News & Insights

Speed Dating and the Power of Storytelling

By Armel Leslie

Two cartoon business people shaking hands with a stopwatch in the background

I returned from Miami earlier this month following a fanfare of meetings and events—as did thousands of others that attended the various conferences and confabs that have aptly been dubbed Hedge Fund Week.

While service providers networked and pitched their wares to the buy-side, alternative investment managers sought facetime with asset allocators, including family offices, pensions, endowments, and wealth management platforms. In between conference sessions, cocktails parties, yacht cruises and other tertiary events, hedge funds jockeyed to differentiate themselves and their strategy from a healthy peer set also selling to these gatekeepers of capital.

“Speed Dating” was the order of the day. One asset manager told me he had 30 meetings in three days (a similar run-rate of meetings corroborated by others) and parties kept strict adherence to the 25-minute allotted slots, allowing a brief window to deliver a clear and concise message.

In many of these dates, it is customary for investment managers to race through a deck or fact sheet to cover off on generic material, but oftentimes this fails to stand out in a cluttered universe. Enter the power of storytelling—a skill as paramount as investing acumen.

Don’t Bury the Lede

Clarity and message delivery are indeed as important as investing conviction. Should the sales process begin with a robotic run through of slides or leave investors with a clear understanding and excitement about why the current investment climate is ripe for a specific strategy?

An allocator who made the Miami pilgrimage and has attended thousands of these meetings during her career opined: “When I meet with an investment manager, I don’t want to hear when they graduated from Harvard. Tell me where the market dislocation is and how you are going to profit from it. Also, dialogue needs to be more human and personalized than just walking through materials.”

As a marketing communications executive who has supported and amplified the marketing and sales cycle, I wholeheartedly agree. Sacrifice boilerplate language to reinforce the ‘why now’.

Crafting, honing, and delivering your unique story with sniper-like precision is key to leaving an indelible mark on the interviewer, who is moving right on down the line to the next interaction for the day.

Stay Top of Mind

Similarly, staying on the radar should not begin and end with a follow-up e-mail. Your brand needs to be visible and omnipresent, from an information-rich website and a strong digital footprint, to leveraging the power, reach and credibility of third-party media to cement your expertise and thought leadership.

Following up with a white paper supporting your thesis, as well as links to articles, blogs, video and/or podcasts is a powerful way to reinforce the messaging and thesis that you are looking to deliver.

Moreover, when an allocator does due diligence prior to a meeting – whether a simple Google search, or something more intensive – what do they find and is it consistent with the picture you are painting?

Content is King

In an industry where performance is the precious commodity you are selling, it’s critical to align your communications strategy with your business strategy. For money managers, helping allocators understand your return stream and the reasons for expected drawdowns in certain scenarios will be key to maintaining long-standing partnerships.

To this end, content creation has become a necessary part of the sales and relationship management cycle, especially during more challenging investment periods, whether driven by macroeconomic forces or idiosyncratic factors specific to a strategy.

A trove of long-form as well as easier to digest content across multi-media and integrated channels should be a part of any investment management firm’s game plan and should be considered as sacrosanct as the investment process in place to capture alpha.

As I stated in a recent Q&A with Hedgeweek, hedge funds have a golden opportunity to utilize resources and IP to create a larger platform and brand than solely a manager of assets. This ability to add a thought leadership “think tank” element to their offering provides value to their clients, stakeholders, and a broader audience as many investment options come further downstream.

Want to chat more about how to differentiate your brand? Get in touch with RF|Binder, leaders in the financial services PR space.

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