Author Dale Carnegie penned what may be the perfect headline with the title of his 1936 self-help classic, How to Win Friends and Influence People. Any headline has just one purpose—to get the first sentence of what follows read. A good copywriter will tell you that a strong, compelling headline focuses on the reward: Whether it’s for print or audio-visual media, a title or caption that interests is one that promises a benefit in return for the audience’s giving its time and attention.Copywriters understand that written words are their “silent salespeople,” and that a headline serves to pick out from the crowd those members who can, prospectively, be influenced. Some writers opt for the Question Headline: “Who Wants to Get Rich Quick?” Or the Reason Why headline: “Five Ways Investors Get Bamboozled.” Here’s a Testimonial Headline: “I Closed a Sweet Angel Deal and You Can Too.” Dale Carnegie chose the tried-and-true How-To Headline. Whichever formula is used, the important thing to remember is that first words are the ones that make the greatest impression on a prospect…investors included.

What’s the purpose for a title slide in an entrepreneur’s pitch deck? Answer: to convince an investor audience that the entrepreneur isn’t about to waste their valuable time. How should an entrepreneur do that? Answer: By spending a lot of time crafting the title or headline on that first slide. How much time? Well…according to some of the greatest copywriters—legendary ad men such as Claude Hopkins and David Ogilvy—you should spend half the entire time it takes to write a piece of creative content working on the headline. Entrepreneurs should take a lesson from Madison Avenue: The better the title on the first slide, the better the odds of investors getting interested in the pitch that follows.

Face it: Many entrepreneurs create their title slide as an afterthought once they’ve assembled their PowerPoint deck. They think of it just as a placeholder, with the name of the company and their own name, and perhaps a picture, that gets flashed up on the projection screen while they stand smilingly at the front of the room throughout the long to-do when investors are settling into seats to hear (ostensibly) what the entrepreneur has to say. Haven’t you seen it? An entrepreneur is raring to go—like a racecar driver waiting on the green flag—while the audience is telegraphing, “So what?”

“So what?” is the most important—the only—question an entrepreneur must answer with a title slide. And the question must be answered before an entrepreneur can expect an audience to listen to their pitch.

Audiences are self-interested. As we all are. Read Claude Hopkins: “The people you address are selfish…. They care nothing about your interests or profit. They seek service for themselves.” Promoters and persuaders teach that to cause impact, titles, headlines and sub-headlines must:

  • Offer something beneficial or useful,
  • Convey a sense of urgency regarding what’s to be provided,
  • Give the impression that the benefit will be personal or unique,
  • Be specific about what’s being promised.

Look again at Dale Carnegie’s book title: How to Win Friends and Influence People. If Carnegie were alive today, and was giving a funding pitch, wouldn’t his headline offer get an audience to quickly take their seats and listen? I think so. Carnegie offers what’s almost universally considered beneficial: having more and better friends. He doesn’t say “How to Meet People and Over Time Develop Meaningful, Mutually Rewarding, Give-and-Take Relationships.” No; Carnegie’s message implies “how to get one’s own way”—right away. His offer is personal. It’s you from his audience he’s offering to help. And his promise is specific: He’s going to share the secret of how to do something you’ve probably struggled with your entire life. As far as introductions go, it scores ten-for-ten.

If Dale Carnegie was writing copy for a PowerPoint pitch deck, on the title slide he’d likely put his great headline. And to provide a more satisfying answer to “So what?” he could add his name, his business, and a single, strong fact, such as “Best-selling author with over 30 million copies sold.” Understandably, most entrepreneurs must be more modest regarding their best accomplishment. But the point of answering “So what?” in the title slide is to pique the interest of investors even before the pitch begins. Take if from ad writers: Give the investors a grabber of a title slide!

The point of all this is simple. You are only an entrepreneur if you are selling something. Otherwise, you are an inventor, which the world needs, but rarely make good business people. If your “entrepreneur” can’t sell you on investing in his/her business that he/she has labored and sacrificed to create, then he/she can’t sell anything to the company’s target customers either. It is up to you to decide how to treat such an entrepreneur. If you believe he/she has capacity to learn, then mentor him/her. If you do not believe he/she has the capacity to become a successful salesman, then you need to politely let the venture go. A “B” product in the hands of an “A” team can still score a major victory. However, an “A” product in the hands of a “B” team will rarely if ever make it make it across the goal line.

This is published under the Appalachian Regional Commission POWER Grant, PW-1835-M.

Copyright Appalachian Investors Alliance, Inc. 2018
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