This multi-part series is designed to give small businesses and start-ups an insight into how to build collateral and brand to target investors expanding on the overview article on my blog. Most people looking for investing and funding believe that with their good idea, or even great idea, that people will be lining up to get on board. That is almost never the case. Investors are in the business of making money by loaning money. They put a lot of thought into who they invest in as well as how often they do it. One thing that you must always think about is there is very little more important than you in selling to investors. The top investors in the business care less about the product compared to the person behind the product. Make sure you have all your ducks in a row, are presentable, prepared for questions, and confident (not cocky) in your business or product.
That being said, assuming all people meet that requirement, you need to produce collateral that will separate you from the pack. Presenting well thought out, informative, and attractive collateral will not only present your information in an eye pleasing package but will also show investors you are committed to your product’s success and not just looking for hand-outs. On to this installment of Building Collateral for Investors.
Your Core Identity Collateral
Investors are business people and they more often than most follow traditional business practices. What that means is the classic standbys of business cards, letter head, and business envelopes are essential to making a positive impression. Each item in a traditional Identity Package has a unique business function as well as take-away power. If you maximize the quality of each and every piece you will be seen by investors as a business owner that is thorough and focused on success. Let’s break down the four main pieces to a core identity package and explain how each one should be focused to maximize their impact.
Your Company Logo
You might think this is an obvious item that everyone knows to spend time on but that simply is not true. Many people will hire someone based solely on price and take whatever logo looks “coolest” to them. Big mistake! Investors analyze every aspect of your business to see how involved you are, how well things are thought out, as well as what will need tom be improved and worked out before they make a commitment. Approach your logo design as if you were already a Fortune 500 company. Investors understand that each and every product has a different target audience and that a business’ logo should reflect that. So focus on the target demographic your product or service will be sold to and design a logo for them. Don’t get sucked into designing something you think will appeal directly to the investor. Follow all the standard rules for logo design and invest time and money in developing fully.
Your Business Card
As I stated in the overview article your business card is still the most powerful point of contact when talking to an investor. I have yet to hear about an investor that doesn’t meet with people in person before giving them money. When you meet them you want to hand them a card that captures their attention and immediately burns itself into their memory. Unlike the logo this can be tailored to an investor. The point of a business card is to do business, not sell your product but your company in general. One of the reasons business cards become stagnate and uninteresting is because not a lot of thought is put into its layout. People believe that as long as it contains all the vital information it’s doing the job. Completely untrue. An investor is going to get more business cards than you can probably imagine. It is a part of every day life for them, even with today’s ever-growing technology. Use both sides of the card so that you can create a visual effect on one side with little worry for having to present information. This will allow you to focus on graphically making one side of your card brilliant while the other side can present all the information.
Speaking of the information side DO NOT just slap the information on the card. The purpose of a business card is to drive traffic, whether it is to your company’s website or to drive someone to call you. Think about how you want the investor to get in touch with you or what you want them to do and make that the focus of the information side of your card. Whether you make that aspect of your card larger or a different color make it stand out from the rest of the content. If it works with the design of your logo add a subtle graphic element that also visually steers the viewer towards the information on which you want them to focus. The point is to make the card memorable as well as motivating the investor towards taking some course of action in contacting you. Every little reminder, no matter how subtle or subconscious will help.
A must to do when talking with investors is keeping your company in the front of their minds. After meeting with them you must, simply must, follow up the meeting with a letter to thank them for the meeting as well as re-enforcing the benefits of your company. However, the most painful thing I see companies doing is sending a letter on generic white paper printed from their home printer. Obviously the letter content itself will be printed from your home printer but using a generic piece of white paper you find at your local office supply store is all but a guarantee you will be checked off the “interested” list. You must invest the time and energy you put into your business card into creating powerfully appealing letterhead. Have at least some letterhead professionally printed by a printer containing at least a beautiful header that incorporates your brand as well as your company logo. On the letterhead make sure you have all your contact information repeated and create some sort of graphic element or die cut effect that makes your letterhead jump off their desk. Also take the opportunity to include a “back-up” of your business card. This serves two purposes. Obviously it gives the investor another copy of your business card but more importantly it shows that your business card and letterhead work together and look visually appealing together. The more you show your collateral is well thought out the more that translates to you being thorough and attentive to detail. A serious plus in the minds of investors.
Your Company Envelope
This item is almost always overlooked by small companies. Where as using a generic piece of white paper as your letterhead and generic #10 business envelope will often times keep the investor from even getting to your letterhead. Having a professional printer run a box of nice envelopes through their printer will be well worth the money to ensure an investor pursues it further. Now there are very specific regulations by the USPS that govern how your envelope should work. I recommend to clients that they make sure to meet these requirements rather than simply sending things through UPS or FedEx simply because those investors that know the regulations will be that much more impressed by your work. Do more than the minimum, don’t just have them print your company logo and return address on the front. Look into using as much of the envelope as the USPS allows. If you have doubt that your envelope meets the requirements take it to your local post office, where there will be a certified person to review it, and have them check it and approve it. There is a small fee associated with this.
You might be thinking that this sounds like a fairly significant investment and to be honest it is. However you are trying to convince someone to invest money in your company, most likely significantly more than any costs associated with printing and paper costs. Investors always end up investing in companies that have already shown they are investing in themselves. Take the time to make sure that the printed material they take away from a meeting with you will represent you to the maximum of its ability when you’re gone.
This Article brought to you by Jay Johnson of Five Minute Productions.