(Editor’s note: Laura Grimmer is CEO of Articulate Communications Inc., a B2B technology and services communications firm. She submitted this story to VentureBeat.)
Over the past 20 years, I have worked with countless VC firms to promote their portfolio companies. However, it never fails to amaze me how ignorant those VC firms are about what marketing actually does.
Very few VCs invest either the time or resources to create basic credibility or market visibility for themselves. However, there are five easy ways VC firms can accomplish this. These methods will help them be perceived as credible thought leaders, reach their target audiences and build a better pipeline of higher-quality prospective portfolio companies.
Promote successes: There is nothing more powerful than a proven success story to demonstrate a firm’s abilities. VCs urge their portfolio companies to get case studies up on their Web sites and incorporated into marketing materials, so why do so many fail to do so themselves? Create documented case studies on wins, highlighting fellow investment partners, management strategies and exit options. And some ROI would be a good idea, too.
Maintain a healthy pipeline of things to talk about: Silence is not golden when it comes to business. A healthy, burgeoning enterprise communicates with its core constituencies through social media forums, news releases, e-newsletters, media alerts and white papers. Not only are these strategies smart ways to let portfolio companies and investors know that a VC’s business is thriving, but they are also excellent marketing tools to drive Web-site traffic and help people (and potential customers) find those firms – which is a lot easier than having to find the customers.
Build a community around the firm: Think of social media as a very important and useful tool, not a marketing strategy. It’s the “how” to communicate, not “what” to communicate. At its core, social media is an outbound manifestation of a face-to-face meeting. It allows companies to be quicker and more nimble to respond. It’s also more likely to more quickly build a relationship.
Get out of the office: Yes, conferences and networking events can be painful, especially if you’re not comfortable speaking in public or a particularly extroverted person. But speaking engagements for a VC firm’s executives – or having high-profile portfolio companies at VC, technology and business events – can promote thought leadership and open doorways to new business opportunities.
Be useful: In my profession, I’ve built close, long-standing relationships with journalists, analysts and key industry bloggers. One of their biggest complaints is not having dependable and credible VC contacts to rely on as sources or subject-matter experts. Build and grow relationships across traditional and new-media outlets so that when they’re working on something, they view you as a trusted source and help spread the word about you and your firm.
There is a lot of competition to find the right companies and management teams to invest in. “Stealth” venture professionals who do limited marketing will be late to the party, and with the economic recovery ahead, can you afford to take that risk?