Fundraising Marketing: Hacks for Raising Your Round

Note: This post is cross-posted from my old blog.

Marketing is an amazing function that can help you achieve your business goals. Usually those business goals are things like: more users, more leads or more paying customers.

But wait! many startups are looking for funding and some of the same marketing tactics that you use to find new customers can be used to get the attention of Angel Investors, Venture Capitalists or even potential acquirers. I call this “fundraising marketing”.

Fundraising Marketing

One way of thinking of Fundraising Marketing is that you have redefined you customer segment to be as small as one person (maybe a Corp Dev guy at Google?). It is not something that you just start once you are ready to raise a round, it is part of the overall narative of your company. You want to be on the radar of companies from the time you start and should continue these activities through your new product launches, fundraising and everything else.

Attn: This is not some sort of replacement for your user acquisition efforts. Posting the numbers is still the best way to get people interested. You would hate to get an investor’s attention only to have them be disappointed when they investigate further.

There are two strategies that I think these tactics fall into:

  1. Build Momentum with Updates via Blog posts, social and email
  2. Be “Everywhere”: Hack PR and paid advertising to reach your targets

Build Momentum with Blog Posts, Social and Email

If you think about the perception of your brand from the perspective of an Angel, VC or potential acquirer, you will find that most of the information they get comes directly from you (yes, even PR). That seems like an awfully good opportunity. The best strategy is to do is to build a narrative and execute on it.

  • We Would like to announce that in two weeks we will be launching…
  • We are proud to be officially launching…
  • A photo of your team celebrating the first 10,000 users
  • etc

For example…

Some of these updates should be on your blog; this will be the bulk of the information that people receive about the progress of your company, so be sure that you execute on product and growth goals so that you have something to talk about. If this isn’t happening, you can do what the media has been doing since newspapers have launched and make stories out of non-stories. More on that in a later blog post

Smaller Updates and Amplification

Not every update is worth going on the blog, many of the smaller updates can be pushed through social. The first place that ‘interested’ parties will go for information on your company is Linkedin or Angellist profile. It is a good practice to post some content marketing material here to get consumer attention (especially if your are a B2B comapny), but make sure that you have a good stream of your momentum/narrative content. If there isn’t enough of this you can always make a “featured post” and it will be sticky (remain at the top of your feed).

You should also amplify your narrative with company email updates and social sharing. However, not everything needs to be a blog post. Tweets and Facebook updates celebrating little milestones are great too.

Monitor Your Email Lists Obsessively

Monitoring your email subscriber list is key. Some people may see this is a waste of time but in addition to identifying potential investors and acquirers, it it will give you insight into your early adopters. When you identify potential investors, put them on a separate list and control the updates that go to them. You don’t want to send them to the MVP that you hacked together and doesn’t. Additionally, you can reach out to them (or get an intro) and ask if you can put them on your infrequent investor email updates.

Use Rapportive and Google searches for more information. If you want to automate this process, the FullContact API is something that seems like it would be really useful.

Be “Everywhere”: Hacking PR and Paid Ads

So, up until now, I have been describing what I think of as best practices; now, for the hacking… A good practice when doing marketing for a fund raising is to use the “be everywhere” concept. The idea is that you want to “be everywhere” that your target segment is, and while this seems expensive, when your audience is only a hand full of people, you can do it very cheaply. The key is to use Display (and Social) Advertising and PR.

I use the term hacking because the intended use of these channels is to reach large groups of people, rather than a handful and traditionally, this level of targeting is not possible. I will be talking about Self service platforms that have no minimum spend to allow you to spend as little as $5 if you’d like.

Display Advertising + Paid Social

Display advertising is one of the most widely used and scalable channels on the internet. Typically, companies run display campaigns that contain their logo and a product feature and blast it all over the internet for all to see.

Rates for display advertising depends on where you’d like to show up but generally range ffrom $2 — $20 CPM. CPM is “Cost per Thousand Impressions”, meaning that a single impression could cost as little as 2/10 of a cent; that is cheap! The problem is that people have gotten used to ignoring banners online and we are trying to tell a story, so, I like the strategy of making “recommended content” ads. Onespot.com does this if you are looking for a programmatic solution and have money to put towards it.

You can even send people to a good PR mention that you got, rather than sending them to your own site. (this may be against the TOS of some platforms, so check out the rules). If you want to push the rules even more, design a banner creative for a particular site and serve up “native” looking ads in banners creatives.

For example…

Now that we’ve made some ads to distribute, we need to use a platform and targeting to serve them. Here are a few awesome channels that are pretty effective and cost effective.

Remarketing

If you’re not familiar with remarketing, it uses cookies to serve ads only to people who have received a cookie from your website. Google has the cheapest and easiest remarketing functionality. This approach will be targeted towards all visitors to your site.

Social Remarketing

Bizo self service platform is amazing. If you haven’t heard of social remarketing, here’s how it works. You use their link shortener, which is po.st. Share something with this and any person that clicks will get a remarketing cookie. You could insert one of these links into investor update emails, post to linkedin or whatever you’d like. Hiding this shortener with anchor text is probably a good idea too. One use would be to include a Po.st link on your angel list profile linking to a deck or more info about your company/investing etc.

IP Targeting

If you are trying to get the attention of someone at a potential acquiring company, IP targeting is an option for buying display that many people overlook. Most companies are on static IPs and you can target them to serve ads only to people on that IP. Tradedesk is a good DSP to use if you are trying to use IP targeting. I think they have stupid minimums, so let me know if you are looking to do this and I will find a solution.

Page level targeting through GDN

I’ve already written a post on page level targeting with GDN, but here it is again. Let’s say that you have a write up on techcrunch. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to serve your ad with a call to action right next to it? Because TechCrunch is a premium publisher, this may not alway be possible as they will sell the entire site sometimes, but most of the time you should win the auctions for a single page, generally costing you less than a cent per impression.

Facebook Custom Audiences

A Custom Audience in facebook allows you to upload a list of email addresses and target only those users, if they use that same email for their facebook account. If a person of interest has signed up for your email list, you can upload it into facebook to see if you can target them based on their email address.

An Example of A Good Distribution Model

There are so many ways that you can use the technologies that we’ve talked about to hack the traditional Marketing, Meida and PR systems but here is an example of a distribution model would be…

  1. Get a PR writeup (or advertorial if you are having trouble).
  2. Design and a banner featuring the article and distribute it with your investor/ acquirer targeting
  3. Design a banner that leads to your site and prompts email update sign ups.
  4. Use page level advertising to serve this ad on the article that was written.

Any questions or comments? I’d really love to help and/or see some feedback. Let me know below.