I concluded an earlier post on differentiation by observing:
True differentiation comes, not solely from a clear description of an investment process or philosophy..., but from self-awareness and a client-focused articulation about how the combined uniqueness of a firm’s individuals creates something greater than the sum of its parts.
What would an example of “client focused articulation” look like? In my view, a firm’s value proposition statement is among the most client-focused ways to provide differentiation from one’s competitors.
An explicit value proposition statement is a commonly ignored or misunderstood marketing tool. The most important goal of an effective value proposition statement is to explicitly describe how an asset manager’s business helps its clients to achieve their goals.
Understandably, most asset managers initially conceptualize their answer around their investment philosophy, process, and performance. This makes sense: all investors want to grow their portfolio assets, so juxtaposing one’s value against that core need is a sound strategy.
But just because asset growth is the top quantitative concern for investors, there are other qualitative interests that must be accounted for as well. And in my view, nothing differentiates one asset manager from another more clearly than an understanding of the importance of providing value beyond portfolio returns.
Of course, I am referring to client service.
I always counsel my clients to “show, don’t tell.” In the case of the value proposition, “showing” requires a strong effort to establish clear connections between how the entirety of a business, from investing to the code of ethics and client service, helps clients reach their goals.
Taken together, an effective value proposition statement could be something along the lines of:
ABC Capital Management delivers to its clients: 1). a dynamic investment process that is customized to the unique needs of each client; 2). market and industry insights; and 4). the highest quality client service.
The most important thing the value proposition does for an asset management firm is to demonstrate a holistic, unified sense of self; that everything is intertwined and nothing functions as well as when all of the pieces are working in concert on behalf of the client.