Pitch perfect: strategies for audience engagement

Today’s marketing world is full of different channels, from social media to video and influencer marketing. However, email marketing is still one of the strongest approaches you can use to pitch to new clients, keep up with old contacts and ensure your entire database knows what you have to offer.

As of 2023, 87% of businesses still consider email marketing as critical. It can give you a return on investment (ROI) of $36 for every $1 you spend – but you won’t get these results by bulk sending generic emails.

If you do email marketing wrong, your emails will just blend into the noise. If you do it worse, your audience will assume your brand is a potential spammer. On the flip side, approaching email marketing as the start of a conversation and learning how to write a pitch that will matter to your recipients enables you to hit that impressive ROI metric.

The tactics for writing a winning pitch are constantly evolving. In this guide, you’ll learn the core principles of how to write an entire pitch based on what you know about your potential client’s needs and preferences (as well as your brand’s own voice and mission).

Read through this step-by-step guide to start building out your own process for writing business pitch emails. You can walk through the basic process and find a checklist of essential steps to complete before sending your email.

Follow these steps to write an engaging pitch

Much like with all forms of storytelling, people debate whether writing a pitch is an art or a science. Above all else, it’s a process.

Storytellers, speech-givers, discussion leaders and marketers all need to use a practical series of steps to form a raw product and then refine it into the best possible version.

For some, the process has become so ingrained that it seems intuitive and innate. But every storyteller starts by adhering to a very structured list of steps.

Use this guide to start creating your pitches methodically. Over time, you might add steps, merge steps together or even build completely different processes for different audiences. Either way, it all starts here.

Know the purpose of your pitch

“Pitching” is a pretty broad umbrella term.

Depending on your job, you might be pitching a story to an online publisher, pitching yourself for a new job (in or outside of your current industry) or pitching your organization’s products and services to prospective clients. You might even be pitching a startup idea to investors.

Different angles and objectives will require very different processes. This guide focuses on the latter: professional pitches in which you are selling a product, service or idea.

However, even within this narrower category, different pitches have many potential purposes. Here are some examples:

  • You might be calling for people to preorder a product or service.
  • You might be requesting they schedule an appointment or initial consultation.
  • Your organization may have a new product or service that you are beta-testing with current clients only.
  • It might be a cold sale. In this case, you’re pitching products and services and encouraging recipients to browse the catalog, request a quote or shop immediately.
  • The pitch may be an opening salvo, such as with an intentional drip campaign. You’re building interest and momentum rather than immediately going for the hard-sell approach.

Each of these is a valid purpose, and there are dozens more. At this stage, remember that your pitch’s purpose is different from the call to action (CTA).

Know your audience

Once you know your purpose, decide which audience you’re targeting.

Sometimes, the purpose selects the audience. If you’re pitching new releases to existing customers, for example, your audience is existing customers. However, more often than not, you still have some work to do to zero in on the exact audience you want to reach.

This is a good thing. The more segmentation you do, the more personalized the outreach will be. Success will also be more likely. So, coordinate with your marketing teams or delve into the data directly to learn about your audience.

If you’re adopting an account-based marketing approach, do lots of research on the specific organization and even the specific contact before you start writing.

Incorporate a story with substance

Pitchers often neglect story-based approaches, especially in emails. The reality is that storytelling is tremendously important.

By beginning your communications with a story, you can immediately establish a tone, make your pitch memorable (especially if it’s relatable) and take your audience on an emotional journey with plenty of tension. This approach is much more likely to drive them into action.

Set aside time to read a thorough guide to storytelling before moving forward. Once you learn what type of story structures are the right fit for different types of pitches, conversations and moments along the sales track, you can immediately get audiences aligned with your line of thinking.

Even if they don’t agree with your pitch or respond to your CTA, the storytelling approach makes them understand your proposition rather than be annoyed, confused or frustrated.

Choose a great starting hook

Every good story needs a great hook. When your target reads the first line, you have to give them a good enough reason to go on to the next.

There are several different hooks you can choose from. Below are some of our favorites (speakers often use them in TED talks):

  • questions
  • unexpected intros
  • ironic takes
  • something specific and relatable
  • a quick bit of actionable or memorable knowledge
  • a connection to superlatives

Start creating hooks that transition meaningfully into your go-to stories. You’ll soon have a large, variable library full of stories for every type of email pitch.

Don’t undersell your products or services

Your story will either directly involve or transition into your products and services. Guides usually recommend avoiding overhyping your products. There’s no faster way to lose your audience’s trust than to make baseless claims or try to come across as too good to be true. As a result, many new-to-the-game pitchers understate value in their descriptions.

We’re taught to be humble and not brag. It’s also less awkward to be a little self-deprecating than to sing your praises in front of complete strangers. It’s a gentle balance. You need to be strategic in your bragging. Use your stories or testimonials to show how your product or service is unique. Tell the audience how others have benefitted from it. If you don’t, it could also be bad for business.

If you, your products or your pitch don’t present unique value, then your message won’t seem memorable or worth pursuing. Even worse, your audiences may be used to big promises, so they may downgrade the value of the pitch to get what they think is a more realistic view.

Ultimately, if you undersell your product or service, even if you believe in it, and then the audience takes a cynical view, the result is a very disappointing perspective of what could be an amazing product or service.

Trim the fluff

At this point, you’ve created a story, added an amazing hook and suitably described your products and services. But it’s not quite ready to send.

Before you add any headers or media, take the time to trim out any fluff that pads the word count or makes the email seem too long.

Here are a few trimming guidelines:

Remove anything irrelevant to this audience

You may have many different segmented audiences. When you first create a pitch, your approach might be geared toward a broad target. Now is your opportunity to whittle it down to closely align with a specific group’s needs.

Save your current pitch and mark which general audience it’s for. Then, create a copy and start removing and revising the content for a small portion of that general audience.

For even more success, repeat this over and over until you have different pitches for every group.

Time it and keep it short

Once you think it’s ready, time how long your pitch takes to read.

Read it out loud to yourself, and then read it silently. Time how long it takes to get through the text and any media you want the recipients to view.

Space out the ideas, as this improves flow. There’s no set rule for how long or short a pitch should be, but shorter is generally best.

Create the subject line

The last step in creating your pitch is creating the subject line.

A pitch requires a really good hook to keep audiences reading throughout the body of the message. The subject line has to be strong enough to warrant a click. However, creating your subject line also needs to be a careful balancing act. You don’t want to be boring or make grand promises and overexcited claims.

One popular and successful tactic is to use storytelling based on secrets and puzzles. Alert readers to information they didn’t know they didn’t know or hint at a secret that can radically change their perspective.

Create more pitches for different audiences and angles

You may have already started this process, but take time to diversify your stories for different audiences.

Create a library of stories, titles and asides that customize your content for each likely group of recipients. Creating more tailored content makes the experience more valuable for your audience. As a result, they will be much more likely to follow through on your call to action.

While the story itself may be the same across myriad pitches and audiences, the little details will differ. This includes the wording, the details you emphasize and the CTA.

Quick checklist before you send out your pitch

Even if you think your pitches are ready to send out to readers, they might still need some polishing. You might also be feeling nervous about clicking that “send” button.

Create a checklist of final tasks and tweaks you can complete before sending anything. This list will help you catch potential errors, but it can also put your mind at ease that the pitch is ready for your audience. Start developing your own list with these seven best practices:

  1. Double-check the grammar, spelling and phrasing. Run the text through your automatic checker, then read it through again. You might also ask a coworker to read it to ensure complete clarity.
  2. Time how long it takes to read the pitch. Over time, you’ll generate data about what lengths are most successful for different pitches. This will allow you to fine-tune your pitch according to your data.
  3. Scan it and see where your eyes skip content. This quick practice will highlight when paragraphs are too long and where there’s unnecessary fluff. You can fix it by adding line breaks, revising the content or adding elements like images, video and formatted text.
  4. Make sure the CTA is clear. Ideally, it will be immediately visible as formatted text or a colorful button.
  5. Check whether it’s easier to say yes or no. There are differing schools of thought on this point. Depending on your industry and market, you might want to make it very easy to say yes to your offer or CTA. This is ideal when you see high conversion rates as soon as prospects start moving through the pipeline. On the other hand, you might want it to be easy to say no. This might be the case if the CTA requires a lot of effort on your part or if you only want truly serious prospects.
  6. Remove extra emojis, exclamation marks and informal language. Your style guide, audience type and niche will all dictate how appropriate emojis, exclamations and jokes are in your text. As a general rule, email pitches are moving away from being too informal. Don’t forget to double-check for potentially offensive or alienating content.

Ditch dull marketing; tell great stories

Use this guide as a resource to jumpstart your pitch-generation process or create your own unique set of processes to govern your ideal approach to pitching.

Creating effective pitches is a technical skill that requires lots of practice. The more you read about the principles of good emails and techniques that can help you avoid serious mistakes, the more successful your pitches will be.

Critical to a good pitch is a good story. The story supersedes formatting, graphics and CTAs. Once you master engaging, empathetic storytelling, your audiences will see where your interests align with theirs.

 Start putting this concept into practice and write more deliberate stories with our Storyteller Tactics Deck.

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