How to get value from your investors

There’s a trick called the recency effect that advertisers have been using ever since the German psychologist Herman Ebbinghaus coined it around the end of the 19th century. It says that given a list of items to remember, we tend to remember the last few things more than those things in the middle. We also tend to assume that items at the end of the list are of greater importance or significance. So if you’ve ever wondered why you always end up buying Colgate rather than Blend-a-Med when they’re both on the shelf at Waitrose, it’s probably because the folks at Colgate-Palmolive have mastered the recency effect. And it works like a charm.

What I’ve realised over the past few months is that the same strategy works brilliantly beyond fast moving consumer goods as well. Say with your investors. We all want those intros, contacts, recruiting help and product feedback from our investors, and ideally it should be proactive rather than reactive. And although most investors will help you happily when you ask them to, very rarely do they proactively offer their support. Most times, it’s simply because they’re busy and you’re not one of those “last few things” on the list, so they don’t even think of you when an opportunity arises. What would happen, though, if you’d use the recency effect on them?

If we rephrase its definition slightly, we get something like: given a number of startups they’ve invested in, investors tend to remember the last few ones more than those in the middle. Sounds like the recency effect in it’s full splendeur. How do we then make sure we’re one of those last things in our investors’ minds? There are many ways to do it (including sticking your logo on their laptop, phone, car, child), but I found that the most efficient is… email.

I’ve been doing this for a while now and it works great. My board of directors gets about five to ten emails per week from me. I also try to send out a by-monthly update to all our investors and advisors, and have calls & coffee with everyone regularly. This keeps Brainient at the “top of the list” in their minds, which means that whenever they’ll spot a useful contact or an opportunity, they’ll think of us.

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