As a B2B coach and consultant, I help leaders craft effective content marketing strategies.
As an angel investor, startup mentor, and former corporate venture capitalist, I help leaders raise investment.
Do those two worlds ever intersect? You bet they do.
However, leaders often miss the connection, developing standalone materials for their fundraise without recognizing the relevance of existing content.
In this post, I’ll highlight why the two activities must be synchronized if you want to maximize your chances of securing an investment.
Let’s begin by exploring the similarities between your B2B buyers and the investors you’ll be courting.
When deciding whether to purchase your solution, buyers seek answers to a range of questions, including:
· Does this solution address the challenge I’m trying to solve?
· How does it compare to other potential solutions I have identified?
· What value will it create for me?
· Can I trust this vendor?
· Do they understand my needs, and do they have my best interests at heart?
· Are they helpful? Can they answer all my questions?
· Who else has used this solution and what do they think about it?
· Is this a long-term solution, likely to become an industry standard?
They conduct most of this research online, often in ‘stealth mode’ without interacting with anyone on your staff.
In today’s digital first world, buyers expect to find relevant answers on the channels they prefer; if they don’t, you probably won’t be in contention for their business.
Long before you give a management presentation, investors form an initial opinion about your company based on the content it has published
Investors—many of whom are digital native Millennials and Gen-Z—conduct their due diligence in a similar fashion.
And, when you stop to think about it, they ask a lot of the same questions:
· Does this solution address a challenge that lots of buyers are trying to solve?
· How does it compare to other potential solutions in the market?
· What value does it create for the customer?
· Why would buyers trust this vendor?
· Do they understand the customers’ needs, and do they have customers’ best interests at heart?
· Are they helpful? Do they seem to answer all the customers’ questions?
· Who else has used their solution and what do they think about it?
· Is this a long-term solution, likely to become an industry standard?
Where will an investor—or, most likely, their Junior Associate tasked with evaluating your business—turn for information?
Long before you give a management presentation, they have formed an initial opinion about your company based on the content it has published.
While some of the material an investor wants to see is distinct from customer-facing content—for example: financial information, intellectual property, operational details, and human resources—they can already tell a lot from what you have published.
And what you haven’t.
Let’s dive into a few key areas.
Many leaders assume they will get the first crack at telling their company’s story when they make a pitch presentation to the investor.
In practice, the investor will already have heard a version of that story, based on the teaser you sent and whatever they’ve learned online.
Unless the story told on your website is sufficiently compelling, you might never get the opportunity to tell it in person
Unless the story told on your website (and other digital channels) is sufficiently compelling, you might never get the opportunity to tell it more effectively in person.
If the Associate has dug a little deeper, you’d better hope they heard the ‘music behind the words.’
A compelling story includes a specific challenge that must be overcome, a clearly differentiated solution, evidence that prospective customers are willing to pay for it, and a cast of characters with the skills and experience to make it happen.
Content marketing is your opportunity to share that story with the world.
It must resonate with anyone you hope will join you on your journey: customers, investors, employees, analysts, regulatory agencies, community members, and more.
Investors will do their homework before deciding to hear your pitch.
Make sure your content speaks to them as well.
Sure, every angel, venture capitalist, and private equity manager is looking for the next unicorn. But many great ideas wind up on the heap of failed businesses.
It takes a smart idea, the right team, a solid strategy, excellent implementation, impeccable timing, and a sprinkling of fairy dust to make it from startup to a profitable exit.
Multiply all of those by ten—especially the fairy dust—if you want to grow a billion-dollar unicorn.
Investors are experts at sniffing out the difference between a legitimately tasty opportunity and a sugar-coated Brussel sprout
Investors hear about great ideas all the time.
As they read—and later, hear—your story, they’re looking for more than facts and figures.
Like scouts for a professional sports team, they’re sniffing for chemistry.
They want to understand why you’re in this business, and how far you’re prepared to go to fulfill your mission and deliver your vision.
Investors see BS all the time, too, which means they’re experts at sniffing out the difference between a legitimately tasty opportunity and a sugar-coated Brussel sprout.
Effective content marketing must be anchored in authenticity and purpose.
When they’re clear, you’ll see investors sit up and pay attention.
When they’re not, you won’t see investors at all.
Even your earliest independent investors (those that aren’t considered family and friends) will expect to see customer traction.
For something easy to deploy, such as software and apps, this will mean a cohort of initial users.
For hard tech, which can be capital intensive to scale up and demonstrate, it might mean letters of intent or in-kind contributions to enable pilot-scale implementations.
“Hundreds of people have told us they want it,” won’t cut the mustard
Whatever form it takes for your business, investors must see it to believe it. “Hundreds of people have told us they want it,” won’t cut the mustard.
Furthermore, investors want to hear directly from those early customers.
Unfiltered, user-generated content is arguably the most potent form of validation you can deliver.
Case histories work on investors, too. Anything that shows your solution in action.
Why did they choose your solution? What were they expecting? How was their experience? Are they coming back for more?
Making this sort of content visible on your digital properties—often via social media channels before your website—is a great way to get their attention.
The absence of any such content will raise concerns and might scare them away.
To earn a buyer’s trust, you must demonstrate credibility and domain authority.
This usually comes from individuals within the organization showcasing their expertise and vision.
Many CEOs bring the vision, while surrounding themselves with experts who know the market, supply chain, technology, and operations inside out and backwards.
Just as a buyer will form their opinion about your vision and competence based on content that you publish, so will potential investors.
Investors want to know that you’ve got what it takes to earn buyers’ trust as well as successfully commercializing your solution
Are the key leaders in your organization visible and active on social media?
Do they write posts and engage in discussions that demonstrate thought leadership?
Are you showcasing your understanding in blog posts and website content?
If an investor asks a recognized expert in your field whether they’ve heard of your company or its leaders, will they get a positive reply?
Content marketing includes growing the personal brands of your key team members.
It involves publishing content that demonstrates their domain authority.
If you don’t have enough expertise on staff, engage an advisory board and promote their competencies as well.
Investors want to know that you’ve got what it takes to earn buyers’ trust as well as successfully commercializing your solution.
They want to see you engaging with prospects and customers in public forums, such as social media discussions, webinars, and conferences.
How you engage with those connections can reveal a lot about how you think and act, which an investor can translate into how you’re likely to work with them.
An effective content marketing strategy will drive future business growth.
Savvy investors know this, which means they can deduce a lot about your business’ prospects from the scope and quality of your content activities.
Does your content demonstrate a clear understanding of your customers and how to reach them?
Does it walk a customer through their buyer’s journey from awareness to purchase and on through implementation to become a loyal repeat buyer?
Have you achieved a consistent publication cadence, which shows you can manage a challenging process despite limited resources?
The quality of your content and digital properties (website, social media pages, blog) could be indicative of how much quality to expect—or not—elsewhere in the business.
Does this mean you must have a fully-fledged content marketing operation in place before trying to raise your first investment?
Not necessarily—but it certainly wouldn’t hurt.
Many CEOs underestimate the importance of starting content marketing early, believing that it won’t become necessary (or valuable) until the business is transitioning from early adoption into market growth.
In practice, it takes 12 to 18 months to implement an effective content marketing strategy, so it’s appropriate for most businesses to kick things off right away.
And, since investors can be just as influenced by your content as future buyers, there’s an argument for tying your content marketing strategy to the timing of fundraising rather than an inflection in sales.
Showing investors that you understand the criticality of content marketing—and that you’re making it a priority early in the company’s life—is a powerful way of signaling your understanding of the digital first business landscape and what it’s going to take to grow and scale your business.
I began by lamenting the way leaders miss the connection between content marketing and fundraising, developing entirely standalone materials for their fundraise without tying them to existing content.
As we’ve seen, the two activities must be synchronized if you want to create a strong initial impression with investors.
Congruency comes from producing materials that line up with what you say
Your investor materials—including tear sheets, deal memos, pitch decks, and data room content—should be consistent with everything else you’ve published.
Imagine how dissonant it must be for an investor to see one version of the story on your website and social media pages, then hear a different version when you pitch.
Congruency comes from producing materials that line up with what you say.
If you claim to be “customer focused” or “radically transparent”, do your published content and investor materials support it?
At the most basic level, do those materials sound like they’ve come from you?
There’s a trap here for companies that hire specialists to produce their fundraising materials without sufficiently inculcating them with the company’s purpose, culture, personality, and voice.
The result can be a glossy set of materials that sounds more like a McKinsey commercial than something you and your team would have produced.
When the time comes for your business to seek investment, recognize that investors are a special kind of buyer.
They do their homework online, seeking to answer very similar questions to those you help your customers answer through content marketing.
In the digital-first world, this means investors form a strong opinion about your company, brand, solutions, and prospects long before you get a chance to pitch them.
Implementing a content marketing strategy takes time, so consider starting earlier than you might otherwise expect. This will bear fruit when investors are doing their homework, even if it seems premature from a sales-generating perspective.
Make sure your content is authentic and demonstrates purpose, credibility, and domain authority. Investors are highly attuned to these attributes because they are strong indicators of how you and your company will perform in the future.
Finally, develop fundraising materials that are consistent with your published content. Any lack of consistency will undermine your credibility and raise questions about the integrity of your business.
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Image credits: Adobe Stock