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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.

In order to deliver an integrated, professional and clever look, tone, and feel for a business, a manager must first work to define the elements of their differentiation. Branding is not about slapping a logo on all you produce: just as the story line in content development is essential to embody the uniqueness and differentiating qualities a portfolio manager needs to highlight when describing their offering, the complete visual identity for a business needs to foot back to those attributes as well. Some initial questions to answer include:

  • Who are you as an organization?
  • Who is your target client?
  • What value do you bring to your client/partners?
  • How is this value differentiated from your competitors (this is the reason you exist)? This can be singular or plural, but ideally you will have 2-3 points of differentiation to point to.
  • Can you identify 2-4 core values for the firm?
  • Combining the needs of your clients with the value you bring to the table

Inevitably, start-up businesses are squeezed for cash and have a multitude of expenses that all are critical to the business operations. Sometimes the thought of investing in marketing gets pushed down in the triage of essential. Here are some common questions and answers about the importance of doing things right the first time that might help move this need higher in your pecking order.

I’ve been able to raise enough money to get us up and running with my own effort at a pitch book and I think it describes what I do well. Can’t I just let that be the first year’s primary piece while I address other operational issues?

Why start your asset-raising campaign as a new business with something less than top-notch that doesn’t tell the type of story that resonates with the very group of individuals you must influence? The biggest, and fatal, error internally written pitch books embody is a lack of outside perspective needed to bring the selling effort to life for the target audience. Many, many pitch books compiled by portfolio managers tend to include lots of charts and data points gathered in support of the strategy process and results, but very little to none of the information that moves investors to want to know more about how the offering can work for them.

If you have been able to raise enough money to get off the ground, you likely have done so on the strength of leveraging existing relationships, the ‘family and friends’ round of financing that typically happens first. To get the next round of assets, managers must carry their message to a wider group of prospects who don’t know you as an investment professional and the competition for their interest is much tougher. A well-told story that marries together what investors want with what and how a manager can solve those issues is the type of pitch flow that leaves an impact on the recipient. Wrap the story in great design, and you get the look, tone, and feel in an integrated whole.

Why do I need a website when I have regular communications with my limited partners on calls, in-person visits, and email with commentary?

All of those methods are great ways to reach out to the fund partners you have and keep them informed on the business. But what about conveying the type of information you want to share about the business to those you don’t know yet, but whom you’d like a chance to win over? We live in a world where looking on line for information is the primary default mechanism. Your website presence can help or hurt your business reputation, but it certainly is one of the first information sources strangers will see about you.

A well-done website can showcase your brand, provide partners with a secure portal for all the information about their investment you provide—account holdings, financial reporting, manager commentary, etc.—as well as articulate the public data and content you want to share with visitors to the site to educate them on what you do and support your overall marketing efforts.

How do I know that I’m going to get a return on my investment if I engage an outside firm to help me with my branding?

Look for a group who has a depth of relevant marketing expertise within the financial community, providing collateral marketing platforms which speak to investors—institutional, high net worth, and retail— as well as their advisors, strategic partners, and sales agents. Make sure they know how to create what works for the investment community managers need to win over, and build brands that are unique and compelling. Ask to see examples of their work- programs that combine both content and design in a multi-faceted way for collateral that has to work both in print and on-line.


Returning to the first question, and every manager’s essential selling tool, the pitch book, here is what a successful pitch should do for you. The pitch book is the flagship marketing piece for most fund managers. It should make the case for why the fund was created, what the market opportunity for its strategy is and why it is likely to continue going forward, why the fund manager and team is skilled to run it, and why this particular offering is well-suited to its investor audience. The content must be specific and credible in order to convince investors to subscribe versus the larger and more established competitors out there. 

Secondly, a fund fact sheet is usually the primary “Cliff notes” version of a manager’s business description, updated regularly with performance data and new facts either monthly or quarterly. The fact sheet should include all expected performance data, benchmark comparisons, and other structural information normally contained in a fund’s regularly updated tear sheet sent to clients and prospects. 

And last, a website is a window into virtually any business and there are very few circumstances where it doesn’t make sense to have some form of on-line presence for a business. Hopefully I’ve convinced you that investing at the outset in your branding isn’t window-dressing, it’s the heart of your business presence when you are not in front of your audience.

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