If you’re marketing your next (or first) big fund or deal – we know that you’re probably wondering about crowdfunding, deal portals, TPMs, investment banks or taking the family office route as some of the best angles to get funded. Chances are you’ve already done at least one of these in the past on a prior transaction or are contemplating them right now.
The questions to consider in pursuing the great balancing act of marketing your deal in 2014 and 2015 are designed around what best practices to use to successfully complete your raise, do it in an efficient manner, and be safe in your approach.
Marketing Your Deal Post JOBS Act
With the advent of the Jobs Act, the new crowd-funding rules and the many platforms that have emerged, there are numerous points of view that are circling the industry regarding where and how you can market your deal. Regardless of any choice you make, there are best practices to employ so that you can get the most out of your marketing efforts while maintaining a high level of standards and being compliant. Speaking of compliance – kindly note that the information in this guide is not to be construed as legal, finance, or tax advice and is provided for informational and entertainment purposes only. Consult with your professional advisers regarding those matters. Now that we’ve stated our disclaimer and got that out of the way – let’s move forward.
So, based upon many years in the finance and investment banking field myself, as well as the research we’ve conducted – here’s our list of the top ten best practices to consider in marketing your deal. You can also download Top 10 Best Practices For Marketing Your Deal as a PDF.
1. Specifically determine who your target investors (audience) are ahead of time.
Before you start designing your collateral material, and even your offering documents, you need to be completely in tune with the audience you are going after, what specific needs they have, what value points and concerns they are typically focused on, and where the best places are to connect with them. Build a persona of the type of individual you will be dealing with and design your collateral and messaging around them.
How old is the person you will be typically dealing with (generational focus and issues), what do they like to do (personal interests to connect with), where do they live (helps define their social circles), what type of car do they drive (your car is an extension of your personality or what is important to you), what type of activities do they do (experiences help shape how people think), are they married and have kids or are they typically single (what type of family values do they have), and the like. Building this persona, or what marketers also call an “avatar”, will help you really identify and connect with the target audience you are going after much better.
Once you have fully identified with your target investors – take inventory of the relationships you directly have with that audience, as well as who you know in your extended network that has strong ties to them.
2. Decide on the best approach to connect with your target investors
Is it a more broad based consumer approach that can take advantage of the newer crowdfunding and general solicitation rules (a la 506(c)), or will you be targeting a much more tight knit group of investors such as family offices or pension funds?
Crowdfunding is the new frontier in marketing to investors and some of the rules and processes for properly conducting a crowdfunding effort can be quite tricky. The best bet to take this route is to team up with a FINRA registered broker dealer/investment bank that has the expertise and back-end reporting and tracking systems to efficiently run a crowdfunded offering.
While we can go on and on for another twenty pages about crowdfunding – we boil it down to one of the most prominent issues it entails – general solicitation. One of the biggest issues around crowdfunding is how and to what degree you are marketing (soliciting) your fund or deal to potential investors and the mediums used to get the word out. Being that the rules and regulations of crowdfunding are new and still changing in many instances, it is better to take the high road and be fully in tune with all of the reporting and tracking mechanisms required. Taking a short cut or not being cognizant of the nuances with this new financing marketing strategy can likely trip up your efforts down the road or question the validity of you taking advantage of the new crowd funding rules to begin with. Even though it goes without saying, we’re going to say it anyhow – The last thing you want to do is become a test case with the SEC, so be sure to consult with legal counsel that is well versed and experienced with crowdfunding projects. [For info on what we’ve seen regarding general solicitation at ACE see this post]
If you are going after a more tightly focused group of investors (ie. Family offices and Pension funds) – make sure you also have the technology or use a platform to help manage the marketing, tracking and follow up correspondence to stay on top of everybody you approach and what type of feedback you are getting. Also – be careful not to cross the chasm and fall into using marketing tactics that may be considered a general solicitation. Posting your deal or offering, or inviting people to ask you more about it on social media websites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter can be construed as a general solicitation, so be very careful about what you say about your deal and where you say it. [Interested in targeting family offices? See how they think about direct investing]
3. Be organized
In any fund raising effort – there are numerous things that have to be managed in every step of the process. From preparing and updating your offering documents, to working with professional advisors such as auditors, lawyers, and investment bankers, to designing your collateral material and managing your marketing, communications, meetings, and follow up correspondence – if you are not organized, your head will spin. [See Stages of a Private Placement for more]. In addition, potential investors will also see that you are not organized or have developed a systematic approach to manage the fundraising and relationship aspects of your business. If they sense sub-par performance in your outreach and follow up with them, chances are they’ll have added concerns about your ability to manage your fund or company, or will just be turned off and decline.
Being organized will also create efficiency in your efforts. Create a specific plan for the entire offering process, include timelines and deadlines to keep your team on track, and solicit the help of your professional advisors and other people as needed at the appropriate time. With a well thought out timeline – you can easily anticipate when people will need to be brought into the fold.
Almost equally as important is how your information is organized and presented. Investors appreciate seeing that the company is well managed and organized and those insights reflect on you and your team and provide confidence to the investor. Make sure your messaging is consistent from document to document. Please, please, please use a spell checker on all of your documents. Misspellings in today’s world are a simple sign of laziness and not caring about details. In addition, make sure all of your documentation is laid out nicely and looks clean and professional. There are plenty of firms and outsourcers that specialize in preparing offering documents, presentations, and reports. If you don’t have the ability or expertise in house to do this yourself, make the small investment to hire a professional that does – it will yield great dividends going forward in your marketing efforts.
4. Leverage technology to streamline all of your communications
Technology is the great equalizer for many companies regardless of the industry and it is no different for marketing and raising capital. Utilizing technology in your communications, managing the creation and distribution of your documents, and keeping track of who spoke with whom at what point of time and what was said will make your life so much easier. The days of using a spreadsheet to keep track of these things is old-hat, and while relatively simple to use and update, is not the most efficient method of tracking communications. It also leaves out document flow and many other aspects of the process. Utilizing an integrated contact management system is a big step up and will definitely help you with managing the entire process and staying on top of your communications efforts. Yes, it will take time to set up and connect everything together, however, it will be very much worth the effort both short term and long term.
Platforms such as CapitalIQ or newer entrants into the market such as ACE Portal, or Axial Networks have very effective tools to use to help manage your fund raising efforts, as well as provide a strong venue to connect with potential investors. Let technology help you become more efficient, be more organized and streamline your communications efforts. In doing so, it will allow you spend more time traveling and building relationships with the very people you want as your investors or partners instead of chasing down emails and trying to remember what was discussed in your last investor meeting.
5. Make sure all of your documents are current, factual, and do not omit any material facts
Where many deals get tripped up with their investors and where many issuers get hit by our infamous regulatory agencies is in the information that is provided, or not provided for that matter, in the company’s offering documents, disclosure statements, and marketing materials. With any of the documents that you put out to your potential or existing investors – take the extra time to be sure that information in them is current, factual and does not omit any material facts. If they don’t uphold this simple rule – you are setting yourself up for potential issues down the road.
Here are a couple quick tips to think of here:
- Let more than one person review and/or edit your documents. Having multiple sets of eyes on them will help ensure that they are accurate and provide the information needed in a consistent fashion
- Give them to your professional advisors to review (attorney and accountant/auditor) so that the level of disclosure and financial details fulfill certain standards that they would typically require
- If you are going to update one document, whether it be your pitch deck, offering document or disclosure documents – take the extra time to update them all.
If you employ these three simple steps, I can honestly say that you’ll be able to sleep better at night knowing that you covered your butt, while your professional advisors will be grateful that you did and your investors will notice that your documentation is buttoned up and tight, which also protects them.
6. Scrub your financials and any track record you are reporting
Yes – we know this sounds a lot like number 5 above – but this one has to be stated as a standalone item in our best practices list. With funds and fund advisors – how and what you state as your track record in your offering and marketing documents can make or break you (other than having a stellar or crappy history of producing returns). A very close second to that are the financials that you are reporting. In both cases, whatever the numbers are – don’t get fancy or try to be cute. Be factual and straight to the point without adding too much fluff. This is also an area where you’ll want your auditor and legal counsel to take a look at because any misstep here can be the recipe for disaster.
Did you know that one of the biggest catalysts for public companies to have class action lawsuits brought against them is due to misstatements on their financials? Even though there will be some added expense to have your financial and legal advisers look at these closely, consider it as investing in an insurance policy for your future.
Take notice to any unusual items or adjustments and be prepared to answer questions about them. Investors will typically find these nooks and crannies and want to know more details about them. It is much more efficient to be prepared up-front and will build confidence with your investors if you do not have to scramble around trying to understand the questions yourself and put together an answer that is coherent on the fly.
Lastly on this subject, read your financials and track record statements from the view of the prospective investor and ask yourself, does this sound right and is there too much hyperbole (that’s a better word to use instead of bullshit) stuffed into it? Have others on your team or some of your associates read them as well. If you keep coming up with consistent feedback that it sounds like a stretch or too much fluff – then perhaps consider dialing it down to reality more. Stacking yourself up against facts and market metrics are the best bet here as facts can hardly be contested.
7. Communicate with everyone that is part of the process
Communication is the key to coordinating and managing the fund raising effort at the highest level. Just as football coaches communicate the game plan and special plays to his team, if that never took place the chances for that team to effectively advance the ball down the field and win become close to zero.
Communication among all of the parties in the process of marketing your deal is more important than you think. This goes with your partners, your associates, as well as your professional advisors and your target investors. Communication helps build and maintain a relationship which is of the utmost importance with investors. In addition, the mode of communication is highly important and making a concerted effort to think about the best method to communicate anything needs to be made, regardless of whether you are communicating with an investor, your accountant or one of your associates. Some things are much better discussed over a phone call instead of an email. And when it comes to emails, never send one when you are under an extreme emotional state, as emails lack a certain filter or ability to express inflections and the real meaning behind what you are saying. Give yourself some time to cool off, even if it’s an extra hour or an extra day before you send that important email.
Everyone is extremely busy and multi-tasking to get things done. Making sure to communicate with everyone on a consistent basis keeps everybody on the same page and will pay off big time.
8. Manage our professional advisors and don’t let them manage you
Yes – I’m talking about the attorneys, financial advisors, and anybody marketing your deal. You need to manage your professional advisors to make sure they stay on track with your game plan, and your budget. Don’t let them run amok or give them too much room to get off track as it can easily become a situation where they’re racking up unnecessary fees and are otherwise wasting time and effort.
As a team that has specific objectives, a timeline to work on, and certain tasks to complete, communicating and making sure all of your professional advisors are on the same page is critical to a successful deal being completed. Remember – your professional advisors work for you and are there to help you. If they are not staying on board with the program or not performing at a level that you believe is acceptable, don’t be afraid to let them go. There are plenty of competent professional advisors out there that are very good at their jobs. Search for the best in their respective fields by getting referrals from people that you know and trust or researching the professionals involved in previous transactions that were highly successful.
9. Review and measure your results
How many people did you reach out to, how many people did you actually connect with, how many attempts did you make before you confirmed a meeting, what was the investor’s feedback, what was their decision, what documents were sent and when, how long did it take until they made their investment from the point of their the meeting or day they decided to make the investment? These and other questions should be measured in your marketing efforts to find areas that need improvement, and also areas that are working well. In addition, these questions and measurements should also be made from person to person to see who is performing at a higher level as compared to others. What are the elements that are creating the most success in the process? If you can answer those questions – you will quickly create an optimized environment where marketing your deal in a systematic fashion produces better results. Bottom line – the more information you have at your disposal around the process and actions that create the results, the more you can refine and improve upon them.
10. Be flexible and adapt
The world of financing and funding a transaction is an intricate dance that encompasses so many things from psychology, to personal issues, macro-economic events, business sector changes, government regulations, and societal issues, to just having a bad hair day. If you are going to win in this environment, or any business environment for that matter – you must be a) staying on top of the market to notice what’s going on; b) open minded enough to recognize that change is taking place and something must be done to accommodate it, and c) flexible enough to actually make the change or take advantage of unique opportunities when they present themselves.
If you look at the most successful companies out there, or funds that have had long runs of success and have launched multiple funds since their initial one – they’ve all been flexible in some fashion with their thinking, how they approach the market, and how they run their business. Investors will also appreciate the fact that you take the stance of being flexible and keeping sight of changing market conditions so that you can adapt and act in a proactive manner instead of being reactive and behind the curve where you’re unable rise above the noise or unable to take advantage of unique opportunities.
The best practices outlined here can be adopted rather easily and start to yield positive results very quickly. Even if you only implement one of them or have a new perspective of what to consider when marketing your deal will improve either what you’re doing or how you run the process. In either case, we hope you gained a new appreciation for what’s involved and how important it is to have a great team that you communicate with while also leveraging technology when marketing your deal. With that being said – go get your deal done!
About the author: Chris Kern is a retired technology and media investment banker with over 20 years of experience as a corporate financier. Raised in New York and currently living in Arizona – Chris is the founder and president of Domain Media, a multi-channel Internet media network of networks that are focused within specific market verticals, and is a principal with ScottsdaleSeoPro.net, an engagement marketing, digital media strategy, and search engine optimization firm that serves companies in the financial services, software, and business services industries to expand their reach, do more business online, and to better connect with their target audiences.