10 Common Mistakes That Make Smart Investment Managers Look Naive

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If managers are so bent on being perceived as “contrarian,”
why do they insist on communicating their message in such conformist ways?

 

How do you think Apple would look like today if Steve Wozniak ran oversaw marketing instead of Steve Jobs? What do you think would happen to Crest toothpaste sales if Procter & Gamble decided to turn product branding over to the head of HR?

Silly, I know. I mean, what company in its right mind would ever let an engineer or an administrator handle its marketing?

In the alternative investments space the answer is easy…practically all of them.

What is particularly odd is that no one would ever consider putting a marketer in the PM seat, but they don’t seem to think twice about putting the PM in the marketer’s seat.

I’m not suggesting to fire all of your analysts and replace them all with marketers, but I am suggesting that it’s time to examine the disproportionately high attention and resources allotted to strategy and product development compared to strategy and product marketing.

Comparing fund management to consumer brands may be an oversimplification. After all, P&G “makes the same products as everyone else.” But like it or not…so do investment managers.

Despite this, while managers are content to rely on decades old “technology” (a pitch book developed in PowerPoint) expecting multi-million dollar investments, Procter & Gamble is out there tracking eyeballs movements as consumers walk down the grocery aisle just to figure out how to better package their $4 tubes of toothpaste.

I accept that many managers will disagree with me. So, in the spirit of “show don’t tell,” here are 10 common mistakes from fund managers in their “DIY” marketing that you will want to avoid:

 

1. Using the word “unique”’ to describe strategy

It would be great if every manager’s strategy really were “unique”….but mathematically speaking, it’s unlikely.

Your strategy might be “different” or even “exceedingly interesting.” But with 25,000+ active funds globally, it’s hard to imagine that an allocator hasn’t seen it all before.

No need to fret, though. Your strategy doesn’t actually need to be “unique. Your Value Proposition, though, does. Chances are that some aspect or combination of aspects of your business around process, philosophy, trade execution, risk management, structure, culture or team really are unique.

 

2. Not taking the time to understand peers

Nothing hurts a manager’s credibility more than claiming that “no one else does this” when lots of others do. This goes much deeper than just headline strategy.

Shocking how often we hear grandiose statements about a relatively pedestrian process or approach to risk management. It may be easy to look past that – but not the statements about comparative strategy correlation or performance. Stuff that a manager can quickly research with an eVestment subscription.

 

3. They let the “me, too” stuff get in the way

Allocators being human, they only can process so much information at one time. If you want your message to be heard, focus on the big points upfront – the two or three messages that you really need them to walk away with. Then push everything else to the back.

It’s not productive to try and check every box in a first impression. So better to stop trying.

Bottom line: say less, not more.

 

4. Confusing “marketing” and “sales”

Two distinct activities which are so intertwined that it is easy to misunderstand the difference. But doing so in a business with a long sell-cycle like ours is not a mistake you can afford to make. Simply understanding the difference will make you more effective in your process.

“Marketing” is your message, positioning your brand and aligning with your target audience. It encompasses the tools you use and the collateral you develop to communicate that message.

“Sales” is the relationship development and personal interactions you have with prospective investors. Sales is about taking your carefully crafted message and putting a voice and personality to it, one-on-one with clients and prospects.

 

5. Not researching the prospective investor before the meeting

Just as you are unique, so is your prospect. Do some homework on the investor before you walk into the room…

You wouldn’t buy a stock without understanding the opportunity. Same holds true for your approach to preparing to meet a new investor.

 

 

You are thinking about your office space all wrong – click HERE for Part II

 

 

By JD David 

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