Any investor, buyer or potential business partner will tell you it is critical to nail your pitch. No matter what stage a company is in – idea, growth, or scale – the ability to effectively communicate what your company is, why you started it, how it is differentiated in a way that is solving a real problem, and how your company fits with the program is key.
This is true not only when verbally pitching, but also when applying for any Accelerator or Incubator program. Mastering the art of submitting an accurate, thorough, and compelling application is another type of pitch often overlooked by applicants.
Our Target Accelerators team has rounded up a few tips to make sure your applications are set up for success, whether they are for an upcoming Target Accelerators program or wherever your entrepreneurial journey takes you.
Tip #1: Make sure you meet all qualifications of a program.
Be sure to read the application requirements not once, not twice, but at least three times. Then take an honest look at where you and your company are at and determine if you meet all of the requirements, not just a few. Does your company fit the industry or product category the application requires? Can you participate fully in the program? Can you clearly communicate what value you are hoping to get out of the program, not just getting business with the program provider? If the answer to any of these is no, then you might not be a good fit for the program. If you are ever unsure, send a message or get in contact with the program manager to learn more.
Tip #2: Be clear on how your product is differentiated.
In your application, you want to stand out in the readers’ mind and you can do this by planning out what you want the reader to understand. The biggest takeaway you want the reader to have is why your company, brand, and product is different than anything else currently in the marketplace. Put another way, what unique problem are you solving that no one else is? The uniqueness can come from your ingredients, packaging, your background as a founder, the research, the audience, and more! If you don’t say it, the reader won’t know! There are plenty of industries that are saturated with similar items, just branded differently, so it is critically important for you to clearly differentiate your product(s) from your competitors. Once you can communicate this value proposition clearly, the next thing to make sure you can do is back it up.
Tip #3: Proofread your application.
The review panel can only judge your application by what you include in it so it is important to make sure that before you hit the submit button, that you have included everything they have asked for and that what you are trying to communicate clearly comes through in your application.
- Ensure all links you provide actually work! This includes everything from your website, Instagram handle, etc.
- If there are essay questions, make sure that your responses convey your intended meaning. Ensure you are fully answering the question that is asked and that your answer is thorough.
- Have a friend, partner, or family member read through your application to see if someone that is not as close to the work understands what you are trying to say.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
Tip #4: Learn the jargon!
Applications may ask a question or require you to provide an answer that may be new to you. For instance, if asked whether your company has revenue or not, the question is asking if you have sold even one item. Revenue equals sales, not profit. Another instance is when asked about capabilities. It’s okay if you don’t understand but ask questions when that’s the case. Try googling terms and take the time to learn so that you are answering the question correctly. Programs use these answers to determine which companies are the best fit for the program, so it is important to answer these honestly. It is tempting to select many or all options but that too can be a disadvantage based on the program criteria; so don’t get sorted for the wrong reason. Check out some common retail-specific terms below:
LLC: A Limited Liability Corporation is a type of legal structure for an organization where a corporate loss will not exceed the amount invested in a partnership for or limited liability company (LLC). In other words, investors’ and owners’ private assets are not at risk if the company fails. Source
Sales Revenue = Sales Price x Number of Units Sold
PROFIT: Profit is the money a business pulls in after accounting for all expenses. Source
Profit = Total Sales – Total Expenses
EDI: Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) is the computer-to-computer exchange of business in a standard electronic format between business partners. EDI documents can flow straight through to the appropriate application on the receiver’s computer (e.g. the order management system) and processing can begin immediately. Source
3PL: 3PL, or third-party logistics, is essentially a variety of services and processes that are provided to a business by an external company for a variety of reasons such as wanting to reduce costs, improve efficiencies and expand capabilities. 3PL services are usually flexible and scalable based on the needs of the business, meaning that they can be utilized on an as-needed basis, or as a long-term solution depending on the goals and objectives of the business. Source
Tip #5: Don’t be afraid to ask questions!
We said it before and we’ll use this tip to say it again…take advantage of any opportunity to raise a question to the program you are applying for if you are ever unsure about what they are looking for – whether that be attending an informational webinar, office hours or even reaching out directly to a program contact. You don’t want to count yourself out of an opportunity just because you didn’t ask for help or clarity!
Happy applying, future shapers.