Why Every Manager Should Have A 5-Year Marketing Strategy Plan

Throughout history, 5-year plans have proven to be effective — after all, some famous ones changed the entire dynamic of a nation. Before going down the rabbit-hole of why a 5-year marketing strategy should be integral to your fund, let’s do a quick mental exercise.

Think about how things worked 5 years ago.

In 2013, a good number of managers were using spreadsheets to manage their contacts and prospects. Some did them well, but it sure took a lot of work to keep them 100% accurate. Most of the time, they weren't 80% accurate. Now, most have adopted advanced CRM and full marketing automation platforms.

In 2013, it was still seen as acceptable to have an antiquated website; some even used it as a black-box marketing strategy. Flash forward to 2018: prospective investors are more sensitive to the sophistication of a manager's website. BlackRock, Bridgewater, Point72, and other “more traditional” managers have evolved.

In 2013, with the exception of the 50-page pitchbooks, marketing collaterals weren't used to attract prospective investors' attention. In 2014, we changed that when we launched the world's first hedge fund advertisement. Today, there are far more ways that managers capture attention and profile interest.

Clearly, the industry has changed. Investors are more knowledgeable and have more access to data and information than ever before. Doing the same thing will give you the same results. Try something new and get a 5-year marketing plan underway.

How does the 5-year plan help you?

First, realize that a marketing strategy plan is more than just marketing decks and pitch books: it’s a blueprint for future growth. By creating a 5-year plan, you are preparing yourself for the long-term. Rather than scrambling to find more investors, the time you spent in creating a plan now (e.g., reviewing your fund strategy, growth opportunities, and competitors) will give you a peace of mind when you know that you have a steady stream of potential investors.

Plans give you metrics, so you can measure your success.

For investments, you want to measure your return on investment (ROI); why not the same for marketing? Your marketing strategy plan could (and should) include tangible goals. These pre-established objectives can then be used to measure whether your marketing efforts were successful or not. Even if goals are missed, you can still use the information to make sure it's done right the next time or to re-adjust your goals so it’s more achievable.

Plans allow you to allocate resources to maximize their potential.

Resources are limited. Fund managers often have to balance their time between relationship managing and fund managing. When a marketing campaign is being prepared, it commonly becomes a problem of how much resources should be allocated for this “extra” but necessary task. This is something that should have already been outlined in a five-year strategic plan, which makes it easy to focus the resources where and when it is needed the most.

If you want to have more time to focus on your investment strategy, then get the hard part of sourcing investors out of the way — the first step is the five-year plan.

What does a good 5-year marketing strategy plan look like?

The answer is: "It depends". It's not possible to generalize what a great 5-year plan looks like, but consider these:

1.     It identifies where you are now and where you want to be.

Questions to guide thinking:

·       Where do you thinking you stand in the industry? What is your niche?

·       Who are your competitors? How do you compare? What can you learn from them?

·       Is your goal tangible? Can you achieve that within five years?

2.     It clearly states “bigger picture” goals with milestone achievements and success metrics

Questions to guide thinking:

·       How do you get to your goal? What are the major changes that are needed?

·       How can you break down those major changes? What are the components that are necessary to produce that change?

·       How do you determine if you are successful? Is it quantifiable (if it isn’t, you might want to think a bit harder)?

3.     It has actionable items with thought-out allocations of time and resources

Questions to guide thinking:

·       Were you able to complete the action items in the past with the time and resources you are allocating now? If not, why do you believe it is possible now?

·       Nothing comes free - even a small restaurant has to put in $100,000 for equipment before they can bring their first diner. How many resources are you willing to put aside to get the results you want? Where are you going to get those resources from?

To wrap up, here are some additional items to consider.

With more focus on marketing, fund managers should decide whether you want to outsource marketing or grow the marketing back office. Another important factor to consider is the timing of when marketing should start to kick in for your fund (i.e., early on or wait until growth has halted).

A good chess player thinks five steps ahead, but the best chess players think only one. It’s a waste of time to try to predict what the alternative investment sphere would be like in fifty years — you can’t.

What you can do is focus on the next five years — think one step ahead.