This is an age-old question asked by many Chamber and EDO CEO’s when their investors tell them they are “cutting back”, “dropping out” or just generally not satisfied with the organizational relationship. What am I missing? Haven’t we gone above and beyond in trying to ensure this investor/member/stakeholder feels important?
“I just saw her at our annual meeting”……….”He’s on our board”……….”We tweet 3 times a day and communicate through Facebook and Linked In”……………What am I missing?
The art and science of investor relations is an often discussed but rarely resolved conundrum. In large part the challenge is fed by the basic fact that no two people are the same. This is especially true when one examines today’s Chamber or EDO investor profile — large, medium, small; non-gender specific; age range from 22 to 80+; etc., etc.. Determining a consistent, “one-size-fits-all” mode of communicating, relating and engaging is about as simple as getting 4 teenagers to agree on which movie to watch (I have had some experience with that!). The point is, often-times we look to a customer management process, or a ‘six-touch” program, or some other “latest, greatest way to communicate with people who give you money” idea to “fix” the challenge. The flaw in that thinking is assuming there is something to “fix”!
Investor relations is not a mechanism or tool, but rather it’s a mindset: a set of behaviors that define your relationship with those that provide the resources to run your organization. While it’s important to have some type of “client management” tool in place to ensure a basic level of connection, that’s not enough. What’s needed is a unique, custom fit approach to each and every investor designed to help them meet and exceed their own specific expectations of the organizational relationship.
So how do we do that? First off, we ask some basic questions at the very beginning of the relationship – How do you like to be ‘talked to”? Are you active on social media? What are you looking for in this relationship? How will you define success in this relationship? How would you like to engage in our organization? Simple right?
Second, catalogue the responses. Here’s where that client management system can really help; but remember, it’s not the process of entering and maintaining data that defines a quality investor experience, it’s the process of entering and maintaining the RIGHT data and more importantly, designing a customized model of investor engagement based on that data for each and every investor.
Hmmmm, this is starting to sound like hard work, right? If it does, just consider how hard it is to replace lost revenue from a disgruntled investor. Moreover, think about what that can do to your organizational brand and the resulting lost opportunity that may result from others in that disenfranchised investor’s network of colleagues and peers.
So now that we agree a comprehensive, holistic and customized approach to investor relations is not just worthwhile, but a necessary component to any sustainable funding model, here are a few other things to keep in mind as you build your platform:
- Everyone doesn’t communicate the same way. Your platform needs multiple media and varying approaches to reaching investors.
- Every investor doesn’t want the same thing. Some want to be on your board, others want to help move the needle behind the scenes, others are only interested in networking that may lead to business opportunities, still others are most interested in those big ticket items that advance communities, and still others don’t want to be engaged at all, they just want to be part of the solution! You have to find ways to reach and satisfy all of them.
- Nothing beats the personal touch! Don’t assume that because you saw Judy at the board meeting, or chatted briefly with Bill after the task force meeting, or shook 45 hands at the late afternoon reception, that those investors are satisfied and content. It’s important to find efficient, high quality methods of connecting with investors personally both individually and in small groups.
- Put someone in charge. It’s not rocket science! Nothing you have read in the last five minutes is new, innovative or particularly creative. As a Chamber or EDO Executive, you have heard all of this before and intuitively understand the importance. However, you may employ the common strategy of making investor relations “everybody’s business”. Well, when it’s everybody’s business, it’s really nobody’s business! Put someone in charge. Designate a person on your staff to manage investor relations. Hold everyone accountable for execution.
So what are you missing? Perhaps it’s simply a focal point for ensuring you have the tools, strategy and tactics to build a strong investor relations program. Maybe it’s the commitment to make it a key strategy in your organization. Whatever it is, investor relations needs to be at the top of your priority list. Few things are worse than losing a revenue source simply because we didn’t take the time to talk to them!