Get Your Message to the Masses
Investment managers are reaching an inflection point, increasingly having to realise the benefits of effective communication strategies. In 2008, crises began when investors flooded towards the emergency exits and became increasingly difficult to tempt back. This accelerated a secular trend in which investors have been becoming more experienced and competent, demanding to fully understand – rightly – what they are investing in.
So if communication is to become a vital part of investment managers’ activities, what would the crucial elements of an effective campaign be?
To start with, communication should not be treated as an option. Most firms agree that marketing is an integral part of an effective corporate strategy – but many fail to realise that communication is an integral component of marketing.
The first premise of any successful campaign is belief in its power. This might seem obvious but, all too often, firms engage with an audience without full conviction.
Whether as a result of poor strategy or individual staff indifference, communication falls flat. Successful campaigns feel passionate and genuine to their audience, and this is only possible if a firm’s spokespeople truly believe they have something important, and different, to say.
Secondly, a firm’s external communication partner, normally an agency, should fully understand the value an investment manager provides to its clients, which is why a communication partner specialising in investment management is crucial. The more specialised the communication partner, the more intimately they will understand a firm’s products, competitive landscape and investor mindset. They will also understand the challenges, as well as the opportunities to add value to clients. Whereas non-specialist agencies see an undifferentiated, broad brush view of the investment landscape, a specialist can sharpen the differentiating subtleties that make a specific investment manager a compelling investment proposition.
Thirdly, in a technical business, content is king. Commercial communication in the investment business should ultimately answer this question: ‘Why should I give my money to you rather than to the many other managers who say they do the same thing?’ This is an ambition whose achievement relies on powerful content – clearly defined, effectively articulated and, above all, innovative. To say it should be innovative seems a cliché, but it is the most neglected attribute in investment communication. A cursory look at most marketing communication reveals that most investment managers have the same so-called ‘differentiators’. If effectively deployed, powerful content will play a key role in attracting new investors as well as retaining assets within the fund, particularly when the going gets tough (as it always does). It will show why and how a firm’s people, approach and processes are superior to those of their competitors.
Fourthly, a specialist communication partner will also provide the most effective distribution of the distinctive content, ensuring that it has maximum impact in promoting the investment manager and its solutions to the intended target audience within the investors’ community.
The right communication partner will distribute the investment manager’s content via all relevant channels, be they traditional media outlets or new digital media channels (encompassing the likes of the firm’s website and a social media strategy). The challenge is to make all these channels work effectively and interdependently to exploit their synergy, resulting in an impactful message.
Lastly, and crucially, all the above will be of little value unless the right content – be it a firm’s DNA and its supporting messages or the edge of a strategy/fund – is understood and believed by its staff. Each of a firm’s employees should be regarded as a de facto brand ambassador. Investment communications cannot be the domain of a few spokespeople – they must instead be thought of holistically.
Therefore, investment managers should take coaching all team members in the company’s ethos and core messages seriously. Regular coaching sessions, as well as fostering a common culture, will ensure that a firm’s communications strategy is not undermined by individual employees portraying different images of the firm (not to mention the positive impact this activity has on people’s sense of involvement, and therefore morale).
Investment managers are turning a corner in their attitude to communication. The ones who succeed will be the ones who understand that good communication can be a real game-changer.