About a year and a half ago, I did a post on rethinking your pitchbook.
Ever since then, I’ve though a lot about them. Pitchbooks (or brochures for those working the retail angle) are an industry staple: everyone has one, and everyone sees it as one of the (if not THE) cornerstones of their investment management marketing and sales effort...
...And if that's what everyone thinks, then it's time for your pitchbook to die.
Why your pitchbook must die, Part I
Pitchbooks, as they’ve long been conceived and used, have outlived their usefulness as an investment management firm’s core sales and marketing tool.
Pitchbooks, by definition, are firm-centric pieces that are rarely, if ever, customized to the specific needs of the prospect you are trying to woo.
More broadly, the problem with pitchbooks in today’s content marketing era is that they are the perfect encapsulation of what’s wrong with most content generated by investment managers: it’s all about YOU, not the client.
Very rarely does a pitchbook have a section that specifically says, “Here is How Clients Benefit from Our Services.”
Which makes the pitchbook terrible presentation material.
When you are in a job interview, and the interviewer says, “Tell me about yourself,” they aren’t asking for your life’s story. What they really want to know is: what in your background and experience can help us to achieve our mission.
And unless you address that specifically, with persuasion, and in the proper context, you’re at a clear competitive disadvantage.
Pitchbooks lack such context.
Why your pitchbook must die, Part II
Pitchbooks ensure you will lose control over the sales meeting.
The moment you pass out your pitchbook, the meeting attendees have permission to ignore your presentation and begin conducting their own research. You may be providing an overview of the portfolio management team while they are looking at your 5- and 10-year performance record, in isolation and out of the context you provide.
By the time you get to your performance record, they may be looking at your management team’s biographies.
As I said – you’ve lost control of the meeting because of your pitchbook.
Why your pitchbook must die, Part III
The idea of killing off your firm's pitchbook is a bit dogmatic, I know.
Certainly, most investment managers must have a pitchbook or firm brochure. There are huge segments of your target markets that won't take you seriously without one.
But the point I've made in past posts and am making again here is that differentiating your firm's approach is a task that goes well beyond the capacity of any single piece. It is a function of your business, writ large.
I'm NOT suggesting traditional marketing materials are somehow invalid, or that you're a dinosaur for taking pride in their appearance and messaging. To the contrary, I'd advocate firms do EXACTLY that.
But differentiation can't begin and end with a pitchbook. Or a brochure. Or a website. Or any piece of marketing. It has to come from your firm's DNA, and its successful articulation must be found across your entire library of marketing materials, as well as your client service, sales, and portfolio management functions.
So, if we’re not actually killing the pitchbook, what are we doing?
The problem with pitchbooks as a marketing tool is that they are by their nature too long, too data-driven, and too limited by their form to have much persuasive value.
Pitchbooks are outdated and should be marginalized because, if for no other reason, other types of materials perform the same tasks as the pitchbook, but more effectively and succinctly.
Specifically, I’m talking about the one-pager and DDQs and RFIs.
Focusing your resources on high-value materials
One-pagers, DDQs and RFIs are infinitely superior to pitchbooks for a number of reasons, not the least of which is:
They do everything the pitchbook does, but more quickly, with greater precision and more flexibility:
- One-pagers. When the presentation meeting turns to performance and a discussion of the portfolio, it is critical to make a cogent, persuasive argument. A well-designed one-pager contains everything you need to have such a discussion: performance, fees, holdings, and other portfolio characteristics.
Flipping through the pitchbook page by page by page by page is not only distracting and slows down the presentation, but it encourages additional page flipping to areas where you may not be ready (or want) to delve.
Think about it: in a pitch meeting or finals presentation, how much of the portfolio data in your pitchbook is really discussed, and how much of it is merely there as window dressing (important window dressing, to be sure, but certainly not core to the case you want to make about your firm)?
And, 10 one-pagers weigh a heck of a lot less than 10 pitchbooks.
- DDQ’s & RFIs. As we note above, one-pagers are great, but they do have their limitations. The place where managers need to focus the lion’s share of their attention is on using the DDQ or RFI as the basis for the pitch or finals presentation meeting.
The reason for this is quite simple – the prospect is TELLING YOU WHAT THEY THINK IS IMPORTANT. As such, the RFI questions should provide the context around which you build your presentation.
Most of the time, a substantial majority of a presentation is interchangeable, no matter the prospect. But it’s that minority share, the part that is largely distinct to that particular client that needs to be targeted.
But what if they didn’t give you an RFP at the outset?
Then ask for one. If they don’t have one, send a template for them to customize and send back. Tell them, “We need to know what you want to know.”
It allows your presentation to better address their particular concerns, as well as forces them to think more directly about what they actually need, which makes for a more informative, productive meeting.
Handling the meeting without a pitchbook
This one is pretty easy:
- Use your responses to their RFI/DDQ as the organizing pillars of your presentation.
- Print out the 3-6 pages containing all the material you’ll need to support your core argument. Be sure it’s all in line with what that particular client wants.
- Distribute each page individually as you move through the presentation. Keep your audience on task and on topic.
- Distribute the pitchbook once the meeting has concluded.
Pitchbook as encyclopedia.
Admittedly, pitchbooks will never really go away because the industry expects them. But investment managers need to reprioritize and reconceive the role the pitchbook plays in the investment management marketing and sales effort.
So, what’s the best way to rethink your pitchbook’s role?
It’s your firm’s encyclopedia; a reference manual, not a persuasion piece.
As such, is it really so important to revamp the pitchbook so regularly, or feel bad if you’re not? If the pitchbook isn’t meant to provide any meaningful differentiation, who cares about fonts and graphics so long as the piece is clearly written, well-organized, and comprehensive?
Back in the day, did anyone really care that Funk & Wagnalls encyclopedias were different from Encyclopedia Brttanica? I don’t think so.
What’s important under this suggested paradigm is that it’s more important for the pitchbook to be well-organized, clear, and comprehensive, than creative, persuasive and otherwise groovy.
True differentiation can’t be captured by any single marketing piece.
The differentiation has to come from YOU and from the long-term, ongoing business philosophies and processes your firm employs; ones that demonstrate a clear commitment to client service, ethical business practices, and a clear-eyed view of your business and its role in the industry.
Oh, and that you offer rock-solid investment management services to boot.
Since it's likely that you’ll never be able to truly “kill” your pitchbook, maybe just think of it as your firm’s zombie product – it will never really go away, no matter how much you want it dead.
Just don’t let it eat your brains.