Have you ever been out of work around the holidays? Besides being a real bummer, did you succumb to the idea (planted there by a lot of well-meaning friends) that there was really no point in looking because no one ever gets hired during this time of year--unless you're thinking about being a Christmas filler at a local department store? Well, that same kind of wrong thinking has also kept many entrepreneurs from seeking funding during the holiday season. The truth is, many investors are still active during the holiday season. Even better, because so many people actually believe this no-hire/no-fund myth, deal flow for investors around the holidays usually drops off dramatically--which means they may actually be looking for businesses to fund.
This trend can lead to some once-a-year opportunities for the savvy entrepreneur who knows how to take advantage of the situation. Here are some tips for getting the most out of your holiday investors:
1. Now is the time to try a "blanket" mailing. Investors who wouldn't even think of reading an unsolicited business plan or executive summary may do so now. When deal flow is light, investors will actually resort to reading (or at least skimming) some of the plans that come to them without an introduction. Typically, they are much too busy to do this most of the year, but from December to mid-January is a much slower period for them, making it much more likely that they'll have the time to read your business plan. One key to a blanket mailing is to do the little extra research necessary to address your mailing to a "real" person. "To whom it may concern" won't work. Better yet, if you can find the person most likely to have an interest in your sector of the business, they'll not only read your plan, they'll "get it."
2. Now is the time to do your homework. If you want take your blanket mailing to the next higher level and significantly increase your odds, do some research and find out which investors are looking for your type of deal. How do you do this? Research! Go to your own business plan and read the competition section. If you're in a "hot" space, surely there have been other companies that have gone before you and received funding. Now we know that none of these predecessors are anywhere near as good as you are but, they got funded. The question is, by whom? Look for PR releases to find out all the investors who are investing in companies in your space and then either send your executive summary to them unsolicited or find a way to network an introduction to them. This extra effort will pay big dividends--especially around the holidays. If you're lucky enough to have a product that can be sent as a sample, now is the time to do so. Even investors receive gifts and these are the packages that get opened first. Just don't go overboard and send them anything extravagant--like 100 samples of your product--when one would do.
3. Now is the time to network. When an investor attends a networking event throughout most of the year, usually two things are true: the real decision-makers aren't there and those who do come aren't really expecting to find anything. During the holidays, if there's any chance for a reverse of this trend, now is the time. The decision-makers are more likely to attend because they're hoping to find something with potential. Just be careful--if you happen to meet a real decision-maker at one of these events, don't get all flustered like they're some kind of rock star. Treat them like normal people and give them your best elevator pitch along with your card. If they give you one of their cards and/or they (shudder) ask you to call them for an appointment, don't blow it. Act as if you get these invitations all the time and then promise you'll get back to them as soon as you can.
So cheer up! The holidays can actually be a reason to celebrate! Be brave, be aggressive and be creative. Chances are, most of your competition are hibernating for the winter and are hoping they can survive until the spring.