If you have been in the startup game for a while, there are certain phrases you hear often that make you instinctively roll your eyes. 

If you are a first time entrepreneur, you might accidentally think these words or phrases are actually beneficial to you. I am here to tell you that you are wrong and they cause you more damage than you know. Here are five phrases you should avoid at all costs, when pitching your startup.

1. Generate Buzz

As a marketer, nothing offends me more than these two words. I want to hire you to "Generate buzz", or "Our marketing strategy is to generate buzz". What does that even mean? What is buzz and why do you want to generate it? Maybe stop with the abstract statements and say something like "I would like to leverage some targeted PR in order to increase brand awareness, which I can then capitalize on when running paid campaigns." 

Or, even better, "I want to increase my awareness and establish some brand presence."

2. The Uber of X

Oh man, this one. I get it. Uber, Airbnb, and other marketplaces created new movements and it is easy to use them as examples. But don't. Just don't. All I hear when someone says "I want to create the Uber of X" is "I am too lazy to come up with an original story and I will therefore go down in the books as yet another copycat platform, along with the thousands of other lazy entrepreneurs."

Try to avoid this phrase and go with something a bit more you: "I am looking to build a marketplace with the supply being X and the demand being Y" or "I want to build this platform because there is a mutually beneficial resource here from which both sides of the marketplace are set to gain."

3. Providing Value

These words are so overused, both by entrepreneurs and by investors that they have become empty shells with no meaning. If you think you are going to get more deal flow as an investor because you utter those words, I got news for you. Go listen to what all your competitors are saying. That's right, they are also saying "We provide value." 

I know what you're thinking, "No, but we really do!" Guess what they say? Yes, the same thing, "No, but we really do." Sometimes you need to think about the recipient of your message. While it might be true that you provide value and no one else does, it almost doesn't matter when everyone is pitching the same thing as you.

Same goes for entrepreneurs. "We provide value" is the same as "We do it better", which is what every one of your competitors is promising, so perhaps come up with something a bit more unique so your pitch doesn't fall on totally empty ears.

4. Going Viral

Someone literally asked me, when trying to determine my marketing abilities, if I have ever made something go viral. That is the point in the conversation that made it very clear to me that I am talking to a newbie who knows close to nothing about marketing. 

Going viral is not a strategy, going viral is luck. Not 99 percent luck, 100 percent luck. Going viral should not be part of your marketing plan nor should it even be words that you mention in any business context. It can not be anticipated and should not be your goal.

Instead of "My plan is to build such an awesome product that it will go viral", try "We intend on doing extensive market research, determining where there is the biggest need, and building a truly amazing product that our users will love. Then we will gather customer feedback and iterate on that product."

5. Vanity Metrics

The final phrase is not a phrase but a concept. If you think throwing astronomical numbers at me will help your cause, you are sorely mistaken. Just because the automotive market is worth trillions of dollars, that does not mean the market size for your engine fluid app is trillions of dollars. Yes, the mobile space as a whole is worth insane amounts of money (whatever the mobile space as a whole even means.), but that is not a number you should include in the pitch for your mobile app for dog owners.

These vanity metrics don't work. On the contrary, they give your audience the impression that you are stretching, because in reality, you have nothing substantial to grasp onto. 

Published on: Aug 28, 2018