Whether you're a marketer or an entrepreneur, your news feed is probably littered with stories about big data - how to get the most data, how to get the best data, how to use data to find out which platforms your audience is using. The list goes on. 

Big data is indeed crucial to your business, but here's the thing. It's completely useless if you don't deeply listen to it and actually apply it in the most human way possible. If you've ever done a live pitch, you have probably felt this firsthand. 

With all the data available to us now, it's easy to develop a pitch with some strong stats and use it the same way over and over again, thinking it will resonate with everyone of a certain demographic. This lack of personalization is just like throwing spaghetti at the wall and seeing what sticks; chances are, your audience is going to tune you out real quick. 

Last week, the International Franchise Association (IFA) hosted the NextGen in Franchising Global competition, where 900 new franchise owners pitched their businesses to top executives for a chance to win a $10,000 investment. Among the panel of judges was Shark Tank's Daymond John, who had an intimate Q and A with the room full of contestants before the finals, sharing his experiences with FUBU and handing over his secrets for successful pitching.  

His insights in this conversation, highlighted exactly why Mr. John has been dubbed "The People's Shark." In person, he is indeed a powerful presence with a sharp wit and flare for comedy, yet maintains a certain relatability, nurturing demeanor, and deep love of entrepreneurs. But possibly more noteworthy to his title is how "people-centric" his business approaches are.

Basically, You Have to Work in Customer Service

John believes that customer service must be a part of your DNA from day one and is the key driver to a successful pitch. During the session, he recalled an interview he saw with the President of Disney, where he was asked how many customer service people worked in the park. The President responded that every employee he had, including himself, worked in customer service.

"The most important part of the pitch, whether you're pitching the customer across the counter, an investor, someone who is going to buy into your brand and expand it, we always have to think about what's in it for the person we're pitching," John said simply.

Some of the audience's questions only reiterated John's message. At one point in the talk back, one charismatic teenage entrepreneur used his moment to pitch John his business. "What would it take for you to be interested in my product?", the young man inquired, holding up his goods.

John used this as a teaching moment.

"When you pitched it, it was all about you just now. What's your product? You didn't tell me. You didn't make me fascinated with that product with that 30 seconds that you had. Why not?"

The good-natured young man smiled and had a good laugh with John and the rest of the room. Lesson learned.

"Everybody's pitch has their own hopes, dreams and passions," John continued. "If you have an idea, well I just came up with six while I was talking to you. What's in it for the person you're pitching?"

Make Sure You Get to the Point
In addition to personalization, the story above also points out that you have a very short amount of time to hook the person you're pitching. 30 seconds or less, given that attention spans are so short. Therefore, it's important to get to the point really quick.

As Albert Einstein said, "If you can't say it simply, you don't understand it well enough." When he uttered these famous words, he was probably thinking about elevator pitches.

Elevator pitches are called that because you're meant to imagine getting into an elevator with another person. They ask you what your company does, and you have to provide a memorable response in that brief moment you have alone with them. That's how little time you have.

According to many of the finalists at the NextGen competition, you should be perfecting your elevator pitch at all times. And the main thing to include in literally the first sentence of the pitch? Why the particular person you're pitching should care. After all, you work in customer service. 

Customer Service Touches All Communication
The audience-first attitude applies to every kind of pitch you will ever do. Including what you write on social media.

How can you make your content more appealing for your customers? You can start by carrying out a little social listening before you post. That means tuning in to what your target audience is saying about your brand, and life in general. Find these conversations and start engaging with them, rather than trying to sell your brand in every post.

"The theory on social media is that a lot of people just want to talk about what they have and sell their product," says John. "People get deal fatigue when you do that."

John's advice to the franchisers was to treat social media as if it were a half hour television show. If that half hour television show was all commercials, you'd change the channel real quick. But if 28 minutes of it was entertaining content that moved you or provided valuable information, a two-minute commercial thrown in would be time the audience would buy.

The Takeaway

To reiterate once again, customer service must be the key driver to all of your lines of communication - starting with your initial pitch. I wager to say that Daymond John's talk that day hit home for everyone in the room - and I got an special reminder of his words not one hour later. 

On my way home from the event, I was deep in thought about how I was going to relay this story, when I received a timely text. It was from my niece, who works for one of the most famous franchises of all: The Girl Scouts. 

It seems I was late to the game and hadn't bought any cookies yet. So she made me a video message:

"Aunt Molly, we have Samoas. And if you buy them, I'll fly out to New York and deliver them to you personally."

The "Samoas" part usually gets me. But the five boxes I bought last year are still in my freezer. The thought of seeing my niece, however, was a powerful selling point. So of course, I bought more boxes that I totally don't need. Maybe I'll gift them to the neighbors, or perhaps I'll build a little fort. The point is, in 10 seconds, my niece put Mr. John's "know your customer" and "personalize your message" approach into action.

And it works. I have ten boxes of Samoas to prove it.