Getting Your Reputation to Precede You is Easier Than You Might Think

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My youngest daughter is incredibly persuasive. The way she applies the “door-in-the-face” technique to get what she wants is nothing short of masterful.

Her approach: beg for the extraordinary; accept the ordinary. Works nearly every time.

If she wants a stuffed animal, she starts by asking for a pony. Then a puppy. Hamster, ferret, gold fish, armadillo, snapping turtle… She feigns disbelief after every negative response.

Pushing us to exhaustion, she pretends to give up and finally says, “Really?? Well…can I at least just have a stuffed animal?”

It didn’t take us long to simply default to “NO!” At this point, it’s nothing more than muscle memory. She still manages to persuade us, but it takes much more effort on her part to work through all of our excuses (“What – another birthday present?  Didn’t you get one last year?”).

Barriers and Filters

The mindset of an asset allocator is really no different. When you are constantly bombarded with requests for money or access to your time, you are eventually going to start putting up some barriers. An allocator starts at “NO” because as a CIO friend of mine put it, “I literally could spend every waking moment evaluating managers if I wanted.”

Marketing exists to get you into conversations with people that don’t know they should care about you.

Like anything else in life, the faster they can find reasons to eliminate a new manager from consideration, the more time they can spend on the higher priority stuff. They create buckets and filters and set investment criteria for a few primary reasons – and it’s no different than anything that you do. Bottom line – it simply enables them to focus.

 

Looking for Affirmations

But…what would happen if instead they started at “YES” when you walked into the room?

By “YES” I’m not suggesting that you introduce yourself and they suddenly pull out their checkbook. I’m simply saying that instead of looking for reasons to move to the next item on their “to do” list, they start looking for affirmations. By that I mean, reasons to push the ball forward.

When the person on the other side of the table starts looking for affirmations, suddenly the conversation is flipped on its head. You are now in a “downhill” conversation rather than on your heels justifying your existence [RELATED: What You Say…What They Hear].

 

Getting your reputation to precede you

It’s nothing more than human nature. Expectations are shaped based on pre-conceived notions.

Have you ever driven a Ferrari?  I have not – but I have a pretty clear visualization of what it would be like. Likewise, I have never driven a Smart Car either – and I have just as clear a visualization about doing that, too (it happens to be in complete contrast to the Ferrari, of course).

It’s obvious as to why we can do this – the industry does a remarkable job of shaping expectations.

Sure, the alternatives industry is a bit different.  You won’t see a hedge fund on the expressway like you might a Ferrari. But with only a couple of thousand sold in the US a year, you don’t see many of those either.

Most hedge fund manager walk into an allocator’s office completely cold. The investor has absolutely no preconception because they literally have never heard of the manager before. Is it really necessary to always start at square one? Think about it – if an investor has never heard of you, of course he is going to start at “no.”

The industry is way too crowded for an allocator to come at it with an open-mind.

This is why marketing exists – to get you into conversations with people who don’t know they should care about you. Creating a reputation takes work and consistent effort. But there are lots of ways to get started.

For starters – generate some content. It takes effort and it takes time…but there is a payoff. It is an easy way of establishing thought leadership and adding value without asking for money. Other approaches: disseminate a newsletter (which could just be a compilation of some of the content that you already created), participate on a panel discussion, host a webinar, start using PR, create a video, build a social media profile (and then interact), join a technology portal and add your fund to a database. Better yet, add your fund to five databases.

To be clear – I am not suggesting doing one thing, one time. I am suggesting doing a lot of things a lot of the time. Because that is what it takes to shape opinion and establish your message.

The alternative is to do nothing and be just like everyone else. You know – that manager who ran that strategy who was in the office that one time.

 

By JD David

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