In 2019, the term “deck” got really popular. It’s been in the digital marketing vocabulary for a decade or so, but something made it trend last year so that what I hear every week was, “we need a deck”, or, “Ok, let’s put that into a deck”. Even, “let’s just deck that”.
I know why this is and I think it’s important that you do too.
Today, inspired by a good conversation with a pitch deck designer/producer, I poked around Google Trends: according to Google Trends, the term “pitch deck” has doubled in usage in the Bay Area in the last year.
Now, a “pitch deck” used to be a vehicle for pitching a startup idea, in Silicon Valley, or a movie, in Hollywood. But we have started to use the word deck to refer to documents meant to achieve other goals.
In the conversations I’ve had with 100+ B2B tech firm owners over the past 12 months, it’s rare than the term deck hasn’t crept into the “marketing collateral” discussion.
Partly because I have inserted the term into the conversation myself.
What do I mean by “deck”?
By deck, I specifically mean a document created in presentation software, mostly Powerpoint, Google Slides, and to a smaller extent, Prezi.  And I mean a document that has the following characteristics:
- Presentation-worthy. In other words, not meant to be not read. And increasingly: meant to be presented over web conference, not in-person.
- Browseable. To the extent that it is read, meant to be flipped through, not necessarily read sequentially.
- Beautiful. Strong visual appeal and not text-intensive; uses high-impact, high-quality photography and other visuals. It doesn’t need to be mobile-optimized.
- Branded. A deck isn’t just an information container; it’s a brand marketing asset and should be produced at the same level of professionalism as your website.
- Private Information. This is key, even if it requires an NDA. This is what makes a deck useful in a way that a website isn’t. You can put in financials, private information, proprietary intellectual property, UI sneak-peaks, detailed testimonials from customers, and lots of other things that can’t go into your website.
Though, in fact, all this sounds kind of like a website, right? A concomitant trend I am seeing is lighter websites that work together with heavier decks. The economics make sense – if quality levels are equal, a website is about 5 times as expensive to produce as a deck.
Thus, decks have started to slightly usurp the role of websites by becoming a natural extension of them. They occupy a more important role at the bottom of the marketing funnel, right next to – and after – the sale.
There are five types of decks that most B2B tech solutions firms should consider owning:
- One-pager factsheet. For your corporate brand or for any of your branded solutions or products, something printable and offline readable.
- Orientation manual. I wrote a post about my own version of this, called my client orientation manual.
- Proposal. In the creative/agency world, using the deck format for proposals is a little more established; this trend took hold about 3 to 5 years ago. But most of them are still much, much too long. Proposals should be 1 to 5 pages at the most unless stipulated otherwise.
- Solution presentation. This is the closest thing to a pitch deck, in that it’s purpose is to make the case for a sale of a solution, as opposed to making the case for a loan or equity investment. So instead of a “product sheet” or a “spec sheet”, it’s how does your product create value in very specific terms?
- Case study. To be clear, a case study also belongs on your website, in web page format. No doubt about that. And there’s a case to made for the text-intensive, document format case study, for some business scenarios. But guess what – most people don’t want to spend more than 10 minutes reviewing your case studies and they want to be able to flip through it (and read valuable private information). Deck.
If you review your existing material now, does it pass muster as a deck? Is it presentable, browseable, beautiful, branded and does it possess valuable private information?
There’s still a case to be made for the text-heavy document format; the report, the ebook, the whitepaper. (The case study is an edge case and could fall into either category.) But this kind of collateral is a lot more work and a lot more thinking.
In the meantime, fire up Google Slides and get your key business assets into deck format.
Have a good one,
Footnotes & Errata
- There are dozens of others but only noughties-era startup Slideshare, now owned by Microsoft/LinkedIn, has significant usage. But it’s not private, so why not just use a web page and garner the benefits thereof? ↩