How Venture Capital Firms Use Strategic Marketing Partners to Grow their Portfolios

By Kathryn Hawkins. Content Marketing Venture Capital
Startup business venture capital meeting
Startup business venture capital meeting   Credit:  Startup Stock Photos via Flickr  License: CC BY 2.0

VC and private equity firms need strategic marketing support to help elevate their portfolios.

As a VC firm principal or private equity partner, you know you need the right people on tap to help you find the right investment opportunities and understand their viability. But once you’ve added a promising startup to your portfolio, you also need help to maximize the potential of that company so that you can generate a high ROI on your investment.

Early-stage startups are in a unique position: By the time that you’ve decided they’re worth betting on, they likely have a strong vision and a solid technical leadership team in place. But they may still be months away from building out a fully fledged marketing team, and the founders rarely have the time to dedicate to fleshing out an in-depth marketing strategy. So how can you help them build brand awareness and industry momentum in the meantime?

Traditional support investor support often involves help with mapping out a legal and financial structure, and with sourcing the right engineering talent to bring your portfolio companies’ products to the next level. But many top VC firms have strong marketing operational partnerships at the ready to support their fledgling portfolio companies—when used wisely, these can be your secret weapon.

While early stage startups may not be ready to hire an experienced marketing team, they can tap into expertise with support from one or more agency partners. Agencies typically have experience working across a variety of industries, and can offer out-of-the-box ideas for helping your portfolio companies grow. They can also provide the best-practice processes and structures that will make it simple to execute on their strategies as your portfolio teams ramp up their staffing over time.

Here are some of the marketing projects that VC and private equity companies should prioritize when helping their startup companies reach the next level:

  • Persona research
    Before the startup begins their marketing efforts in earnest, they need to understand who’s going to be using the product. What are their values, and what problem will be solved by the product? While the startup founders may discuss this in their funding dek, it can be useful to bring in an outside agency to conduct in-depth buyer persona research, which may involve external research, customer interviews, and even surveys to provide a clear map of the different types of audiences they intend to serve. These personas will be useful in building out messaging maps and marketing strategies for each type of user.

  • SEO research and content development
    Hiring an agency to map out a keyword matrix can help your startup team uncover hundreds of opportunities for relevant search terms that can help prospects find them. They should be able to uncover a mix of high-value, harder-to-obtain terms and “low hanging fruit” to build out a long-term strategy for success. They can then build out SEO-optimized landing pages geared around key terms. The more quickly these terms can be turned into high-quality content, the better—learn our strategies for building out SEO content at scale here. The more relevant, high-quality targeted landing pages that Google is able to index, the more frequently your portfolio company will appear in search results, reducing or eliminating the need to rely on PPC advertising to bring in search traffic.

  • A comprehensive content marketing strategy
    Your agency’s SEO and persona research can also be used to great advantage to build out a strong content marketing strategy. More than simply developing content that will be easily found in Google, a content marketing strategy takes into account who the target buyer or product user is, and maps out content templates and a content plan that aligns with that vision. It will typically also include a competitive research phase: The agency will use analytics tools to find the most popular content in the company’s industry and evaluate the factors that make it work. They’ll also take a deep dive into what their specific competitors are doing in content marketing, and what your portfolio company can do to get ahead of them. The plan should include an editorial calendar, an editorial process, and a set of metrics to be used in analyzing the ongoing success of the plan.

Content marketing and SEO aren’t only valuable for your startup portfolio, in fact: They’re so useful for generating relevant prospects that your venture capital firm should consider investing in these types of initiatives too. For example, the VC firm First Round Capital puts out a regular publication, First Round Review, which offers insightful interviews and case studies with founders and executives from tech startups. It serves as an incredibly valuable way for First Round Capital to bring in potential portfolio companies, as well as talented recruits for those companies.

When it comes to marketing—for both your VC firm and your portfolio companies—starting with a strong strategy is crucial. Find the right agency partners, and you’ll be on your way to 10x in no time.

Kathryn Hawkins

Kathryn Hawkins

Kathryn Hawkins is principal and chief content strategist of Eucalypt Media. She has worked as a freelance journalist for media publications and managed inbound marketing and content strategy for corporate and nonprofit clients for more than a decade.

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