Have you ever met a manager who was not ‘excellent’ at what they do by their own definition? Have you ever seen an uncompelling growth of $1,000 chart? Have you ever met a manager that could not identify at least one statistic in which they stand very well above their peer group?
Given this, why is it that so many managers fail to thrive?
We all know that this blame is generally passed to marketing. However, we also know that even the best sales person will struggle in selling a wet noodle. No matter how good the numbers ‘look’, here are the top 10 detours to avoid on the road to AUM:
Detour #1: Terms Matter
Managers regularly place major obstacles in their own way by establishing products in the wrong structures and/or with the wrong terms. They believe performance will overcome all of them. It will not matter how good performance is if the fees are too high, the minimums are too high, the structure is not a fit, and most importantly if several competitors are offering a similar strategy under much more compelling terms. Know your competition, define terms cautiously, ensure the product is a ‘fit’ for the markets in which you seek to grow.
Detour #2: Failure to Arrive
Showing up matters. There are hundreds of managers in your space vying for attention. Performance will ebb and flow. It always does. What is the differentiator for firms who win mandates? Showing up and building a relationship consistently and overtime. Managers –more often than not– fail to simply show up. They talk of ‘being available’ but often that is followed by all the dates they aren’t. Managers are often their own worst enemies regarding the simple task of showing up. Weeks turn into months which turn into quarters and then years. If you want to grow, you need to show up, in earnest and with frequency. What has your meeting & travel calendar looked like over the past 12 months?
Detour #3: Insufficient or Unsustainable Budget
Persistence pays…but it also costs money. Managers often point to the success and yet relative underperformance of major brands. They don’t understand how ‘XYZ has raised billions’ and they can’t get out of the gates. A simple cost benefit analysis (and often time in market) of the marketing budgets of XYZ would answer this question. Marketing is a game of showing up and showing up costs money. Building relationships costs money. Distribution costs money. Having a cost efficient yet consistent marketing distribution effort applied over several years is what is required. Six months is not sufficient. Twelve months is not sufficient. Managers should be prepared for thirty-six months at a minimum of full scale and consistent marketing commitment in order to establish market share. As with many things in life, the early assets and placements are the hardest. The snowball effect is further down the hill than thought, but it is attainable with persistence, and commitment in the form of time, dollars and positive intention.
Detour #4: Presuming Performance Is Enough
Yes, performance is still a top driver of initial adoption in investment decisions. At the end of the day, regardless of how formal the research process, how ‘intelligent’ the institution, and how ‘market aware’ the investor, performance is what managers are hired for. However, performance is not in and of itself the driving factor. Performance sustainability is the key attribute that research teams are seeking. What creates the sustainability factor? Depth of team and lack of turnover; breadth of infrastructure and asset management preparedness; diversification of clients; market opportunity set and market cycle, to name a few.
Detour #5: Underestimating the Competition
The universe is generally bigger and better than managers anticipate. There are thousands of strategies across a myriad of databases all vying for the same, limited investor pool. Managers are not in short supply. Never underestimate the universe that is available to investors both large and small. This universe will come in all shapes and sizes, some larger and more agile than you, some smaller and nimbler than you. The universe will also provide firms that will work harder at getting their name out there and do a better job with educational content and market commentary. Winning business is a needle in a haystack. The best way to be that needle is to thread it constantly with consistent messaging, consistent outreach, strong and sustainable performance, lack of team changes and constant monitoring of the competitive landscape to know your competition, and to be conversant in your differentiators.
Detour #6: Lacking Cachet
Cachet counts. Any long-term sales professional will have numerous road warrior stories; managers can act in both savory and unsavory ways. Companies have grown and morphed, closed and reopened, branded and rebranded. Can you think of a few? The investment management market, particularly the Institutional market, expects to work with high quality teams and they have long memories (and databases of old notes). Firm’s should focus on quality communications and consistent messaging filled with meaningful content and a professional delivery. Firm’s must avoid brands and positioning that are overly showy or gimmicky; a brand should stand up to the major players in the market, demonstrating clarity, vision, consistency and professionalism. Brand is also extended to how managers and their representatives act in live meetings with prospects, how marketing collateral and commentary is drafted, how PR is written, how colors and design are used and how social media is integrated. Each element is a factor in long term success.
Detour #7: Lacking Content
How much do your quarterly numbers say? Not much. They are a bunch of numbers on a page. The easiest way to make the discussion only about performance is to only provide performance. If you want to make an impression, and build a dialogue, content is king. Have a content calendar that identifies key messaging and creates opportunities to communicate these messages through market activity, portfolio activity and general education on the firm’s area of expertise. If you want to be known, if you believe you have value to add, the firm must deliver more than performance.
Detour #8: Who’s On First?
All managers promise to be timely in responding to prospect and client requests and we believe that they genuinely wish to deliver on this promise. However, few do. Rarely is the process clear on who owns the response content as well. In part, it could be argued that research requests are a test to determine the preparedness and commitment of a manager. Accuracy and timeliness of materials, both regularly issued and custom designed, must be a top priority for any manager seeking to grow assets. Timeliness should be defined as within 48 hours of any request for custom data, 24 hours for any ‘standard’ data and longer (7 days) for an extensive due diligence request). Managers who are not prepared to meet these deadlines should not begin marketing until they have a full library of exhibits and data sets ‘most often requested’.
Detour #9: Don’t Go Changing
It is inevitable that staff changes occur. It is surprising, however, how often they occur at management’s hand during a broad-based market push. This is NOT the time to make changes. Change is an immediate ‘back burner’ and ‘wait and see’ for most research teams. Change can signify discontent and lack of coordination at a minimum, and concerns over legitimacy and sustainability for many. It is that managers avoid unnecessary change in the midst of a significant marketing push.
Detour #10: Timing Is Everything
Honest marketers and managers who have been successful will tell you that timing is indeed everything. The same exact firm profile in one decade could be a smashing success, and a complete failure in another time frame. Managers should not only consider their readiness to engage the market, but the market’s readiness to be engaged. This analysis relates not only to the overall market cycle but also to specific movement in the asset class and product structure. First mover advantage, capacity considerations, in/out of favor structures, asset class performance, portfolio asset allocation current thinking and general market conditions all play a pivotal role in the success or failure of a marketing campaign.
The material presented in this article is taken from The Road to AUM: Driving Assets Under Management through Effective Marketing and Sales, published by Noble ARK Ventures, LLC and authored by Sandra Powers Murphy an investment management marketing and sales consultant. To receive valuable Insights about Institutional marketing and sales, Including access to our resource guide and Information regarding the Noble Ark Ventures Curriculum Series, please visit www.noblearkventures.com.
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