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Texts with Founders: How “Good Guy” Phrases Torpedo a Pitch
And how to win over customers and investors
Welcome to the 11th post from Texts with Founders — tested tactics for early-stage startups.
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When someone describes themselves as a "good guy," warning lights start flashing. But when a person you know describes someone else as a "good guy," you are more likely to believe them.
This is why I like to call the superlatives that many founders use during pitches "good guy phrases."
If a founder describes their product as an "innovative solution", they will not sound very believable. On the other hand, if a paying customer says the exact same thing it is very convincing.
Believability is perhaps the most important aspect of a pitch to customers or investors. You’re in trouble if they don’t believe you can solve a tangible (and valuable) problem. That’s why it’s essential to avoid “good guy” phrases which risk making you seem less legitimate.
Here are a couple examples to avoid in the startup context:
"We're a game-changing product."
“We have incredibly relevant experience."
"We are uniquely positioned."
"We have extensive connections."
There’s probably over 100 more.
One of the challenges with these types of phrases is that they are fluffy and not at all descriptive.
What exactly is a "game-changing product" anyway? Saying that does nothing to help customers or investors understand what it is the startup does.
It turns out phrases like this work better as reactions from investors and customers than descriptions from founders:
Description from a founder about the team: "My co-founder spent the last 5 years as an ophthalmologist, and at my last job, I led a team building hardware to detect pupil dilation."
Reaction from an investor about the team: "Wow, that team has incredibly relevant experience."
Show, don’t tell
If a founder makes a statement that has no actual data backing it up (“People love our product”) it’s possible they are falling into the “good guy” trap.
When it comes to explaining something, found should avoid these sorts of self-congratulatory phrases. Instead, they can illustrate those points in a demo, prove them with data (“Every customer makes 2 referrals”), or, as an occasional fall-back, let customers say them via testimonials.
Show customers and investors what you're building — then let them tell you how groundbreaking it is.
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Weekly Investor Updates - Keep investors close and yourself on track
Check Size Doesn’t Matter - Forget minimum amounts and optimize for quality people
Raise the round behind you - Avoid a drawn-out process and optimize for the best investors.
Conditional Commitments - Why they aren't commitments and what to do about them.
Handling Inbound From Investors - Avoid distractions and keep potential investors warm.
Avoid Hiring Too Early - Navigate external pressure focused on vanity metrics
Customers understand before investors do - And some investors will never understand
The Benefits and Downsides of Responsiveness - Where it can help and where it can backfire.
Avoiding Gossip - Nimbly navigate an awkward scenario.
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