We live in a branded world. At every turn, it seems, we are encouraged to build our personal brands. Social media is awash with the disciples of this new religion. As a relative outsider looking in, I prefer to leave such matters to the Twitter habitués and marketing experts . . . with one notable exception: Executive Summaries, those investor-targeted, one page documents that are so critical to fundraising success. Branding your one pager can sometimes hurt.
I often receive Executive Summaries that have been (quite obviously) reworked by a team’s marketing executive or outside agency. Why not? Well placed brand-related imagery and/or formatting can make a mundane document stand out in a crowd. Such documents are a welcome change from their black and white, connect-the-dot peers. Too frequently, however, basic investor-required information is sacrificed in these marketing makeovers. The message is lost.
Consider these common miscues:
noun: Foolish behavior characterized by excessive expansion of a line or block of text appearing at the top of a document page. This ailment, caused by the need to squeeze in logos and related imagery, usually leads to an offsetting loss of critical data (Problem, Solution, Market, IP, Competition, Financial Projections). Header madness is a debilitating illness; sometimes it can prove fatal.
Reinventing the Wheel
Entrepreneurs are seldom followers, so it is to be expected that one might look at the classic Executive Summary as something in need of change. Why not add a .gif or a link to a video? Can’t we “break the mold” and just pitch our great product? Those are interesting questions, to which I will add my own: Why not focus on providing answers to fundamental investor questions?
Trademarks R Us
I find this particular example to be especially annoying. It is characterized by the excessive use of ™ or ® symbols. In its most egregious form, Trademarks R Us documents can include the flagrant pasting of and designs™, often mid™sentence®. I should leave well enough alone with those two examples, but I will add one more. Am I the only one who squirms when lower case brand names are constantly used to begin sentences?
A standard “Confidential” watermark is to be expected. Distracting background images or catchphrases, not so much.
The Inflexible One Pager
The one constant about Executive Summaries is change. Projections are modified; team members come and go; fundraising totals fluctuate. When an investor asks for your one pager, a quick response is critical. Recently, I worked with a firm whose one-pager was created in Adobe Illustrator, as I was told, “to ensure that the logo, product image and formatting were correct.” Since the team had no in-house access to that program, all edits were forwarded to an outside agency. With the usual editing back and forths, turnarounds were costly and took about a week. Ouch.
Branding isn’t always painless. Ask a cow.
Peter has spent the past twenty-plus years as an acting/consulting CFO for a number of small businesses in a wide range of industries. Peter’s prior experience is that of a serial entrepreneur, managing various start-up and turnaround projects. He is a co-founder of Keurig.