The art of the pitch and mastering the funnel

Week six tackled how to represent yourself at all levels and to recognise marketing at every function of your business


The power of your pitch and of your marketing were at the core of today’s workshops on week six of the AIB Start-up Academy. Irish Times Training facilitators Aidan Greene took the fourteen finalist start-up companies through “The Art of the Pitch” and Lisa Hughes gave a masterclass in marketing and “Mastering the Funnel.”

As entrepreneurs, there is a lot of selling ahead for the start-ups, and selling is about their message and making it as acceptable, as impactful and to have your audience as receptive as possible said Aidan Greene, who took the finalists through “The art of the pitch.” Doing the very best pitch that you possibly can is something that is particularly important for the finalists, not only for the way they pitch their business in future, but for their final pitch in just a few weeks’ times.

“If there are things the (finalists) can take away from today they are: attention to detail, do not make any mistakes, proof read, proof read, proof read. Make sure everything is produced to a very high standard because this all reflects on you and your business. The other thing is understanding your audience. Put yourself in the shoes of the people that you’re pitching to. How would they like the presentation to go? Focus on the benefits of your product or service, rather than the features which we get so obsessed about as business owners. Focus on how it’s going to change the people that you’re pitching to, how is it going to change them, their business, how is it going to make a real impact,” said Greene.

He then gave the finalists tips on how to present themselves, how to control their environment when they’re pitching and how to present the final presentation in a way that will have the most impact on the audience.

“It’s fine to show passion in your product, but don’t get too caught up in it. Your greatest passion on the day should be how you’re going to improve the lives of those you’re going to be pitching to,” he explained.

For those who are nervous of public speaking, Greene said to prepare as much as possible. “Practice is crucial. Do as many run-throughs as you possibly can and if it’s still very difficult then you just pretend to be an extrovert for half an hour. That’s what I do,” said Greene.

Lisa Hughes was with the finalists to focus on marketing and “Mastering the funnel” which she said is key to any business.

“Marketing is the engine of a company, marketing isn’t something that’s in a department, it’s everything you do, the whole customer experience that you have at every single point,” said Hughes.

“The funnel is about creating awareness then consideration and then being brought into the intent. If you think about the way we buy anything, you have to know that it’s available, you have to feel that it’s for you and then you have to be wanting and needing something. And you are really only targeting very specific target segments. You are not for everybody so stop trying to be all things to all people. What you really want to do is to target those people who you connect with, whose pain you are solving, whose problems you’re taking away or who you are adding value to,” said Hughes.

“Knowing who your customer is one of the most important things for any business, not who every customer is but who are the customers that you are really connecting with. How do you create loyalty and advocacy in them so that they fill the top of the funnel again by making other people aware and doing the sales pitch for you. This afternoon we looked at how the finalists can actually apply that,” she explained.   

Hughes said that start-ups can be at an advantage with marketing as they can change strategy quickly because they are smaller.

“Big marketeers are now thinking small. It’s not like it used to be, these big brand advertising campaigns. What people are really connecting to now is content that’s interesting, that’s funny, that’s relevant. You don’t have to have big budgets, you don’t have to have big money but you can have big ideas and you can have great conversations. The great thing about being small is that you can be flexible and agile and responsive and you have the ability to listen to your clients and your customers because you are at the coal face. Don’t be afraid to try something new,” said Hughes.

In just a few weeks the finalists will find out who has won the ultimate prize after they make their final pitch to a panel of judges at the finale in Dublin.

Keelin O’Keeffe from Kiki Moon said “Today has been great. The marketing funnel is really important in any business and I found today’s workshop to be very informative. There are a lot of key points that I can take and apply to my business and it clarified for me about really looking at who my customer is,” said O’Keeffe.

“Aidan was fantastic and had a lot of excellent advice and the importance of preparation in a pitch, telling your story, getting your personality across and coming across as a little bit different and memorable, so that’s the challenge that we will have to work on. This pitch could potentially change your business and your life really,” said O’Keeffe.

Darren Ducote from The Little Pharma said that winning the Academy would be fantastic for their company.

“It would be huge, it would be crazy. We’d be so proud. From what we’ve built, to everything we’ve gone through, it would propel our business to the next level which is where were going, we are taking our product global and if someone’s holding our hand all the better. We’ve learned an awful lot, so to win the Start-up Academy would be the pinnacle,” said Ducote.

Next week the focus is on “Finance and Funding” and “Writing for Clarity & Digital” with facilitators John O’Dwyer from AIB and Jennifer O’Connell from Irish Times Training.

The 14 finalists are:

Frankman Grooming, Tipperary Boutique Distillery Limited, Bakers & Cakers, Izzy Wheels, Origin Bars, Atturos, Ostoform, The Little Pharma Ltd, Kiki Moon, Oathello Network Limited, FEED, Hydrasure, Fresh from and Dynomed.

This is the third year of the Start-up Academy which is a joint venture between AIB and The Irish Times to help start-up companies develop as the finalists follow an eight-week programme where they have the unique opportunity to network and learn from entrepreneurs, industry experts and each other in a mentoring and training programme.

The start-up companies taking part in the eight week accelerator programme will pitch at a finale event to try and win a prize worth €200,000 for their business.

To find out more visit

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