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Give us your toughest questions on how to market your fund. We'll give you no-nonsense opinions and insights to help build your brand and grow AUM.

About December's Question

Marketing has earned itself a black eye with fund managers because many of its tactics have no tangible business value. Conversely, compliance can get in the way of effective marketing, by overly cautious interpretation of fuzzy regulations. This month's two "Marketing Alternatives" questions tackle both issues.

Gordon G. Andrew
Andrew + Selikoff Partners

Q: I hear a lot of noise about "thought leadership." Give me your definition of what it is, and convince me that it's something that can really grow my business.

Skeptical CTA
Houston, TX

A: Here's my definition: Thought Leadership is a marketing strategy that leverages intellectual capital to engage target audiences. And in my book, "engage" means conversations that result in commerce.

Effective Thought Leadership – which can involve a broad range of marketing tactics – always addresses these two questions upfront:

  • What measurable business outcomes do we want our Thought Leadership to achieve (other than having people think we're smart)?
  • Exactly how will we employ our Thought Leadership "content" (other than dropping it on our website) to engage with decision-makers?

Pursuing Thought Leadership tactics without first providing good answers to those two questions is akin to building an over-sized sailboat in your basement. It may be a beautiful work of craftsmanship, but you will never sail it around the lake.

Here's a tip: True Thought Leaders seek to manage rather than to control the conversation. They determine the issues and voices worthy of attention, but do not exclusively push their own perspective. They also shine a light on the ideas of clients, prospects, referral sources and recognized authorities. By displaying the self confidence to share the microphone, they are viewed as legitimate opinion leaders, not simply carnival barkers.

Can I "convince" you that Thought Leadership will move the needle for your firm? Probably not in this column ... because most activity that's currently called "Though Leadership" is a waste of time, money and opportunity. And I need more than another paragraph to offset all the negative baggage that marketers have earned for the strategy over the past decade. Shoot me a note or call me, and I'll share some "best practices" examples of Thought Leadership that may change your mind.

Q: Our compliance lawyer kills every marketing idea we propose. How do we handle that?

Frustrated Fund Marketer
Baltimore, MD

A: Compliance's job is to keep you out of trouble, but they're not entitled to handicap or sink your business by being overly risk-averse. Legal types thrive on precedent, so you need to build your case. If there's a marketing tactic you want to pursue, identify a few respected competitors who are currently using that tactic, make sure their principals aren't in prison, and then ask compliance why your firm can't follow their lead. Then if you don't get a reasonable response after you present your argument…either disregard compliance's direction, or stop whining.

Submit your marketing question for this column anonymously. Simply click the "Submit a Question" box on your left.

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