Convincing potential investors to support your vision is no easy feat, especially if they don’t fully grasp the nature of your business. The “Features” section of your pitch deck plays a vital role in helping investors understand what your company does and what sets it apart from the competition.
In this blog post, we’ll explore the key elements of a powerful “Features” section and provide practical tips (with examples).
As part of the business planning process, it’s critical to clearly define your Unique Value Proposition — the singular message that explains how your company is different from everything else out there. This is the part of the pitch presentation where you drive that message home.
But keep in mind that your entire presentation should take around 15 minutes, and there are many other sections you need to cover. You can probably allocate up to five minutes to this part of the presentation, but it’s important to whittle it down to the most important components.
Where It Fits in the Pitch Deck
In our pitch deck narrative, this section comes right after you’ve explained the problem or opportunity in the market. (I’ll add more about the relationship between these two sections in a subsequent post.)
At this stage of the presentation, you don’t need to talk about your competitors or your customer base; there are other slides for that. Instead, you should focus primarily on what it is your company does.
Features vs Benefits
Before exploring some examples, it’s important to understand the difference between what we mean by features versus benefits. Features refer to the physical characteristics of a product or service, whereas benefits are the results that customers receive when using it.
In marketing, we often refer to this as “selling the sizzle not the steak.” The saying was coined by Elmer Wheeler in the 1930s, and has become lesson number one in advertising: When marketing a product or service to customers, it’s important to focus on the benefits rather than just the features, as people often make purchasing decisions based on the emotions and aspirations that the product or service evokes.
However, in the case of a pitch deck, it’s important to keep in mind that the audience you’re presenting to is not your customer. Investors are typically highly intelligent and analytical, and they won’t make impulsive decisions. Therefore, it’s crucial to focus on the functional characteristics of the business rather than simply using “sizzle” like you would to sell the product to a consumer.
That being said, it’s still important to sell the investors on the product or service, as it can show you have the skills to sell to your customers in the future. But in a pitch deck, I would prioritize features over benefits.
Here are several formats commonly used for the “Features” slides:
- How It Works
- Organized Lists
- Product Photo Grid
- Product Photo Schematic
How It Works
An effective way to demonstrate the function of a product or service is by illustrating how a customer interacts with it. A step-by-step approach is the simple way to go, especially for mobile apps and software.
However, one common mistake made by founders is wanting to showcase every aspect of their product. It’s crucial to focus only on the unique features that make the company stand out in the market.
For instance, in the case of a fictional mobile app called Chorify, it’s essential to highlight specific pieces of information that showcase its unique selling point. These could include features such as assigning household chores, earning and redeeming allowances, and any other features that make Chorify stand out from other similar apps.
It’s cliche, but showing that it’s “easy as 1-2-3” is effective and works well here.
One quick way to visually communicate a concept is through the use of iconography. Icons are simple, yet powerful, visual representations of concepts, ideas, or objects that can be recognized and understood without explanation.
And, as we’ve discussed in our prior articles, a key part of an effective visual presentation is reducing the number of words your audience has to read. Remember, they’re either reading or listening, never both!
Icons are especially effective for service-based companies where the goods are intangible. For our fictional, gamified cryptocurrency company JRRToken, icons can help show the audience what the tokens are and how the game is played. Additionally, icons can be used as a visual aid to break up text and provide a clear reference point.
It is important to maintain consistency when using icons to ensure a coherent visual story. For example, in the first slide, all icons are bold and one-color, while in the second slide, they are illustrative outlines. In both cases, the icons match each other, maintaining a clear visual hierarchy of information on each slide.
There are several resources available for finding icons, such as The Noun Project, which offers both free and paid membership downloads. IconScout is another freemium resource that works as a plug-in for PowerPoint and other presentation software. If you have a budget and are using professional design software, Adobe Stock is a great option that offers high-quality icon sets.
In some cases, it may be necessary to simply list the features of a product or service on a slide. However, it’s important to be mindful of using too many words on a single slide. If you must explain the features, typography can be used to highlight and emphasize the key points.
The words can be made into a visual element by using a header as a key point of emphasis and putting explanation text below. This approach can help make the information more engaging and easier to digest for the audience. It’s important to strike a balance between providing enough information and avoiding information overload, as too much can quickly become overwhelming and ineffective.
One useful technique is to mimic an ecommerce product page with a list of features and product photos. However, it’s important to remember that the goal is not to sell the product but to secure investment for the business. Therefore, highlighting information such as direct costs and retail margins can be effective in demonstrating the potential for profit and return on investment.
Product Photo Grid
If a company is selling a number of products, a product grid is a simple and effective solution. It’s critical to have good photography of your product, but with the quality of today’s phone cameras, that shouldn’t be a difficult hurdle to overcome.
For our imaginary high-end donut shop, D’oh-Nuts, using images is a great way to tantalize the investor’s taste buds. It’s not necessary to showcase every single product your business offers. Here I opted to showcase a selection of six products as it creates an aesthetically pleasing layout when arranged in two rows of three.
It’s also important to use typographic variation to guide the audience’s attention towards the most important information on the page. The header should be the focal point, while the body text can provide additional details for those who are interested, but it should be secondary in the visual hierarchy.
Product photo Schematic
A final technique is to use a schematic diagram of the product to visually point out key features. This can be particularly useful when showcasing a product that is still in development, which is often the case during the seed funding round.
By using a schematic, you can highlight key features of the product and help potential investors understand its functionality. However, it’s important to avoid misleading investors into thinking the product is further along in development than it actually is.
To illustrate this technique, let’s take the example of CropDrones, a precision agriculture drone. Instead of overwhelming investors with technical details, we can showcase the crucial components of the product — the drone and the integrated software — as separate slides and use pointers to highlight the important features.
A product schematic can effectively communicate complex products by breaking down the different components into the features that make the product work. By visually connecting each point to the corresponding image, this technique helps investors easily understand the important differentiators.
When you add visuals like these to your pitch deck, you increase the likelihood that your presentation will resonate with potential investors. If you feel overwhelmed by this prospect, the Masterplans team is here to work with you to develop a pitch deck that will attract the attention of potential investors and earn the funding you need to turn your vision into reality.
Note: This is the third post in our “Art of the Pitch Deck” series, in which we examine the various slides of a typical pitch deck and discuss visual communication techniques that have proven effective for our clients.