Adapting empathy maps for investment

Adapting empathy maps for investment

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startup investors

At the moment, I’m busy raising investment for Users Proof, so my users are investors. As I’m always on the lookout for ways to improve, I wanted to take a glance at empathy maps, a powerful tool for helping teams better understand their users. Are they useful for me to understand the investors I’m talking to? Let’s take a look!

What is an empathy map?

An empathy map is a collaborative tool that teams can use to better understand their customers (in our case investors). It’s made up of a picture of the customer surrounded by six distinct sections, which are:

  • Think and feel. As Facebook likes to ask, what’s on their mind? What matters to an investor? What are their worries and aspirations?
  • Hear. They say that no man is an island, and that’s true of investors. What are their friends, networking connections, and other investors saying to them that could affect their thinking?
  • See. Take a look around. What competitors is the investor seeing? What do they see their peers doing? And what things in their environment influence them?
  • Say and do. Time to look at their actions and words. What is their attitude towards others? What do they do in public? How has their behavior changed?
  • Pain. What does failure look like to this investor? What fears, frustrations or obstacles potentially stand in their way?
  • Gains. On the flipside, what does success look like? What are they hoping to get out of the relationship?

empathy maps

How can you use an empathy map to understand potential investors?

First up, let’s look at how to create the map. For this, you’re really going to have to dig deep and get to know the investor on a human level. I’ve always believed that the best way to begin understanding someone is to listen to what they say, watch what they do, and compare the two. He might talk the talk, but does he walk the walk? Here’s how to get started:

  • Analyze what they say about themselves. What are the key messages they are delivering?

These days, it’s harder than ever to escape the fact that we all project an image, for better or worse. So even before meeting, we can check out how an investor communicates. Start online, with their website or social media presence. And of course, don’t neglect face to face communications. If you can watch their communications with other people at events or conferences. Start a collection of their own quotes, a great way to begin a conversation.

Try to quote investors to start a conversation with them

  • Observe what they do. What actions and behaviors did you notice?

Observation starts with the very first interaction and doesn’t stop: keep watching their actions throughout the follow-up, the pitch process, the evaluation process, term sheet negotiations, and closing. If they keep promising efficiency and commitment, but call off meetings and don’t respond quickly to emails, can you really trust them?

Actions speak louder than words. If an investor claims he’ll be able to help you build great processes, he should be able to back that statement up with processes of his own. Watch out!

  • Put yourself in the investor’s shoes to know how they feel and think

I must interview an investor to know what their shoes feel like

A common mistake is asking the investor directly, “Are you interested or not?” and nothing else. You want to get an idea of who they are as a person, and for that, you need to take a genuine interest in what they are thinking. Get to know what their beliefs, what worries them, what makes them happy, and what might influence their behavior.

I suggest questions like:

  • How would you describe success?
  • What are you most frustrated about?
  • What is your decision-making process?
  • What do you think is the fastest way for a startup to fail?
  • Share the last time you failed with me.
  • When do you feel excited about a startup?

Of course, it’s not enough to throw a hurricane of questions at the investor – listen carefully and take notes. They’re humans, and they will be able to tell you things that bother them, as well as their successes and failures. Here’s how to run a successful interview:

  1. Let the investor share their views with you. Ask open questions and do not interrupt. Listen carefully
  2. Take the investor’s point of view! Put yourself in his position. Ask yourself why he feels like he does.
  3. Be non-judgmental. OK, we all know this is easier said than done, but everyone deserves a fair chance, right?
  4. Look for repetitions. If an investor mentions something more than once, it’s probably important to them, and definitely deserves to be included on the empathy map.
  5.  Be curious – investors will naturally be cautious, so be curious and ask questions to get them to open up.
  6.  Listen, listen, and listen even more. How do you feel when somebody asks you a question and then starts playing with their phone when you’re halfway through the answer? Attentive listening will get you better results.
  7.  Be humble. If all goes well, you’re going to be asking the investor to give their time and money to make your dream come true. Now is not the time for arrogance.
  8.  Train yourself in observation. It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it. Give yourself a crash course in body language so you can tell what they’re really thinking.

During your meeting with the investor, it’s a good idea to direct the conversation towards how they observe their surroundings, how they describe their competition, and the ecosystem they’re operating in. These questions will allow you to get a better picture of how they see the world of business, and through that, what they’re thinking and feeling. Your empathy map should come together quickly after all of that.

In a future blog post, I’ll request a meeting with an investor to compile an empathy map of them, so we can understand their point of view. I’d love to get your input on the process: what do you think I should ask? What would you want to know about my situation? Give me your thoughts and suggestions!

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