The key to success for most startups is having adequate funds for growth. In many cases, this means finding investors and raising capital to get your business off the ground.
As founders seeking capital quickly learn, finding the right investor is often all about who you know. To that end, nine Young Entrepreneur Council members shared their top tips for building and maintaining relationships with experts in your field. These industry relationships can open countless new doors for you when it comes time to seek an investor for your business.
1. Consider How You Will Add Value
Think about how to add value to the people you talk to. The people you know also know other people, and you can follow those networks out until you reach the right people. If you are a huge source of value to the people you know, that paves inroads to the people you need to get the financing done. What does it mean to add value? Be helpful wherever you can. If you’re working on a particular problem, it’s probably pretty interesting. Soon, you’ll know more about that problem and everything that’s peripheral to it than most other people. Being a source of knowledge and sharing your early journey is valuable to other people. – Cody Candee, Bounce
2. Focus On Integrity
Relationship capital will prove to be the greatest investment that you will ever make. True relationships will pay exponential dividends when you simply focus on one thing in your own life: integrity. This is something that is tough to build and very easy to destroy. The very definition of integrity is “the state of being whole, undivided.” When we as business owners and leaders focus on this, we will attract people who want to invest in us. We will no longer seek but be sought after. This will cause the game to slow down and come to you! You will become the buyer, and this will put you in the driver’s seat. Focusing on integrity is choosing the long game that will foster sustainable success through relationship capital. – Kelly Cardenas, Kelly Cardenas Salon
3. Show Off Your Expertise
Show them that you’re an expert too. You’re far more likely to capture potential investors’ attention in the first place if you make a name for yourself as a leader in your field. If they’re reading your articles, watching your interviews and listening to your podcast appearances, they’ll quickly take note that you know your stuff and they’ll want to connect with you as a fellow expert in their field. Plus, investors are far more likely to put money into your operation if they’re confident you’ll use it to create something amazing (and, of course, generate a return on their investment). When you establish yourself as an expert in your own right, other experts will see you as someone who is capable of delivering on the promise of your company. – Miles Jennings, Recruiter.com
4. Leverage The Trusted Connections You Already Have
The best thing you can do is ask. Don’t count on meeting investors at formal events. Instead, take your most trusted connections among the people you’ve already met and ask them if they know anyone who might be interested in your business. If you get any leads, take them up on the offer and ask them to lunch or simply send off an email or text. Take a chance on them. Meeting investors via personal connections is the best way to make inroads with potential funders. – Amine Rahal, IronMonk Solutions
5. Use The Principle Of Reciprocity
Try to focus on leveraging the principle of reciprocity when building networking relationships. This means doing acts of service and helping others in small ways. That is, you’re the first to reach out to comment on a post on LinkedIn or you promote other relevant businesses on your website and social media. By doing this you build goodwill and get people’s attention. This also compels others to return the favor in some way and help you in your own endeavors. – Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner
6. Build Genuine Rapport
The key to finding the right investor is to take your time and build genuine rapport with people. Some startups reach out to industry professionals on LinkedIn and ask for an investment in their very first message. This technique is not how you’re going to find someone to help. Instead, get to know what makes the experts in your field great. Talk to them about how they shaped the industry and get to know them beyond their face and title. You’ll find that this is a much better way to get to know people and find potential investors. – John Brackett, Smash Balloon LLC
7. Prove You’re A Secure Investment
Anyone can start a business, but only a few can prove they’re the right person to start a specific business, and those are the ones who get noticed by investors. Networking at events, on LinkedIn, etc., is essential, but so is building your personal brand (as much as your business brand). Start publishing content online that positions you as an expert in your field and share that content on your blog, across social media and in your email newsletter. Publish your content on LinkedIn and Medium. Write guest articles for other websites. When it comes time for investors to decide if you’re worth the investment, they’ll see your strong online presence and quickly identify you as someone with the knowledge and drive to win in your market. – Jonathan Prichard, MattressInsider.com
8. Stay Connected On Social Media
Social media is the best way to keep in touch and build real, lasting relationships with potential investors. Reach out to experts in your industry and invite them to connect, either online or in person for lunch. Get to know them on a personal level and then keep up that contact. Check in with them regularly, engage with their posts online and offer up your ideas on topics they’re writing about. This process takes time, but the foundation for an amazing partnership will be built if you show them you’re interested in their work and keen to establish a relationship. Don’t be shy; they’re likely to be very perceptive to new businesses wanting to learn from their expertise and offering their own value in return. – Emily Stallings, Casely, Inc.
9. Approach From A Nurturing Place
Nurturing is key. It’s important to not just approach relationships from a standpoint of what they can do for you, but to also approach with what you can do for them! People know when you just want something from them. So instead of being strategic with your relationships with experts in your field, try approaching them from a nurturing place where you provide value and build connections that can later turn into something that benefits your business. – Diego Orjuela, Cables & Sensors