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.
The New Year has opened with renewed spikes of Covid’s latest variant strains keeping tensions high and cautionary distancing behaviors in force across the globe. For goodness sakes, even the tennis world has reacted to the pressure by literally cancelling the world #1 player’s visa days before the first major, the Australian Open, began this week, creating a void at the top of the seeded draw that speaks volumes about the level of concern still existing around the pandemic.
With this, our third year, of pandemic-influenced social interaction practices becoming more the norm than the exception, the time has come to acknowledge that there may not be a ‘return to normal’ but a reckoning that the new normal in both business and personal interaction will be some form of hybrid distancing that requires a different way of thinking about creating intimacy with less human contact. I’ll call this intimate distancing, and suggest here some ways to incorporate the concept in your marketing and selling practices.
SEEING REALLY IS BELIEVING
It’s no secret that people generally prefer visual content to mere words. Being able to create a story that shows and tells the key ideas you want to convey is more memorable and carries greatest impact. The following graphic, 6 Facts About Visual Content, courtesy of Venngage.com, provides some data that supports this preference for visual supplementation.
In the sales efforts of investment management, relationship building and trust establishment are critical to the ongoing success of any fund regardless of strategy or size. Without being able to literally get in front of your clients and prospects on a regular basis for developing and reinforcing these elements through human interactions, creating opportunities to build intimacy through more distant means has become very important in the execution of a successful selling practice.
As it is normal human nature to want intimacy, one of the best ways to create closeness is to demonstrate understanding and empathy to another’s opinions and wants. In other words, stop positioning yourself as selling something to someone, but rather as a solver of another’s needs. Learn what your client or potential client is seeking and explain how you are there to fulfill, facilitate, or solve their issue.
BUILD THE STORY AND LET YOUR AUDIENCE DECIDE THEY WANT IN
Before you craft a compelling story, do a little research into what your clients are interested in hearing from you about. What are their investment concerns and challenges in 2022? How does what you offer fit into addressing those issues? There are lots of surveys released early in each year that provide broad trending attitudes and opinions from the investment community, but nothing is more focused than actually surveying your network of current and potential clients. The results of this work, which may or may not overlap with the broad trends from the big house surveys, should form the thesis framework for your content development of communication.
After you have built this topic list, next is to decide how to build the platform of information that will be a key point of outreach to your network. What will be the mix of media you believe will provide the maximum amount of dynamic interchange to bring your strengths to the community with which you are building a relationship? Most firms will opt to review their website and give it a refresh or enhance the content available, with some video clips, podcasts, blogs, white papers, executive interviews and the like all adding personalization to the factual data also housed on the site.
Another component of the sales arsenal that should be addressed is the sales material. If your primary sales pitch deck is filled with what you do and how it works, it’s more than time to pull it apart and start over. The prospect wants to know if you know what they care about, how the present investment environment is positive or negative in that regard, and how you fit into making their experience―SHOULD THEY PARTNER WITH YOU―better equipped to solve the concerns or enhance the returns. In other words, can you demonstrate you know what they are thinking about and can aid them in responding to those issues with a better result than if they pass you by?
That orientation in a pitch will keep them engaged in hearing you out and offer you a much better chance at getting to stage two with them, which is getting down to more details. The second stage is when the opportunity to delve deeper into your mechanics and strategy makes sense, as you’ve already forged the initial bridge of understanding that you are working towards solutions that are meaningful to your prospect.
CRAFTING THE COMMUNICATION IS BOTH ART AND SCIENCE
So now that you’ve determined what your customers want to hear about and you’ve identified several ways in which you plan to address the topics with a communication program, make sure that the delivery is on par with the messaging. Returning to the chart at the beginning of this piece, remember that people are visually stimulated and that intriguing and unique visuals and illustrations can really drive home concepts that are vital to your ability to stand out. Graphic flows, summary charts, and case study illustrations that include some data comparisons can all be effective means of reinforcing what is said with showing relevant examples.
One such device I’ve seen used very effectively in a pitch deck involved a core group of founders who were forming a new fund and wanted to emphasize that, while the fund itself was brand new, they were bringing a combined 20+ years of progressively senior team experience from the three firms at which they all worked together as an investment unit. The details of their individual investment experience and roles was described, but it sat underneath a three-pronged timeline, color-blocked to showcase the years of tenure for each at the previous firms and then merging together where they all left the last position to form the new entity. The message was instantaneous: though the fund was 3 months old, the team had built a 20+ year track record of investment management together and was a seasoned group that successfully ran money for decades. This kind of visual is what sticks in the mind of the viewer, and in a good way.
Finding multiple ways to use this kind of visual punch in all forms of communication is one way to begin creating this type of ‘intimate distancing,’ when you need to rely on zoom call meetings and other electronic contacts to stand in for the personal meetings where energy and interaction add so much to the conversation. Let 2022 be the year in which you embrace the new normal rather than mourn the old ways of interaction.