Once you have an understanding of what it is like to walk in an investor's shoes, you will be in a better position to make the fundraising process a more productive and engaging experience for them. And in an over-crowded industry where products are most often "bought not sold," this matters...a lot.
In the first half of this two-part series, we explored what the Client Journey entails, why it matters, and how to measure it. This time, we're focusing on the Investor Journey.
The stages of the Investor Journey are similar to those of the Client Journey in other industries, (albeit with a slightly different vernacular):
Awareness -> Engagement -> Diligence -> Investment -> Investor Relations -> Advocacy
At its most basic level, the goal of each stage is simply to get a prospective investor to the next stage in the journey. And, as my colleague Matt Craig-Greene would add, to do so with as much momentum and as little friction, as possible.
There are, of course, dozens of things an investor will ultimately need to know in order to make an allocation decision and commit to your fund. When it comes to mapping the journey, though, the focus should be on the 2-4 (at most) essential factors that an investor absolutely, positively needs to know and understand at any given stage in order to move to the next and propel the whole process forward.
People have a limited capacity to absorb information – so if it isn't properly layered, it's unlikely to be impactful. As the saying goes: the best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. Effective fundraising works the same way. Give them too much and you might as well just give them nothing.
The best time to reach out to an investor, of course, is three years before you want their money, but this isn't always practical. In any case, you certainly want to at least be on their radar (and, ideally, top of mind) before you go fundraising. Additionally, you want them to be invited into the process when they are ready to allocate to your strategy.
So...how easy are you making it for them to find you? And what exactly will they see, when they do? How will it influence how they think about you?
To be clear: I am not talking just about the objective "must-have" criteria and performance that they could find through a database search. You are what you are and there isn't much you can do to change that. What I'm talking about are the "must-haves" around your story. Awareness isn't just about jumping up and down to be sure you are seen. It's about making sure you are being valued and remembered.
It doesn't matter whether an investor hits you via a database search, Google, or via LinkedIn, or whether they come across you via a placement agent, at a conference, or just stumble across one of your thought pieces – you are largely in control of shaping that interaction.
Remember...everyone has a "story" – a story that is mostly made-up by someone. The question is...who made up your story – you or the market?
This stage isn't just about what you say in the meeting. It's also about what an investor already knows about you – and their level of enthusiasm for you – prior to and as part of the preparation for the meeting. And the only way to get them "primed" and already interested before they are walking into the room is by finding an impactful way to demonstrate the potential fit of your fund/strategy to their investment program before they get there.
Again – what they see and how well it represents your brand and value proposition is in your control.
The Internet makes it incredibly easy to shape the narrative and nurture a relationship. You can stay under the radar because unevolved tradition has dictated that approach – or you can own the process, like you own every other aspect of your business.
Diligence and Investment
The most important thing to manage through diligence and subscription/commitment relates to the ease of the process and your level of thoroughness and responsiveness throughout.
Since many allocators have their own individual needs or methods to analyse information, having a complete data room ready to go is obviously a must. However, elegance and simplicity are elements that often go under-appreciated. Sure, it may be someone's 'job' to dig into your stuff. But few people actually enjoy tediously rummaging through file after file of bland, text-heavy PDFs, and multi-tabbed spreadsheets pulled down out of another Intralinks room.
There's no rule against making the process more engaging or interactive. You can choose to breath some life into the process by incorporating video, infographics, or digital material to reinforce certain messaging points. You might even do it simply to make the information easier to digest. Because when given a choice between managers, people will, all other things being equal, most likely gravitate toward the one that is most interesting.
Investor Relations and Advocacy
I continuously scratch my head as to why so many managers under-invest in this process. It's like the company that offers new customers a huge discount and provides an entire team to ensure the phone is answered on the first ring, whilst making the loyal customer sit on hold for 20 minutes, after sifting through the automated phone tree.
This step is all about nurturing the relationship through on-going, transparent communication and personal service. Investing in the LP relationship really doesn't cost much, but the return is meaningful. It could come in the form of a follow-on commitment (even if there are higher performing alternatives), or just a head's up that a re-up maybe won't materialise, providing you a chance to talk everything through (and hopefully win them back).
When the process is managed really well – particularly in the context of the overall experience – that's what ultimately turns a client into more than "just another LP" but rather...your advocate.
To sum up, thinking about your fundraising and investor relations as a process, rather than as an event, and intelligently structuring the way you disseminate information, accordingly, will help you (and your investors) get more out of your relationship – and that's good for everybody.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.