The art and science of marketing communications: A roadmap for emerging managers

The alternative investment community is positioned to improve diverse representation among firm principals, especially portfolio management and trading talent, as an increasing range of investors and consultants are incorporating these important criteria into allocation decisions. On the marketing side, emerging managers led by women and minorities/BIPOC are adapting to rapid technology advances, increasing client expectations and regulatory modernization. The pandemic has accelerated the development and application of digital tools, facilitated the acceptance of virtual meetings, and compressed expected response times. Yet, marketing is emotional and personal. Fund raisers and investor relations specialists face high-stakes communication. The challenge is to leverage modern yet compliant marketing tactics and tools while personalizing relationships to reinforce brand value, increase trust with investors/allocators, and rise above the pack. How can you balance the art and science?

“The greatest scientists are artists as well.”

― Albert Einstein

How do art attributes coalesce to benefit your marketing communication?

Creativity – Develop your content strategy.  

  • Investment Manager’s marketing toolkit – should include but not be not limited to the firm’s logo and visual design elements, pitch deck, tear sheet, elevator pitch, website, LinkedIn profile(s) and thought leadership. Content incorporates visual and verbal messaging.

I have seen way too often how a manager’s pitch content has focused almost exclusively on the fund track record and portfolio management metrics, while missing the qualitative elements.  The ‘how’ and ‘why’ factors are critical to differentiation.

What’s your story? Have you articulated your accomplishments, successes, and growth strategy?

Get creative and personal. Expert marketers tell a unique story and articulate their edge. Your core message and vision can creatively emphasize the team’s pedigree, journey and philosophy. While brevity is preferred, your brand needs a purpose and identity. Remember, investors invest in people.

Takeaway – Ask the right probing questions. Tell stories. Present authentically.

Is your website a dinosaur? Unfortunately, the obsolescence rate is daunting but the “eye candy” of a modern site — reflecting cohesive creative elements and messaging that tells your story — support a strong first impression needed to build your own brand. Let’s face it, we all look up everyone, discovering websites, LinkedIn profiles and more before further interaction. Don’t wait to shine online!

Note: Investment managers should embrace legal/compliance review prior to website launch/upgrade or finalizing any items in the marketing tool kit. The myriad regulations depending on a firm’s individual circumstances may preclude content that otherwise seems harmless!

How do you incorporate thought leadership?  Successful marketers communicate a ‘wow’ factor and build relationships before pitching product. Investors prefer to hear from experts. Thought leaders among the alternative investment community are highly knowledgeable in their field, sector, applicable trends and/or strategy. Moreover, they are critical thinkers who build and communicate content chock full of important research, analysis and actionable insights. Thought leaders are problem solvers.

Takeaway – Use this edge and applicable content to develop relationships and increase visibility.

Do you prefer personal notes? Most of us are more likely to trust and react to personalized messages. How can you overcome the impersonal nature of eblasts and improve responses?

Quick tip – Personalize the sender and recipient at multiple points, merged into the message.

How do selected science-based elements fit into your marketing?

Digital tools/Data/Analysis

  • Alternative investment managers can take advantage of the proliferation of technology solutions and related digital communication tools to not only expand visibility and improve client engagement but also determine ROI associated with marketing initiatives. 

Takeaways and tips:

Social media channels are ripe for thought leadership. Use LinkedIn and Twitter to create, curate and publish thought leadership content.

Embrace email marketing tools including personalization features to efficiently share updates as the pandemic has heightened investors’ expectations for high-frequency communication. Incorporate tracking results, remain flexible and pivot as opportunities and/or client requests arise.

Use multi-media professionally and judiciously to incorporate audio and video content supporting your story and updates.

Analyze tracking data and patterns including qualitative information sources to support decision making that leads to future initiatives or adjustments. Manage your leads.

Publish fresh content including thought leadership on your website for SEO value and via LinkedIn.

Are you taking advantage of the following trends and regulatory developments?

  • Investors embrace newer alternative investment managers’ as reported by Alternatives Watch. According to Seward & Kissel’s recent hedge fund survey, fund-of-funds and seeders were most open to emerging managers.  Partner Steve Nadel noted, “It is now much easier for new managers to somewhat level the playing field by getting their message out through Zoom and other video conferencing tools,” he said. “And, more importantly, many allocators appear to be getting comfortable with this form of communication.”
  • The SEC’s New Investment Adviser Marketing Rule became effective May 4, 2021, leaving 18 months transition with compliance due by November 4, 2022. The new set of rules under the 1940 Advisers Act modernizes advertising and solicitation regulation, while clarifying and updating outdated rules to align with a different reality vs. 80 years ago!  Please refer to this detailed article by Troutman Pepper Partner Genna Garver.
  • SEC Rule 506(c) of Regulation D allows general solicitation of private funds, subject to specific investor vetting requirements and other restrictions. When undertaken in a compliant process, this opportunity represents a potential sea change for capital raising. Please refer to this article published by Alternatives Watch.

Where do we go from here? Position yourself and your firm to attract and retain capital. Use your diversity as an edge or differentiator. Balance the artist’s attributes (e.g., creating content, telling stories, engaging with clients) with the scientist (tracking, analytics, testing, measuring).  In conclusion, art inspires while science is a critical ally.  Creativity combined with data-based decisions are a winning marketing pair. Discover how Communication Alpha® (capability and willingness to create and deliver clear, consistent, frequent and targeted communication) benefits your marketing strategy.

Editor’s note: This story originally appeared in our Finding the S in ESG Report.

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