Marketing is more than “messages.” You’d better tell a “story.”

by | Jul 16, 2014 | Alternative Investments

It may just be semantics.  When I hear marketers say that you need to come up with the right “messages,” maybe what they really have in mind is telling a “story.”

But when I look at pitch book after pitch book, I see that isn’t so.  Plenty of information there.  Plenty of platitudes.  Plenty of “messages.”  But no story as to how the manager goes about making money.  No distinctive game-plan or road-map that convinces me that the manager can do a better job than some of the other managers I’ve heard from.

A “retail” approach won’t cut it.  Many fund managers and marketers seem to think you can sell a big-ticket investment the same way you do an inexpensive consumer item—with a bunch of individual message bytes full of self-praise:  “Unique approach”…“Deep experience”… “Proven integrity”…“Competitive edge.”

But the reality is that when it comes to handing over hundreds-of-thousands, or even millions, of dollars, the “consumer” rightly feels like they’re becoming more of a business partner than just a customer.

Don’t tell em…show em.  Big-ticket investors don’t want you to tell them how good you are; they want you to demonstrate it.  They’d like to see how you do business—in up markets and down markets—so that they can judge for themselves just how good you are.  They want to know the kinds of decisions you’ll make and the steps you’ll take to earn a return on their capital and meet the objectives you set out.

Beware of the four P’s.  I’ve heard plenty of marketers and managers say:  “It all comes down to Pedigree, Philosophy, Process and Performance.”  Well, yes…and no!

  • Your pedigree is probably not as unique or exciting as you may think.  And besides, everyone knows that plenty of well-educated, highly experienced people have turned out to be clueless investment managers.
  • Your philosophy may be interesting enough to get my attention, but you need to take the storyline far enough so I can see how you implement your philosophy and whether that implementation seems sound, differentiated and one I’m willing to trust.
  • Well, doesn’t delineating your investment process take care of that?  Not usually.  Because managers typically tell their process story in a mechanized, generic way.  It’s great to know that you have “idea generation,” “screens,” and “due diligence” and that your funnel narrows a vast universe down to a handful of actionable investments.  All of that reveals only what you must have—and what everybody else has—not what investors really want to know about your strategic approach.
  • As far as performance goes:  If I don’t really understand what you do, why should I trust your numbers?  On the other hand, if you’ve presented a clear, compelling case as to how you make money, the performance can serve as an effective proof statement, demonstrating that your strategy works not only in theory, but also in fact.

So relying on the four P’s is usually not sufficient.

Tell your story.  At the end of the day, investors need more than silos of discrete facts and messages.  They need a narrative that connects the dots and provides an ever-widening window into your investment insights and decision-making so they can tell if you’re different from your competitors in meaningful ways and likely to deliver the goods.

And don’t just take my word for it.  If you check out the internet, you’ll see that survey after survey shows what’s most important to prospective investors, as well as to RIAs and gatekeepers:  a transparent picture of your investment strategy.

That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.