As a start-up founder, finding ways to raise capital is probably one of the top three challenges keeping you up at night. Whether you’re trying to convince a family member or Silicon Valley investor to give you money, one key element for success is being prepared to clearly communicate your value and plans for growth and profitability.

So in the words of Will Smith, “If you stay ready, you ain’t got to get ready.”  Here are a few questions to guide you in clearly communicating your value:

In 60 seconds or less, how can you convey the unique value proposition of your startup’s product or service?

For an investor who’s pitched often, time is of the essence. Prepare and practice a 1-2 sentence compelling story which highlights:

      • The problem you solve.
      • The benefits that make this product or service stand out from the crowd.

The key to winning a person over with this statement is to entice them to want to learn more. Most importantly, avoid catchy phrases and buzzwords. For instance,  many startup founders position themselves as “the next ‘Uber'” or “The Airbnb of the _______world.” These phrases are overused, and they don’t clearly describe the value of your product or service.

How does your product or service create value for your customers?

Typically, breaking down how your product creates value comes down to understanding your customer’s struggles, needs, wants, and desires.

      •  How does your product/service help them or make life easier for them?
      • What motivates them to purchase?

Why should an investor do business with you?

After you’ve clearly explained the problem you solve for a particular audience, the next question should convey the “Why?” behind the “What?” There may be several responses to this question. However, connecting a social cause, untapped market underestimated community, team, education, and experience can help someone believe in your vision and trust that you’re the perfect person to do business with. Also creating a sense of urgency is another persuasive technique that could be used to win someone over. One question to consider: Why is this problem important to solve right now?

How is your product currently producing or delivering value for your audience?

Can you provide evidence that supports the value you claim to provide? Your response to this question is based on market proof that what you say you can do is actually happening. The key thing here is to know your numbers — from the number of customers you serve, financial projections, and marketing strategy to metrics such as revenue and analytics which shows audience engagement and conversions.

Can you allow an investor an opportunity to experience the features and benefits of your product?

If you don’t have a LIVE physical product or demonstration for them, use customer stories and testimonials as a way to prove your product benefits and profitability. Even showing reviews from your company Facebook page is a way to demonstrate customer value and build credibility.

Compared to similar options in the marketplace, how is your startup qualified to meet your customer’s needs?

Is there a gap in the marketplace or points of friction (e.g., long wait time, ) for consumers? What’s the potential market size for solving this problem? Right now, what do customers purchase in place of your product/service? Is there any opportunity for a competitor to copy your approach, product or service?

Claiming you have no competitors or not being aware of similar options in the market can send a red flag that you don’t know your industry. Perform a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis to help you identify competitors in your market and prepare to answer questions about ways your company uniquely serves the needs of your target customers. 

Who are you pitching?

Pitches aren’t a “one-size fits all” approach. While you may have a pitch deck ready, your pitch should be tailored to align with an investor’s focus or portfolio. When it comes to researching investors, consider things like the sectors and stages they typically invest in. People like to see that you’ve done your homework.