Imagine that someone offered to arrange a ride for you in an unmarked, nondescript car, driven by a person you didn’t know who drove you to a pre-arranged destination where you got out and didn’t hand the driver any money. Sounds a little nefarious; something you would dismiss out of hand. But Uber has defined the ride-sharing industry, and it is also changing the way that we think about automobiles and transportation in general.
Think of the things you do and use without a second thought today that you couldn’t imagine doing just a few years ago. Paying for your morning caffeine infusion with your phone? The technology wasn’t the biggest challenge. The convenience is unquestionable. But allowing a device access to their bank account (without requiring a signature!) required a great leap of faith for many people. Yet now it’s routine.
Why were these – and many more – products and ideas easy to reject at first? Because they take us out of our collective comfort zone. Any new activity forces us to step into unknown space – and whether that’s a physical step into a driverless vehicle or a mental step into a contemporary supplement to a traditional marketing deck – it can be scary. Our ancestors were hard-wired to turn away from the unknown, to avoid dark places – and our instinct is often to do the same.
Success is often based on trying new things and adapting to new models. If you don’t think that’s true, try Googling “Kodak Corporation” on your BlackBerry while sitting in front of your Zenith television.
Fortunately, we have the benefit of some evolution to help us distinguish between ‘new and dangerous’ and ‘new and improved’. ‘Unknown’ doesn’t always mean ‘turn back’. Of course we still need to walk around a new thing, to look at it from different angles, to pick it up and examine it closely, and to put it back down if it isn’t any good (which explains what happened to Windows phones…)
So it’s not too surprising that when discussing new techniques which will make marketing a new fund much more effective, the fund manager or COO or advisor usually raises his shields so quickly that Captain Kirk would be impressed. ‘We don’t do that’ or ‘That’s not how this industry markets’ or ‘Our audience wouldn’t accept that.’
My response to those objections is to repeat the objection statement – and just add “yet” to the end.
“New” here is a relative term: the techniques in question are part of the standard marketing lexicon, but they haven’t really been used in the alternative investment space. Sequential layering of information; the use of video to bring a strategy to life; automated lead nurturing programs to make better use of limited sales time; and the carefully structured development of a brand strategy have been honed and battle-tested over the years in many other sectors.
A standard 30+ page marketing deck shouldn’t be the only tool used to acquaint people with your fund – and it certainly shouldn’t be the first thing they see (no matter how “clean” or “contemporary” or “dynamic” its designer claims it is).
Yes, there’s the need to maintain an ‘institutional’ stance – but decisions are still made by people. And people are influenced by the way information is presented, as much as by the information itself. When showing a home to a client for the first time, a good realtor doesn’t talk about the species of wood used in its construction, or what the utility bills are each month. A successful advertising campaign for a new car doesn’t usually feature a celebrity reading the owner’s manual to us.
It’s not that the information isn’t important – but it’s knowing how to layer it, how to sequence it out to the audience so that you pique their interest to come back and learn more. The key is not to pile every available fact on them thinking that they’re motivated enough to sort through it and make a decision: they’re not, and they won’t. You need to control the message; to provide the right content at the right point in the cycle so that your story is compelling, your edge is highlighted and the value of the next step is clear.
So next time someone presents a new way to market your fund, the response can still be ‘We don’t do that…’
But remember to add ‘…yet.’