Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Why VC's Need Marketing

I heard about a marketing position at a venture capital firm and it got me thinking about why any venture capital firm would need marketing.  Doesn't everybody know who they are and why they would want to do business with them?  I put on my product marketing hat and took a look at some of the better known ones around and it became fairly apparent why they could use some marketing help.


By and large, most firms have very nice, clean websites with well-executed and dynamic photos of their partners and founders at many of their portfolio firms.  Great.  At least they don't scrimp on image. 

There's also clear and easy to find examples of their portfolio companies so you know who they are funding.  Fine.

They also list the sectors where they choose to invest.  If they don't invest in my sector, I know to move on.

But it falls off after that. 

I have a friend who's at the stage where he is seeking either angel funding or venture funding, so I started looking at these firms from his standpoint - I started thinking like a buyer to analyze these firms. 

  1. Why should he buy from any of the firms?
    Hmm.  Don't see anything on any of their web sites that tells me why he'd want to choose any of them over another.  They talk a lot about themselves and other features like amount of capital under management, etc. but little about why they are different.  Not much to differentiate there.
  2. How does he buy from any of them?
    Good question.  They all have a Contact page but very few go beyond that.  Does he ring them up and hope?  Is email a better way to start? 

    One says, "Please
    contact us if you think that we could be the right partner for you."  Do I use my Ouija Board or choose them based on the quality of their profile photos or amount of capital undermanagement or number of winners vs losers?  Maybe it's whether or not they answer the phone.  Any guesses?

    Here's another. "All business plan submissions must include a clear description of your operations and current progress."

    To be fair, Kleiner Perkins does a great job
    here.  They spell out exactly what they are looking for from people and how to structure it.  On the down side, they have a withering array of partners in numerous sectors so it's still not clear who my friend should approach nor exactly what the first step is.

    Fred Wilson blogged about Office Hours a while ago but I'll be jiggered if I can find where they are listed on the Union Square web site.  If I hadn't read his blog, I wouldn't know he was accessible and my friend could just ring him up.
  3. How does he engage with them to learn more and help his buying decision?
    As the general perception is you only have one shot with any particular VC, I see this as a key item to figure out.  Several VCs have blogs where you can read what they are thinking or find important and Fred Wilson is pretty diligent about responding to comments in his blog.  But he seems to be the exception.

    All the partners at one of the major firms blog regularly on their web site.  There's only one problem: they are one-way blogs.  There's no facility for comments or further dialog.  You might be able to have a conversation in the Twitterverse but that has its limitations.  Strange.
Based on my highly unscientific analysis, I CAN see why a VC firm would want to have marketing help.  They all could use help in making it easier for founders to engage with them, buy their investment services and get to know them.  It could increase deal flow, help both sides get to 'No' a whole lot faster and deepen the understanding of how this component of our economy really works.

Next Up: Results from my Silicon Valley Product Camp session on how to break into product marketing and product management.

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