situation. Dress according to the job you are applying for, or the request you are making.
2) Be confident. You should have faith in yourself and your idea. Often I look to invest in an individual as much as in their concept – so show what you can do! You get few opportunities to pitch directly to investors, so make the most of them. Even if they choose not to invest in you, it is a great opportunity to get some feedback from experienced business people.
3) Be honest about your company and your forecasts. There is nothing more embarrassing than seeing a pitcher crumble when their figures are questioned and picked apart by savvy investors. Do not over-estimate your capability, it will not inspire investors with enthusiasm or confidence in you. Some investments that are made on Dragons’ Den fall through because pitchers over-exaggerate about their business potential, and are misleading about their contacts and their progress so far.4) Be concise. Make sure that your business plan can be easily understood by those who you are pitching to and do not waffle. Remember, I want hard facts and figures as well as how you are going to make your concept into reality. What you say must inspire investors, without drifting into a fantasy realm.
5) My final, and perhaps my most crucial tip of all, is make sure that you research your idea thoroughly! It is amazing how many people try to pitch to me, without having looked into the market sector that they are trying to break into. Sometimes a simple internet search reveals that their idea has been done before, or that their estimation of demand is completely skewed. Look around at your competitors and see how you can offer a better and more competitive service than them.
Finally, my top tip is, make your dreams reality. Here’s to your dreams!"