Whether you have financial backing from an angel, an investment group, or a syndicate comprised of your parents, a sibling and Uncle Leo, a policy for dealing with investors on a professional level could help increase support for your business. A proactive policy aimed at establishing and maintaining understanding, trust and credibility also helps keep lenders at arms' length from your operations, yet near enough to tap should you need future funding.
"Keep angels or start-up investors informed about what you're doing, what successes you've had and what your plans are," advises Maxine Bingham of Agora Marketing International Inc. "Make them feel part of the team."
For one high-tech start-up Agora Marketing helped launch, "We established constant communications," says Bingham. "We put [investors] on the distribution list for news releases, sent them all published articles about the company and designed a special newsletter for them." Bingham says a regular newsletter is a good idea because "investors get nervous if they don't hear from you. So tell them about a new product, a change of service, any significant hires. Better yet, use e-mail; it's quicker and cheaper than printing and snail-mailing a newsletter, and people like the convenience of being able to forward it to others."
Bingham, whose 11-year-old Cupertino, California, company helped launch such start-ups as Yahoo!, Ship Express, Plus Logic and Pilot Network Services, has noticed a perceptible change in investor expectations over the years. "Investors want to receive information immediately," she observes. "[That's why] many businesses are setting up Web sites with special investor pages that are password protected. It's a way to promote your business while keeping investors informed."
It's a good idea, too, to stay a step ahead of investors on industry news, competitor developments and even what press your company gets. "Don't be in a position where board members or investors are telling you what's going on," cautions Bingham. Instead, contract with an information services company such as DataTimes (http://www.datatimes.com) or Profound Market Research (http://www.profound.co.uk). They'll track news by industry, by company, etcetera, for a fee and deliver timely items to your e-mail box. Or use Point Cast (http://www.pointcast.com)--it's not as tailored, but it's free.
As you receive relevant information, pass it on to investors via your Web site or in a newsletter, perhaps adding your own spin rather than permitting investors to draw erroneous conclusions.
For additional information on how to keep your investors happy, contact the National Investor Relations Institute (http://www.niri.org), which has 30 chapters nationwide and offers seminars, workshops, luncheons and free publications sure to help you learn the basics of good relations.