How to Create & Build Relationships with Investors in the COVID Era

June 7, 2021
Marene Ter

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2020 demonstrated that some things in life cannot be entirely replaced by digital technology – building relationships, making connections, establishing the human bond. In a world of this ever-increasing interconnectivity, are we at risk of losing real human connection?

Investor relations are crucial for companies looking to grow and scale. Building and maintaining an excellent relationship with your investors, first and foremost, is crucial in demonstrating that you are someone who is not just after your investors’ money but is in fact a valuable business partner who can grow your company as well as protect and grow your investors’ funds. 

Companies that are raising capital often have to travel and meet with their investors a few times a year. Face-to-face meetings create true connections and strengthen partnerships that cannot be entirely replicated in the digital space. But 2020 has dramatically changed things. In the past year, travel has been a major challenge due to fluctuating travel restrictions. How then are new bonds created, and existing relationships maintained without real-life interactions? 

With the advent of virtual communication platforms, the digital world does offer some solutions to keep these relationships vibrant and alive.  Although virtual communication may never truly achieve the same level of connection over in-person meetings, it does offer opportunities to keep connections alive. Is it possible to ensure a meaningful relationship with your investors without the traditional models in place?

There are some steps you can take in lieu of face-to-face meetings with your investors. It takes a lot of conscious effort to make the most out of what’s currently available for you. Here, we list a few ways to ensure that you don’t lose the real human connection you have with your investors. 

1 – Seek to understand your investor

Before you make any attempt to connect with your investor through digital channels, aim to learn more about them as individuals and professionals. What type of investors are they: are they a private equity firm, venture capital, family office? 

You should already have an idea of their values and vision, their investor profiles, and investment interests. Aim also to find out their preferred method of contact and how frequently they would want to be contacted by you in a professional and personal capacity. They might prefer video conferencing meetings for company updates, or they could prefer instant messaging for simple catch-ups.

It’s all about respecting their space while maintaining regular and valuable communication with them. Depending on the level of connection you have previously had with them, it’s best to consider your approach before reaching out.

2 – Build the relationship first

If you believe you have a good understanding of who your investor is and how to approach them, it’s time to apply it. Investors don’t want to be seen simply as massive dollar signs – they are real people with real lives, too. 

Take an interest and learn more about who they are by asking simple questions when the opportunity arises. You should assess what kind of person your investor is – do they prefer to dive directly into discussing business matters, or are they more sociable and open to having some friendly chatter before talking business? 

A good rule of thumb is to always listen more than speak – you learn more about them as well as gaining great insights when you ask genuine questions and listen intently. Sincere questions will show that you appreciate having a real connection with them and make them feel comfortable to open up to you as well.

Keep things simple and don’t rush by leading in with questions that are too close for comfort, unless these are about things they have previously shared with you. Show them that you are genuinely interested in them by remembering these details in future correspondences. An investor wouldn’t want to keep repeating themselves, and it would be in your best interest to prove that you are sincere in building a relationship. 

3 – Be genuine

A significant aspect of what an investor assesses when deciding to invest in a company is whether they like the founder and the team, and can see themselves working with you for months if not years to come. Investors would want to know you first as an individual, and then as a founder. They might already have preconceived notions about you and have also made previous judgments based on your interactions. They will know whether you are being your authentic self or not. Being congruent and authentic is not something that can be taught – sophisticated investors are highly perceptive and can see immediately whether you are being genuine or are just simply trying too hard.  

Authenticity will go a long way when you are building a relationship with anyone. In the case of investors, you want to make sure that they will see you for who you are, without facades and pretenses. It will also be in their best interest to get to know you better. 

Whether it’s giving them business updates or simply trying to catch up on each other’s lives, don’t treat them any different from how you’d treat any other professional relationships. Tell them things as they are, and share things that they want to know. Never overstate false promises or downplay real issues – these could damage your credibility. Being your authentic self when communicating with your investors will make things more meaningful for both of you in the long run.

4 – Be proactive

Practicing good digital etiquette is key.  Your investors would not want to be bothered at ungodly hours, especially for something that can wait until the next business day. Avoid contacting outside traditional office hours unless they give you the green light on doing so. Allow them time to get back to you when it is convenient for them. 

Follow up promptly but never spam them with messages. Always practice good digital etiquette when communicating with your investors. Even when you think you’ve built a good relationship with them, be mindful and respectful of their boundaries. Don’t take it personally when they take their time to respond. They are very busy people, but they will eventually find time for you.

5 – Be introduced

Referrals are still the most valuable way to build new relationships: be it with investors, clients, or strategic partners. If you don’t yet know any investors personally, you would need to reach out and initiate a conversation. 

This could take some time and is essentially similar to cold-calling. However, investors are often busy and some might not be too keen to entertain unsolicited communication. The more effective approach is to be introduced or referred to investors through friends, business associates, colleagues, and advisors. 

Despite all the challenges businesses and investors have faced since last year, there are still plenty of opportunities to create and maintain strong connections digitally, especially when it is done in a genuine and appropriate manner. Let your authentic self shine and show your investors that you see them for who they are, too – that your relationship is beyond money, and about real connections and building something exciting and meaningful together, above all.

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