Gaining a new investor is always a major milestone for a startup but many neglect the next step: maintaining strong investor relations. Investors deliver cash to the business while also bringing opportunity and hope for the future. Each round of investment represents a chance to grow your business and turn your vision into reality.
The moment when you win funding from an investor is an important one, but it’s only the start of your relationship with that investor. The investor has clearly chosen to fund your business because they believe your startup will provide a substantial financial return. They’ll likely be interested in your startup’s progress, as well as the choices and decisions you make as a leader. Investors who have board seats may even have a say in the company’s direction.
Investors obviously have an interest in your future, but you should also have incentive to maintain an open line of communication with them. Investors can often bring plenty of benefits besides cash to the table. They may be able to provide strategic and planning advice or even introduce you to potential customers or vendors. They also could be your best prospects when it comes time for your next round of investment.
For many reasons, it pays to maintain strong relationships with your investors. But how do you do that? On the one hand, you want to keep them informed. On the other hand, you probably also don’t want to notify them of every decision or action you take. What’s the right balance? How do you inform your investors without inundating them with information?
Below are a few tips and best practices to guide your investor relations:
Email Regularly & Consistently
Uncertainty is the last thing you want your investors to experience. Uncertainty can create fear about your business’s future and doubt about your leadership ability.
Don’t leave your investors in the dark. Set up a regular email newsletter to all investors that provides a snapshot of what’s going on in your company. Share big wins and key performance indicators. Also don’t shy away from challenges or obstacles that have popped up. Your investors want to know the good, the bad, and the ugly. If you are clear and consistent in your communications, you’ll create credibility and trust.
You may want to create a template so all your monthly investor newsletters follow the same format. You can just fill in the KPIs and the information that is relevant for that month. By simplifying the process, you may improve the odds that you complete the newsletter and get it sent to your investors.
Don’t Avoid Contact After Losses or Setbacks
Just as you shouldn’t avoid bad news in your newsletter, don’t avoid contact with your investors during slow periods or after setbacks. Your investors are likely experienced with startups. They know that things don’t always go according to plan.
While no investor wants to hear that a company in their portfolio lost a major customer or failed at a product launch, they’d rather hear the news directly than be left in the dark. Embrace tough conversations. Take some time to think about how to communicate the loss or setback and then initiate contact with your investors. They may not enjoy the news, but they will appreciate the transparency.
Most investor startups have a wide range of startups in their portfolio. They’re usually always on the hunt for new potential investment. As the founder of a startup, you probably connect with other founders on a regular basis. Why not help your founder connections and your investors connect with each other?
If you have a founder in your network who is a good match for one of your investors, make the introduction. Even if it turns out to not be a perfect match, your investor will appreciate the effort and your willingness to look out for their interests.
Speak Their Language
Which metrics and indicators are most important to your investors? Are they concerned with revenue growth? Margins? The number of new customers you’re adding each quarter?
There are some metrics that are relevant for all companies, but some are specific to your company. Only you know what’s most important to your investors. What questions did they ask before they decided to invest? What KPIs were discussed in your pitch? Be sure to reference those metrics in your communications, as that’s what your investors will be looking for.
Rely On Their Experience
Your investors aren’t just sources of cash. They’re also sources of experience, insight, and knowledge. In many cases, your investors have run their own businesses in addition to investing in startups. No matter the situation that arises, there’s a good chance at least one of your investors has dealt with it before.
Don’t be afraid to talk through difficult or challenging situations with your investors. They’ll likely appreciate that you advised them of the situation and that you included them in the decision making. They may even be able to recommend a vendor, partner, or employee who could benefit your business. Your investors are a wealth of knowledge. Don’t be afraid to use them.
Investor relations isn’t just for Fortune 500 companies. In fact, it may be even more important for startups, as you’ll likely need to rely on your investors for further capital in the future. Keep your investors in the loop and communicate with them regularly. You’ll see the benefits in your bottom line and in your future rounds of funding.