Everyone wants to create a pitch deck that’s tailored for each prospective client. But personalized pitches require hours of research and design time—which is why some agencies create pitch deck templates. But with templates, you run the risk of your pitch deck(s) feeling cookie-cutter.
So what should you do? Spend hours on custom pitch decks, or take the risk of decks feeling cookie cutter—and thus a lower conversion rate to closed deals?
To get the best of both worlds, agency pros can cut the time it takes to create pitch decks with strategic templates—all while maintaining a high level of personalization.
So, how do you strike the balance between pre-made slides and customized content? We caught up with two agency founders who have worked with clients ranging from boutique businesses to Fortune 500 companies:
- Adam Woodhouse is the Founder and Creative Director at Toronto-based Villain Design Studio. Previously, he worked for multinational agencies like Critical Mass and Saatchi & Saatchi.
- Brianna Morris is the Co-Owner and CEO of Atlanta-based Maze Creative. Her agency specializes in design, branding, strategy, and custom project flows.
These founders revealed their secrets for building pitch deck templates to streamline the personalization process and also offered tactical insights such as:
- Why you should create multiple pitch deck templates, and what to include in them
- How to save time by preparing key assets beforehand (and what assets to focus on)
- What is “logo soup,” and how to avoid overwhelming clients with it in your templates
- What file format and size works best for all your templates.
Note: ReportGarden is launching a new reporting platform for agencies to do more with their data—so you can focus on client performance and growing your agency.
How These Two Founders Use Pitch Deck Templates
To Pitch Prospective Clients
One of the most common uses for a pitch deck, in general, is to land new clients. This may be a response to a request for proposal (RFP) or a cold pitch. Either way, it’s a solid use case for a pitch deck template.
Brianna Morris says she specifically uses a pitch deck template when responding to RFPs and pitching new clients. Adam Woodhouse confirmed he uses templates for the same purpose, with a caveat: for cold pitches, he’ll send a short pitch deck to the prospective client ahead of time and schedule a workshop or ideation meeting to walk them through his process.
To Pitch a New Project to Current Clients
Although it’s less common, pitch deck templates can also aid agency pros when proposing new projects or campaigns to current clients.
A pitch deck can help agencies visually articulate their vision for larger campaigns or a new project. Compiling all the ideas and details on execution into one doc helps clients visualize the potential benefits and the final results.
4 Expert Tips to Create an Effective Pitch Deck Template
Based on recommendations from our two founders, their successful pitch deck examples have several common sections. But before we dive into them, here are some steps to take before putting anything down on paper.
Before You Get Started
Creating a successful pitch deck is the same as telling a story—and to tell a good story, you need to know your audience.
That means you have to do your homework. Every client and every industry is different. You need to be competent about the client, the industry they function in, and their pain points before you start working on a pitch deck template.
Brianna noted that you’ll need to answer several pressing questions to set yourself up for success.
“What type of client are you pitching? Traditional, modern, sarcastic?” asks Brianna. “Traits you learn about your client in the research phase will help guide the proposal process and help you customize your proposal to that specific client.”
On top of researching a client and their industry, take some time to do a competitive analysis. You should do a deep dive to answer the following:
- Who are the client’s direct competitors?
- What other products or services already exist in the market?
- What are the gaps (if any) in the market?
Adam also recommends you “play spy” before walking into a pitch meeting. Read the client’s website, including case studies, social media, and quarterly reports. If possible, jump on LinkedIn to do some research on the people who will be in the room when you pitch.
Create a Template While Keeping Customization In Mind
While agencies are smart to use pitch deck templates as a guide, don’t lean entirely on a template or you’ll end up with a cookie-cutter pitch deck that looks the same for every client.
“There is no perfect science to a proposal,” Brianna says. “Clients have different tastes, and it’s an agency’s job to learn those tastes as much as possible prior to submitting a proposal.”
To avoid that cookie-cutter feel, create a template for slides you typically use in every pitch. Then you can spend more time personalizing your pitch to communicate your vision and value proposition to the prospective client.
Adam suggests personalizing both the copy, the language, and some of the design elements of the pitch deck.
“Give proposals your full effort,” Brianna says. “You never know what will make or break a deal. Your presentation matters, and it’s critical that your presentation design speaks as loudly as your content.”
Use the Right File Format So Clients Can Read and Share Your Pitch Deck
Not all files are created equal—which is why agencies need to pay attention to how they save and export their pitch decks.
When creating your pitch deck template, lean on PDFs. Your clients can open a PDF on any device, so sharing your deck is easier.
Your pitch deck should also be mobile-friendly and formatted at a 16:9 ratio (versus 4:3). If the ratio is off or the font is too small to read on a smartphone, people will likely discard your deck.
“You can’t expect everybody to sit at their desktop and read stuff, especially when you’re pitching people,” Adam says. “At the end of the day, they want the Cliff’s Notes version sometimes and you’ve got to be prepared to give it to them.”
When saving your pitch deck template, also keep the file size in mind. Compress all your images properly and try to get the pitch deck file under 5MB, if possible.
Why is 5MB the magic number? Adam pointed out that many email clients cap their sending limit at 5MB—so if your pitch deck file is under that limit, anyone can read it and forward it as needed.
“If you can export a PDF under 5 MBs at 16:9, you’ve kind of won the game,” Adam said.
More is Better: Create Multiple Templates to Save Time and Stress
You don’t have to settle for just one pitch deck template—you can create several for different industries or types of clients.
“Being able to customize [your templates] quickly and easily in the right format is going to be imperative to delivering the right message,” Adam said.
Multiple templates can help you customize and send off a pitch deck quickly. To create your pitch deck templates, you’ll need to prepare a few things:
- Have your copy, language, images, and other materials ready to go
- Have all your logos for previous clients formatted and saved
- Prepare around 10 case studies ahead of time that span a variety of industries and business sizes (including write-ups and corresponding images)
- Design your key slides that stay the same for every pitch (i.e., who you are, what you do, list of key team members, and thank you slide)
Having all these components ready means you can switch out case studies, images, and logos quickly to customize your pitch deck template as needed. While prepping these will require a time investment up front, it’ll prevent some serious stress down the road.
One final note: Although you’re creating multiple pitch deck templates, they should have a similar look and feel. They should all feel like your agency brand.
“An agency should have its own unique identity, but it may be helpful to use language and tone that the client uses on their website, on social media, etc.,” Brianna says.
The Components for a Successful Pitch Deck Template
A Table of Contents
While a table of contents isn’t a requirement—especially for shorter pitch decks—it’s nice to have so that clients can navigate your deck and quickly skip to relevant sections.
When adding a table of contents, Adam suggests that you keep it concise. Keep it to half a page or a single page maximum.
Example of a well-designed table of contents. It’s easy to read and is a single page. [Source]
Introduce Your Team
Building a strong agency-client relationship is crucial. And a “meet the team” section can forge a more personal connection with a client and outline all the relevant stakeholders for the project.
In this section (and throughout your pitch deck template), position yourself as a partner rather than a hired hand. Include a quick blurb on how the agency got started and what you do (especially when pitching prospective clients).
An introductory slide helps clients learn about your agency and create a connection. [Source]
List all the team members who will work on the project, including their full names and role. But make sure you only list agency team members relevant to the project.
“Say, for example, you’re doing an engineering project for somebody and you’re going to make an app, but it’s not going to involve any design. You wouldn’t show key design members of your team,” Adam says.
“You might show the Creative Director, but you’d primarily show more engineering-focused people. If you were going to do something in regards to UI and UX, you would probably show the Director of UX and also the Creative Director, maybe one of the members of the engineering team, but in general, you pick and focus on what you’re trying to achieve.”
Make sure to highlight any superstars on your team in this section. But Adam cautions that you shouldn’t lean on name-dropping here—only include names of well-known creatives at your agency if they’ll be working on the project. Otherwise, it can come off as dishonest.
Outline Your Strategy
This is the meat of your pitch deck. Here, you’ll explain your agency’s value proposition.
When discussing your strategy, you’ll need to answer these questions for your prospective client:
- What is the specific problem you’ll be solving for your client?
- How will your agency go about solving that problem?
- What services will you leverage to solve that problem?
- What does success look like? And how will you measure it?
- How will you report on those success metrics? Is that via a weekly call, monthly reports, or both?
Although you need to be explicit in this section, don’t overwhelm clients—only share what’s relevant to their specific project and pain points.
“The truth is that trying to show too much is never good,” Adam said. “Getting your story across in as little information as possible without overwhelming somebody is kind of key here.”
[caption id="attachment_13787" align="aligncenter" width="603"]
Explain your process and how your agency would tackle a client’s problem. [Source]
To prove that you can do the work (and do it well), your pitch deck template should include some social proof and case studies.
In these slides, show relevant work you’ve done in the past. But be conscious of how many projects you highlight and which ones you choose—curation is the key in this section. Show a few case studies and try to keep them to a single page each.
Highlight case studies that are from a similar industry, work you’ve done for companies around the same size, or examples where you solved a similar problem for another client. Adam recommends a maximum of seven case studies in a pitch deck template (but even that is often too many).
Only include case studies that are relevant to your prospective client. [Source]
Agencies often include a slide with the logos of the companies they’ve worked with as social proof. But again, curate this slide rather than throwing a bunch of logos on a page. Adam calls this “logo soup,” and cautions that creating a slide like the one below is overwhelming for clients.
In most cases, you should show any work you’ve done in a specific client’s industry, but that doesn’t work for every prospect. Some clients don’t want to see a competitor’s logo in your pitch deck, as that can be a red flag. They might conclude you haven’t done your research or they’re concerned you’ll pass along sensitive business info to competitors down the line.
“Say, for example, I’m [pitching] for a bank. I might not show other banks I’ve worked with [in the pitch deck]. I might show a vast selection of work which might not be in the financial sector and maybe one in the financial sector,” Adam says.
Wrap Up Your Pitch Deck Template with a Thank You Slide
The final slide in your pitch deck template is simple but essential: the thank you slide.
While adding a concluding slide may sound obvious, Adam noted that it’s important to include in every pitch deck template.
The final slide in a pitch deck template needs to include:
- Your agency name and contact info
- A thank you message
- A clear call-to-action (contact us, let’s schedule a follow-up call, etc.)
Optional: A One-Pager
For cold pitches, Adam noted that your prospective client might request a one-pager. This document functions as a TL;DR version of your full pitch deck—it condenses everything above into a single page.
Because a one-pager is brief, stick to the basics when creating a template: Cover who you are as an agency, what you can do for the client, and how you would do it.
To recap, remember these best practices when creating your pitch deck template:
- Templates don’t need to be cookie-cutter: Create multiple templates to use as a guideline to get you started and to ensure you include all the relevant information.
- Do your homework: Customize every pitch deck based on the individual client, their needs, and their industry.
- Pay attention to the details: Ensure your pitch deck is shareable. Keep the file under 5MBs and format the deck so that it’s mobile-friendly.
“At the end of the day, you want to be able to show your chops, show who can do them, and show you’re consistent and you can tell a story,” Adam said.