In the old days, marketing white papers for investment managers were a months-long process of deep research, analysis, and composition. The end result was typically a product which would appeal strongly to fellow portfolio managers, investment analysts, and finance professors.
In other words, the perceived marketing value was in demonstrating how learned and professional a particular firm was.
In reality, the purpose of these white papers was more about contributing to the industry dialogue than marketing; in other words, they were written by portfolio managers for other portfolio managers and academics - not for their clients.
Looking at these white papers in the context of how marketing has evolved in recent years suggests that they have become largely… well, I won’t say useless, but pretty darn close.
Because nobody reads them. Even seasoned consultants with MBAs and CFA designations who otherwise might have some interest are, simply put, too busy to pour through 35 pages of academic research.
And if nobody is reading your white paper, then it has little or no marketing value.
21st Century Marketing White Papers for Investment Managers
Remember: this is a MARKETING white paper. And marketing today is largely a function of showing clients and prospects that you
- understand their questions, concerns, and problems, and that
- you can help to solve those issues.
So how can thoughtful investment management firms create a white paper that helps to move them towards their marketing goals?
What an Effective Marketing White Paper ISN’T
Marketing white papers for investment managers are not supposed to function as a vehicle through which portfolio mangers can indulge “interested parties” with their deep analysis of investing theory, both classical and contemporary.
It’s also not about the academic and practical validity of your process and philosophy.
Nor should it be written in the dry, academic tone that usually makes finance professors swoon.
Nor should the marketing white paper be free (more on that in a minute…)
What an Effective Marketing White Paper Should Do.
Effective marketing white papers for investment managers should be about solving the most pressing issues facing clients and prospects.
In other words, it’s not about YOU… it’s about THEM.
You should know what’s keeping clients up at night or preventing them from operating at peak efficiency during the day. In the piece, you should be identifying a particular problem and offering a solution.
Here’s what an effective marketing white paper should do:
- Identify a problem, question, or concern your clients and prospects have. But because it is a marketing piece, don’t go too deep into the weeds. (Not sure what to write about? Then maybe you don’t know your clients as well as you think. Create buyer personas to help, if needed.)
- Offer readers ways to solve that problem/answer that question/resolve those concerns.
- It should avoid putting you at the center. In other words, don’t inject yourself into the narrative.
For example, when you write, “Here at Jones Investment Partners, we help clients to …” you are undercutting the impact of the piece. It comes across as a promotional advertisement. Promote your expertise… not yourself.
Avoid uncouth, overtly self-referential content - just be cool about it. Your audience understands the game being played here. Respect them.
- Marketing white papers for investment managers must be easy to follow, persuasively written, conversational, and deal with real-world, issues your firm has the qualifications to offer immediate, actionable advice on solving.
- Be visually engaging. In other words, use graphics and color to help break up the white space and keep your audience’s attention.
But remember, you don’t have to give away your trade secrets. The point of these pieces isn’t to make yourself irrelevant, it’s to differentiate yourself by:
- Clearly showing that you understand your clients, and thus have unique insight on how best to serve them;
- Demonstrating that your firm has a meaningful interest in explaining these problems, as well as the professional confidence to offer a solution that isn’t contingent on any future quid-pro-quo;
- Being willing to “pull back the curtain” on your internal operations, to a certain extent. The best marketing white papers frame the problem in a way that’s unique to your firm, as well as the solution you provide.
Don’t Give it Away, Though
What’s the point of expending the resources to conceive, research, draft, and publish a marketing white paper if you lose the ability to track who’s downloading and reading it?
Make any interested parties fill out a form on your website. That’s the only “payment” you require for your expertise. Once they become a lead in your CRM, you can use that intelligence to nurture that lead with additional content, offers, and advice.
Allowing on-demand, anonymous access to a marketing white paper is a common, but foolish mistake.
“But what if nobody wants to give us their information to download our white paper?” you ask. "What good is it if nobody reads it?"
Well, in this case there’s really only one answer: your white paper isn’t addressing a clear and present issue for your clients and prospects. You are offering solutions to a problem that's, at best, not pressing, and at worst, imaginary.
If you aren’t sure what is keeping clients and prospects up at night, just ask.
Not only does it give clients a chance to vent, it opens the door for you to solve their problems, as well as create a marketing white paper that can do the same for others.