The following post is courtesy of Diane Harrison who is principal and owner of Panegyric Marketing, a strategic marketing communications firm founded in 2002 specializing in alternative assets.
2020 was a roller coaster year on many levels, filled with trepidation and nervousness for the overall health of the economy, our government and healthcare responses to the pandemic, and a sense of unease about whether or not ‘normal’ will ever be achieved post-Covid. Many things have changed, some temporarily, some permanently, but when it comes to the investment community, some things, thankfully, stay essentially the same.
In reflecting back over the better part of three decades in marketing alternative assets to institutional and high net worth investors, several truisms come to mind as resistant to even the most potent of change mechanisms in the markets. So, what hasn’t changed about selling to the high net worth investor? Their overall wealth is still intact, which is heavily tied to the stock market’s health, recovered over 2020 nicely.
With most of the financial community trying to read the market movement tea leaves of 2021, and gearing sales strategies to address the shifting developments across market sectors and global developments, it might be a good time to step back from the Covid pandemic environment and focus on what remains fairly stable about selling financial investments to the wealthy. Managers of all investment programs would be well served to refresh their sales teams on keeping these five concepts at the forefront of any sales strategy in 2021.
FIRST, LAST, AND ALWAYS… TRUST
Building trust and strengthening relationships are hallmarks of every successful business. In order to win new investors, trust needs to be built and then maintained in a positive and consistent manner as prospects become clients. Elementary stuff for every marketing plan, but sometimes this can get lost in all the efforts created to overcome difficult market conditions, such as the environment created by Covid’s forced social distancing and travel restrictions.
LOOK AT SALES FROM THE INVESTOR PERSPECTIVE
Putting yourself in the other person’s shoes is the first step in understanding investment priorities and wants and tuning your sales efforts to address those needs. It’s all too easy for fund managers to fall into the trap of elaborating on all they are skilled at doing, and how they plan to navigate the tough market conditions within their investment strategy or sector, but failing to wrap that message in the most important element for a prospect, which is answering the ‘why that should matter to you’ piece of a sales pitch. When putting together your sales story, try starting from the last point and centering your pitch on how you as a manager can understand, address and solve for investors’ needs.
THE OTHER SHOE THAT CAN FALL
A successful sell always provides for a full disclosure of risks and rewards, and is particularly important in alternative assets. Being honest and direct about what can go right and what might go wrong within an investment approach is necessary for both due diligence and for building the trust required to win investors. Rather than deterring potential investors, a manager who can demonstrate a high awareness of potential pitfalls within their strategy or approach inspires greater investor comfort that these weaknesses are being addressed.
TELL US MORE
Transparency was, is, and will remain a desire for investors of all stripes. Over the past decades, investor requests and technology developments have created a flexible and customized responsiveness to this desire that fund managers of all sizes can leverage through their service providers. The range of data, speed of processing, and variety of delivery outputs has created a high level of automated communication to provide for this investor demand. Smart fund managers will keep information demand at the forefront of their customer service outreach to ensure they are satisfying their investor transparency requirements.
KEEP IT GOING
With in-person meetings and large-scale conference and event opportunities severely curtailed in the post-Covid world, managers must find ways to keep the communication exchange fresh and relevant for their investors and prospects. Creating online videos, webcasts, blogs, newsletters, and other dynamic media forms can provide a customized dialogue with clients and prospects on what is happening in the investment business, how the current marketing environment impacts that, and what are short and medium term plans for building growth and success.
A December 2020 online article from Deloitte, ‘2021 investment Management Outlook, Transforming to Thrive’ provides some additional support for the need to prioritize client communication satisfaction. The article points out a couple of interesting observations:
- Digital transformation could become an element in many investment management firms’ brands. Like it or not, investors may judge investment management firms on the sophistication and elegance of their customer interactions.
- Digital transformation is accelerating, and 2021 has the potential to be the year that laggards face strategic risk, not from what they offer investors but from how the offerings are supplemented by digital capabilities.
2021 will undoubtedly provide challenges of all forms. When things get unstable, investors seek areas of stability to minimize overall discomfort and risk. Planning to strengthen your communication abilities and investor service skills can help fund managers survive the investment landscape unfolding before us.