Just (Don't) Do It
Are you tired of all those articles about 'How to Be a Better Marketer', '5 Easy Ways to Make Your Email More Effective' and of course ‘Instagram: The Hedge Fund Marketer's Secret Weapon'? We all are. Who writes these things? Don't they have anything else to do?
Here are some things you should simply STOP doing - which I've always found to be a lot easier than the things I have to start doing. Read the list, accept that it's all true, and just stop carrying on with these tired old marketing techniques. Go cold turkey; rip off the Band-Aid; no looking back.
Stop sending your 40-page "marketing deck" to every potential investor that you meet.
No one will read 40 pages just to find out some basic information about your fund (and if you’re snickering right now that yours is only 32 pages, they still won't read it.) If you’re sending out the Executive Summary or the first 6 pages of the deck to everyone that says "send me something" you’re at least on the right track – you’re giving them less information not to read. Your communication needs to engage the prospect and advance him to start a dialogue with you.
Stop using the same tired language to describe your "unique" strategy.
You mitigate risk? Golly, no one has done that before. Your performance is highly non-correlated? Astonishing! If you sound like everybody else, I have no reason to think you're any different. These descriptions were indeed a point of differentiation at the dawn of the hedge fund era, but they’re not anymore. You might as well tell me it's going to get dark tonight.
Stop kneeling at the altar of performance.
It's very important (see? I said it). So is air. There are plenty of places that talk about how great their air is. Boise Idaho has wonderfully clean air - and yet there isn't a line of 300 million Americans waiting outside Boise waiting to get in. We have perfectly good air here in New York (you can even see it sometimes). Millions of people live here, and there aren't large numbers of people keeling over in the streets. I’m sure it’s not as good as Boise's air - but Boise's air isn't as good as Hawaii's. So good performance is like air - absolutely necessary and absolutely not going to set you apart from the pack.
Stop thinking you don't need a website.
It's 2016; your refrigerator and washing machine may already be web-enabled. At least be as smart as a major appliance. True, not too many allocators cite "Google Search" as the cornerstone of their investment strategy. But they will look at your site at some point in the decision process. If you don't have one - or if your site was designed by your teenage daughter or your brother-in-law ("he's really smart; just can't seem to hold a job"), it's time to create a good one.
Stop using a spreadsheet to manage your contacts.
You don't do your taxes in PowerPoint - so obviously you know there’s a right tool for every job. There are a number of good contact management applications available, or you can get all the way into the current century and embrace marketing automation. If performance is the oxygen of this business, then your contacts are the life blood - and should be treated as such.
Stop believing that video is "too retail".
A short, compelling video can tell your story quickly and completely - which is exactly what your prospective investors are looking for ("explain to me why you're different and why I should care"). You also have much greater control over your message, and you can even track who's watching, and how long they watch. Five years ago you probably wouldn't have pictured yourself using a tablet in the office; in the next five years, funds that don't use video will be considered Luddites.
Stop trying to market your fund without creating a brand.
And no, your logo isn't a brand. In fact, it's barely even a logo. A brand is the sum total of all the attributes of your firm. It's what people say about you after you leave the room. It's not the sketch you made when you realized you needed business cards. With a brand you're building marketing equity in the minds of your prospects; without a brand you're just renting space.
Stop equating marketing with selling.
Marketing is about identifying prospects, and nurturing them to the point where they're ready for a persuasive discussion (that's right -it's about persuasion, not about selling something). The goal is to efficiently move a relatively large number of prospects through the funnel so that you can spend quality time with a small number of highly qualified investors. By the way, don't confuse "efficiently" with "low cost": do-it-yourself websites and collateral make about as much sense as DIY cardiology.
Stop “doing” PR.
Of course PR isn't the problem - it's the "doing" that needs to change. Public relations - which is only one part of the marketing communications spectrum - won't be very effective if you try to ‘do’ it sporadically. The time to adopt a PR strategy is NOT when you're about to launch a new fund or when your investors are outside your building with pitchforks and torches. Instead, integrate PR with your marketing and branding efforts, cultivate relationships with media outlets in your sector, and develop your reputation as a thought leader.
That's it. At best these outdated marketing tactics are ineffective and wasting your time; at worst, some are downright annoying. Think of all the extra hours you'll have when you stop pretending that they work - you might even be able to devote some time to develop a modern, effective marketing strategy.