Q: How can we work to land a successful investment?

-- Shaba Shams

Here’s the short answer: start with a great pitch deck. The pitch deck is arguably the most important single document you will generate in the life of your company. It is the opening salvo and “the hook” by which you will (or will not) capture the attention and imagination of a potential investor.

There is no such thing as a “perfect” pitch deck. Pitch decks are continually refined to optimize for the immediate audience to whom the deck is being presented. There are some basic guidelines, however, that can help you prepare a pitch deck that will answer the questions most investors will ask.

Related: 10 Key Elements of a Perfect Investor Pitch

1. High-level summary slide(s). These are one or two opening, preliminary slides that highlight your business. These slides capture the “essence” of your story. Include the points you would communicate if asked to distill everything into one or two slides.

2. The problem you’re solving. These can be a couple of perfunctory slides or three, four or more educational slides, depending on your audience’s sophistication. Convey the nature of the market opportunity you address with your business or product by highlighting what is “broken” or “not working.” If possible, scope out the size of the market opportunity. Ideally, these slides make it clear market participants are spending real dollars for imperfect products that do not adequately address their needs.

3. Your product. Having set up the problems faced by your customers, the next few slides are all about YOU. First and foremost, describe your solution, at a high level, for the unmet market demands described in the preceding slides. Drill in on how your products are differentiated. Convince your audience you have a better “mouse trap.” You want to make sure these slides leave no holes in your story or questions unanswered. 

4. Marketing/strategy. Having wowed your audience with your product and business model, proactively articulate a go-to market strategy. Obviously, the scope of these slides is dependent on your stage of development but clearly demonstrate you have thought about how to roll out your product and how to capture market share.

Related: 7 Ways to Kill a Perfect Investor Pitch

5. Team. If you haven’t already heard this, here it goes. Team, team, team. That’s what investors are looking for. They are investing in your team, your passion and your dedication. Introduce your team in a few slides. Highlights your team’s strengths, make it clear they are committed to building something big and they will be great to work with.

6. Financials/projections. The truth is, unless you are a later-stage company, the numbers in your projections typically don’t matter. Nonetheless, putting together a set of thoughtful projections on both the revenue and cost sides enhances your credibility with potential investors.

Moreover, in these slides you can, and should, demonstrate an appreciation of the capital you are raising and how you intend to deploy it to meet milestones that will be critical for future fundraising. While your audience may feel projections are premature in assessing the business, they will appreciate that you understand financial metrics and how to “operate” a business.

7. Tone. When pulling together your presentation, consider the tone you want to convey. Nothing is more important in determining the right tone for your audience. Be creative. Avoid a dry, mind-numbing presentation. Always gauge your audience and play to them. At the end of the day, content is king when it comes to a deck. Layer in creativity with great content, show some personality and you will have a winning combination.

Related: 10 Questions to Answer Before Pitching Investors