What do your shareholders really think? How to apply NPS to an equity crowdfunded company
Do investors care about my business?
Hubbub has raised multiple rounds of funding over the years, from friends and family, to angels, through crowdfunding, and more recently through venture capital. In this post, Jonathan May, Hubbub's founder and CEO, explains a new approach we've been using here at Hubbub to investor engagement.
We’ve tried all sorts of ways to engage shareholders in what we do: newsletters, AGMs, even Facebook groups and Slack communities. Ultimately, the biggest issue we’ve faced is not really knowing if what we are doing is actually helping. How do we know that the 200+ investors we have actually care, or engage with what we say? How do we know if they are going to talk about their investment to others? How do we know if we are meeting their expectations?
With those answers, we can plan activities that will keep them engaged, rather than spending time and money on activities that might not move the needle.
This matters because as a B2B SaaS company most of our clients pay close attention to recommendations and reputation. A substantial proportion of clients were introduced by someone - investor, partner or current customer. So if we can get shareholders actively engaged, it’ll actually make a fairly immediate impact on our bottom line.
Across the business, we’ve been exploring using the Net Promoter Score methodology more widely.
This is how we’d normally track whether what we are doing actually works - for customers, suppliers, and for our own team. So it seemed appropriate to consider it as a potential solution here.
For those unfamiliar with NPS, there’s a good grounding in it here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Net_Promoter
As many have commented in the past, a lot of the value from NPS data comes from the qualitative follow-up question of “Why did you give us that score?”.
To apply NPS to company shareholders, you have to first ask yourself “why are we doing this? what would elicit the best responses?" In the case of our investors, this is an important question: they are not customers, so it's not so obvious. A quick think gives us some answers:
We want them to support us in future either by signing papers quickly, giving us their consent for further share issues, or potentially investing in us again, and we also want them to bring us customers and promote Hubbub more generally.
This is a complex series of things we want them to do - so what's the binding question underneath that? What would elicit each of these behaviours?
I settled on the question:
"How confident are you now that your investment in Hubbub was a good decision?"
That seems to be a question that underpins much of the desired behaviour. High scores on this question are likely to lead to good outcomes in most of the behaviours we want them to exhibit, and vice versa. So this is a metric that is worth tracking, and optimizing, as well as carefully considering the more qualitative feedback we got.
How long does this all take?
We’ve been round the houses a bit at Hubbub trying to work out how best to run NPS surveys. There are plenty of people who will charge you a lot of money to run them, and they can take a lot of effort to run.
I was convinced there was a simpler way to do this freely and with minimal time investment and came across a number of incredibly helpful posts about using Typeform, including this little guide by Typeform itself: https://www.typeform.com/net-promoter-score/
I built the form using Typeform’s templates in a few minutes, gathered the contact details for investors into a spreadsheet and then investigated a basic way of emailing 200 people the question with minimal hassle and cost.
Typeform has an HTML email sharing code block, that you can paste into things like MailChimp, but I didn’t want to pay for MailChimp. Typeform says you can’t use this easily with clients like Outlook or Gmail - I discovered that it works fine with Thunderbird desktop client, using the Insert -> HTML menu on new emails. I added a bit of extra text into the HTML emails to explain why I was asking the question.
Putting 40-odd investor email addresses at a time into the BCC part of emails meant I only had to send 6 emails to cover our whole investor pool.
And that was that!
Clicking an answer took investors to a follow up question of "Why did you choose X?" where X was the score they gave us.
I distributed this survey to 200+ investors by email (bcc), and created a Google Sheet where I manually inputted the results received from Typeform. I could have made this all automatic using Typeform’s Google Sheets integration/Zapier, but for this level of data that just seemed like more hassle than it’s worth. Probably will do next time, now I’ve got the sheet all set up.
We left it three weeks.
So far, we have 55 respondents, which is currently 26% participation, an average score of 6.6, and a NPS of -20. That's not at all bad, considering that the last investor newsletter we sent was getting on for 9 months ago, and most of our investors invested 4+ years ago.
Most importantly, we also have key themes from investors as to what they want to understand in order to score us more highly. These themes are Information, Exit Strategy and Valuation, and the detailed feedback leads us to the actions:
Show financial performance
Show MRR (monthly recurring revenue) and pipeline growth
Show people our successes: new clients, big client launches, etc
There were also some which are a lot more complex, and we are probably not going to be able to do easily:
Detailed financial projections
Today's value of shares
The former, however, are simple, well-defined tasks - and we can now plan how and when we do them. Some of them are things we’re already working on!
The whole process - end to end - was about 2 hours work. It took almost as long to write this post up. I have scheduled to repeat it every 2 months.
Should others do this?
To be honest, I’d say absolutely. It wasn’t just useful from the point of view of basic action to improve relationships with shareholders. Just showing that we care what many people think has already led to revamped engagement - with many of our shareholders who invested a while back, but who haven’t recently been active re-engaging in what they can do to help. It also helped us build out the basic infrastructure for collecting NPS rapidly in other areas - which has led to valuable insights across the business.
I’m happy to make the basic sheets and any info you need available to anyone who wants to conduct the same analysis. I’d say this is probably only really useful if you have 20+ investors; below that I’d just suggest giving them a ring every quarter! But for anyone else who has been through crowdfunding… do it.