"How well do I really know my clients?”
I’ve yet to meet a portfolio manager or sales and marketing executive who says they don’t intimately “know” their clients and client types.
I’m not buying it.
If you really understand your target market, then your strategy is at full capacity and/or you’re adding clients at a steady clip.
But if your firm is struggling to attract assets, despite whatever advantages you possess, then there’s a disconnect somewhere. And that disconnect can likely be traced to a misfiring sales and marketing function.
And the root of that dysfunction is often a too-nebulous understanding of what actually motivates and inspires your intended audience.
- What attracts their attention? (Hint: it’s not as performance-oriented as you might think)
- What drives their decision-making? (Hint: it’s not always performance)
- What content formats do they find most useful? (Hint: at the outset, it’s not usually your pitchbook)
It Isn’t Easy
Investment management marketing, messaging, and strategy development is hard.
Marketing, in general, is hard.
And not because it’s a deeply taxing intellectual exercise – it’s because effective marketing demands patience, empathy, persistence, discipline, and a focus on the steps, rather than the destination.
There’s also the issue of objectivity. Everyone thinks that what they are doing on the investment side is unique, differentiated, and worthy of consideration.
While that might be true, there is very little that’s new under the sun, and what makes one approach unique or differentiated often lies more in the specifics than in the general.
And to clearly spell out those specifics requires disciplined, descriptive, and persuasive messaging, as well as a targeted distribution of that message.
In other words, you need a sophisticated content marketing strategy.
The Plague of “Me Too Marketing”
“Me Too Marketing” is the phenomenon whereby an investment manager counter-intuitively tries to establish differentiation by positioning themselves in a way that’s mostly identical to their competitors.
In other words, they try to be different, but are only comfortable doing so within the context of what their peers are doing.
Symptoms of this affliction include:
- A static website with few, if any, content updates
- A pitchbook-centered sales and marketing strategy
- Messaging that retreats to the safety of industry jargon at the expense of persuasion, and
- Resistance to a content strategy.
Firms will often default to what’s comfortable, which is one of the most common marketing miscalculations. What firms should be doing is answering THE central marketing question:
What does our AUDIENCE want to know about us?
What do WE want our audience to know?
Yes, the difference is subtle, but it’s an important distinction to make because while it’s true that these imperatives sometimes dovetail, oftentimes they don’t.
Consider: Nothing is more boring than listening to someone talk about all of the things they think make them interesting. If you’re not a golfer or a fisherman or a runner, for example, listening to a person talk about such things can be torture.
But if a person knows what your interests are, (say, furniture making or gardening or skydiving), and can personalize these activities while simultaneously asking intelligent questions about them, a conversation, rather than a monologue, may ensue.
In other words, if a person is talking about themselves, but doing so in a way that opens up a dialogue based on commonalities, that’s much more interesting.
Putting this back into investment management marketing terms, establishing these conversations requires us to move beyond a focus on all the things our firm can offer. We need to reorient the message in a way that asks: How Can We Help, rather than Here’s What We Do.
But here’s the rub: it’s predicated on the simple, yet often poorly-considered question we asked at the start:
How well do you know your audience?
Beyond Me-Too Marketing: Buyer Personas for Investment Management Firms
The first step in moving your marketing beyond what’s comfortable and towards what’s effective is to revisit your understanding of your target markets. Marketers who have dug into that process often uncover new insights into their audience that were previously unknown, which helps to guide their future marketing and sales efforts.
The way to do so is to follow a clear, methodical blueprint for understanding: the Buyer Persona.
Are BPs the only way to do this? Of course not, but they offer a reliable, time-tested starting point.
Buyer personas offer:
- Important questions tied directly to what might be of interest about your audience, from a marketing perspective.
- structure and context for understanding your clients
- a way to brainstorm new questions that might be more germane and directly applicable to your audience
Buyer Personas for investment management firms offer a path to a truly game-changing understanding of the kinds of people with whom you most want to work.
Buyer Personas Suggest Motivation
Look, if you really know your audience, then you know what motivates, inspires, interests, and drives them to make decisions. And if you possess that knowledge, it’s much less likely that your marketing message is falling flat.
But if that marketing effort is struggling to gain traction, then you likely have some investigative work to do.
The Best Investment Management Marketing Strategy?
Simply put, it’s the one that best persuades your intended audience that you have the solutions to their most pressing problems. And it’s not just your portfolio management function, but the needs must be solved by virtue of the totality of your firm’s operations:
Notice I didn’t mention anything that relates to a manager's goals or interests. That’s because it's irrelevant - your audience doesn’t care. They want their problems solved. Can you help to do that? That’s their core concern.
This is Not a Contest of Ideas – it’s Marketing
The number one thing your marketing has to do is persuade. If you’re not persuading; if you are making an appeal solely based on logic and intellect, your marketing is likely under-performing.
Investment management marketing requires us to take some risks, be creative, and endeavor to better understand our audience – that’s the foundational basis for investment management marketing success.