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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 January's Question

Marketing is what you do. Brand is who you are. (Itís not your firmís name and logo.) Asset managers need to understand that brand perceptions must be thoughtfully designed and consistently managed. The tangible payoff for funds that understand and invest in building brand integrity is a higher level of interest and credibility from current and prospective investors. Itís a key to asset growth thatís either misunderstood or overlooked.

Gordon G. Andrew
Andrew + Selikoff Partners

Q: Other than our track record, what other information should we be communicating to prospective investors?

Fund Manager

A: When most asset managers market themselves to investors, the emphasis is either exclusively or primarily on their fundís track record. Pitch deck content and marketing solicitation tactics are often focused on performance. In Catch-22 fashion, some managers even determine whether and when to market themselves based on how well their fund has performed over the past 6 months or year: the perfect strategy for achieving zero asset growth.

This myopic point of view is understandable, both because fund managers are hard-wired as left-brain thinkers, and because they spend most of their waking hours thinking about the current and future direction of their fund. And to be fair, there are some investors who only chase performance.

Fund performance is a critical factor for investors; but numerous and reliable studies consistently suggest that itís not whatís most important to them. So fund managers either havenít gotten that message, or they refuse to believe it; either because they lack the courage to explain and promote assets unrelated to their track recordÖor they simply donít know what other types of information to present to investors.

For starters, fund managers need to communicate not just what they do, but must also generate interest in what their enterprise stands for. This task of expressing your fundís raison d'Ítre involves far more than sticking a ďMission StatementĒ on its website.

Prospective investors not only want to know what makes your fund unique; before they put you on their short list for consideration, they also want assurance that your enterprise is a ďsafe choice.Ē Decision-makers at every level are unwilling to risk their career on selection of a fund that may fail to meet expectations by a wide margin.

Regardless of whether your fund is an established leader or an upstart, brand integrity matters. And itís a corporate asset that needs to be marketed. Unfortunately, telling target audiences and opinion leaders that your company is smart, honest, unique, innovative, creative, cutting-edge, trusted, etc. never succeeds. People require hard and soft evidence to support their own conclusions about your brand attributes, notably its integrity. So how does an asset manager market its brand integrity through online and offline channels? Here are 10 tangible and intangible factors that, on an individual and combined basis, can drive investor opinion on your fundís brand integrity:

  • Transparency: Is information regarding your fund’s investment philosophy, processes and people available and easily accessible? (Acid Test: How much digging is required to gain a basic understanding?)
  • Consistency: Is all information kept up-to-date, and relevant to current market conditions? Does bad news get communicated to your existing investors as quickly and openly as good news? (Acid Test: What’s the frequency of content generation, and the number of direct and indirect “touches” with target audiences?)
  • Enthusiasm: Does your fund appear genuine and enthusiastic about communicating with external audiences? Or does communication appear to be treated as a necessary evil? (Acid Test: How often are innovation and fun baked into those efforts?)
  • Values: Are your fund’s core values expressed in a compelling manner? More importantly, are those values demonstrated through its actions? (Acid Test: Are they aspirational and inspirational? Is there tangible evidence that values really drive decision-making?)
  • Clarity: Are explanations clear, devoid of technical jargon or mystery, and easily understood by all outside audiences? (Acid Test: Would an 8th grader get it?)
  • Culture: Is there a visible common culture, beyond shared academic credentials or charitable activities? Are there tangible signs that all employees are valued, have a unified vision and enjoy working together? (Acid Test: Other than the annual mud run photo, do employees appear to be engaged as a team?)
  • Associations: Who and what are the people, organizations, ideas and causes associated with your firm? Are those associations respected, credible and trustworthy? (Acid Test: Is the firm actively connected with the outside world?)
  • Validation: How is your fund’s value proposition confirmed by objective 3rd parties? Do reliable sources express open support or inherent endorsement? (Acid Test: Do credible media sources cover the company? Do investors identify themselves by name and company?)
  • Leadership: Are efforts made to share / promote your fund’s intellectual capital in a helpful manner that’s not directly self-serving? (Acid Test: Do other opinion leaders reference your fund’s ideas or contributions? Are white papers just poorly disguised sales collateral?)
  • Persona: Does your firm appear to be run by interesting human beings, or hide its personality behind an opaque, institutional veneer? (Acid Test: Does the overall impact of public-facing communication project warmth and sincerity, or distance and arrogance?)

Marketing tactics aside, fund managers looking for a guiding principle on brand integrity are well-served by heeding the advice of the late John Wooden, basketball coaching legend, who said, ďBe more concerned with your character than with your reputation. Your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.Ē


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