When you’re on the hunt for funding, it’s natural that you want to get things moving as quickly as possible. However, identifying and approaching the right investor should be a measured process. Blasting the same quick email to a dozen investors will never work in your favor.
The average investor receives hundreds of pitches each month – making your approach all the more critical. In my experience, there are four key ways to improve your chances when approaching investors:
1. Get a warm introduction from a trusted source
Identify the strongest “in” to the particular investor. This often means not jumping on the first person who can introduce you. The best introductions come from people who have brought good deal flows to investors in the past. Savvy entrepreneurs put in the time doing their due diligence on potential connections and then ask the strongest connector for the introduction.
Speaking of referrals, you don’t want to be introduced by an investor who has passed on you. Whenever one investor gets a referral from another investor, their very first question will be “are you investing?” As the entrepreneur, you need the answer to help, not hurt, your case. The one exception to this rule is if the investor making the introduction has a completely different investment focus than your company and there’s a clear reason why he/she is not investing.
2. Build a relationship over time
If your network isn’t strong enough to provide a warm introduction from a strong source, you’ll need to build your own relationship with the investor over time. Interact with the investor through social media: follow them on Twitter, read their blog and make thoughtful comments. However, never comment on a blog post just for the sake of getting your name out there. Only comment when you’ll be adding value and relevance to the conversation.
3. Ask for advice, rather than money
Most investors are not looking to write a check right away, so you should get in touch with them well before you are raising a round. Initially, you can approach an investor soliciting advice on something specific, such as feedback on your marketing & sales approach, business model, or long-term product vision. Then, if it makes sense, execute on the investor’s feedback and circle back after, always showing your appreciation for their guidance.
4. Be personal
The most important rule is to only target investors when your company fits their specific area(s) of focus. Otherwise, you’ll be wasting your time (and theirs). Research a potential investor’s current portfolio. Read their blog posts and Twitter stream. And, when you do reach out, be specific in your communications. Just like in the job search, generic emails that could be sent to anyone are ineffective. Show how you understand each investor’s areas of interest, strategic vision, etc.
If you choose to seek funding, remember that it takes patience, and lots of preparation. There’s rarely a shortcut to easy money, so be ready to develop your strategy and put in the time.