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 or even years 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 from venture capitalists 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.

Digital marketing priorities for high-growth startups are typically different than those of more mature companies. Startups need to focus on quick and cost-effective ways to get their brand out there, while also driving lead generation and user acquisition. Here are some key areas where a solid marketing operational partnership can make all the difference.

Marketing initiatives to build brand awareness and trust

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, including content marketing agencies, SEO agencies, and PR agencies. 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 an early-stage 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 deck, 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 campaigns for each type of buyer in your marketing strategy.
  • SEO research and content development
    Hiring an SEO 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 or blog posts 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 and raise brand awareness.

    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. Your content marketing initiatives can take many forms, including video content, podcasts, and various forms of written content (blogs, ebooks, white papers, etc.). When evaluating digital marketing initiatives, your startup’s content marketing partner can help you assess which avenues will help them be most successful in reaching their goals with the resource and budget constraints they have in place.
  • A social media strategy
    It’s also important to raise brand awareness by ensuring that the startup is able to connect with their potential customers organically, across the social media platforms where their buyers spend their time. For B2B brands, LinkedIn should be a big part of your startup’s strategy; for B2C brands, Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, YouTube, and X may all come into play. It’s a great idea to look for opportunities to engage with influencers in your space and build an organic following with prospective customers. Your content marketing strategy and social media strategy go hand-in-hand, so it’s important to make sure that the two are aligned. Social media platforms also provide key opportunities to leverage content that the startup has produced for its branded properties, such as its website.
  • A GTM strategy
    Once the startup has ironed out their product messaging (likely the founders and VC firm will play a key role here), it’s important to build a dedicated go-to-market strategy focused on the product or solution itself. An agency partner can support the GTM strategy by developing key collateral for various use cases, including presentation decks, solution briefs, case studies, product-centric web copy, video content, and other initiatives designed to spotlight the product. The startup’s buyer persona research will be useful here as well, as it’s important to spotlight the product’s key features for each target audience, helping them understand the problem that the startup’s solution will solve for them.

Embracing a fractional consulting model

Because these startups aren’t established enough yet to hire a high-level CMO, it’s a great time to rely on a fractional consulting model. As agency principal, I can support startups as a fractional head of marketing or head of content, working with internal stakeholders to assess needs, plan resources, and even support recruiting and hiring as well as providing external support with my agency team. I’ll help the startup team develop a phased growth plan, prioritizing their marketing strategy according to key goals and budget constraints. Partnering with an experienced consultant for the initial phase of growth gives early-stage startups the ability to tap into expertise that can help them grow their businesses, without committing to a long-term hire that they may not be ready for.

Working with an agency like Eucalypt gives early-stage startups and entrepreneurs access to a team of specialized talent, including writers, designers, SEO consultants, editors, and PR strategists. We’re able to curate the right tool of resources, with specialized backgrounds that align with the startup’s needs, to ensure a successful execution plan. Having worked with many startups over our past 17 years in business, we’ve developed our own streamlined processes and workflows that make it easy to get past hurdles, with the agility to shift direction easily based on changing needs. We understand the challenges and constraints that startups face, and we’re committed to helping them navigate through these challenges with our expertise and proven processes.

Content marketing for the venture capital industry

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.

By focusing on thought leadership within your own marketing efforts, you’ll be able to attract the right startups who see value in your messaging, and create new partnerships based on trust.

When it comes to marketing—for both your VC firm and your portfolio companies—starting with an impactful marketing strategy is crucial. If you’re ready to 10x your startups, look for ways to leverage best-in-class agency and consultant partnerships to get there.

Eucalypt offers preferred partner pricing to VC firms who bring us on to support multiple startups. Get in touch to set up a free initial call.

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 16 years.

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