Marketing Your Fund to Zombie Investors

Gaining the attention and interest of investors and their advisors has always been a challenge. In our online world, it’s become even more difficult to cut through the constant volume of noise. Our growing reliance on electronics has also made it less likely for people to remember anything, because their devices do it for them. This has put new demands on fund marketers, who must re-think how they communicate with target audiences, if they intend to overcome short attention spans and digital amnesia.

Short of having the SEC announce that your fund is under investigation, there’s no quick or easy way to gain the attention of investors. The bad news is that it’s getting even more difficult for funds to establish and sustain investor awareness. Here are two reasons why:

  • The volume of information available is staggering: we now create as much information every two days as we did from the dawn of man through 2003. The impact of information overload on modern man is that we now have a significantly shorter attention span. Studies have shown that our digital lifestyle has reduced the average attention span from 12 seconds in 2000, to 8 seconds on 2015, which is one second less than that of a goldfish.
  • As reliance on digital devices has grown, our ability to remember information has been greatly reduced. A recent survey highlighting this “digital amnesia” showed that most adults could not remember current phone numbers – such as their workplace or children’s phones – but could recall their own home phone number from when they were a child. People don’t remember information because their devices now can remember for them.

If the bad news for fund marketers is that it’s more difficult than ever to gain and maintain the attention of investors, then here’s the good news: most of your competitors are doing of lousy job addressing those tasks.

So, within an existing competitive landscape of funds that are absolutely clueless when it comes to marketing, your fund can be exceptional. Here are three simple ways to help you achieve that distinction:

1. Give them something worthwhile: For starters, explain what you stand for, how you are different, how you make decisions, and why you are worthy of their consideration.  You’ll need to validate those claims, not only through your own words and deeds, but also through 3rd party endorsements from sources they know and trust. Effective 3rd party endorsements – embodied within media coverage of your firm, a video featuring an investor, or highlights of your presentation at an industry seminar – provide your target audiences with information that appears objective and believable. To hold their attention, your information must also address issues, challenges and opportunities that are important to them…which is unlikely to include your firm’s AUM growth.

2. Make it easy for them to understand you:   All of the tools your firm uses to communicate – website, pitch deck, brochures, etc. – should be consistent in what you say, how you say it, and what the materials look like. Most importantly, your communication should be easy for them to understand, regardless of the complexity of the content. Attempting to impress investors with technical jargon and lengthy explanations only serves to shift their attention and interest somewhere else. To measure the readability in your written communication, try the online BlaBlaMeter diagnostic  (blablameter.com),  which is an admittedly unscientific, but somewhat objective barometer of your fund’s “BS” factor.

3. Speak to them directly and regularly: The explosion of information online has made direct communication even more important. You’ll need to create an internal discipline that ensures meaningful and consistent contact (ideally on a quarterly basis) with existing and prospective investors, as well as those who influence them. The content you send to those audiences – by email or direct mail – should display your fund’s intellectual capital and institutional values without being self-promotional or self-serving. Consider, for example, sending out market commentaries written by respected individuals outside of your firm, or Q&A interviews that you conduct with opinion leaders whose values are aligned with yours.  The goal is to make your firm memorable, in a world where remembering is no longer a necessity.

If all of this sounds like too much work, you will likely find greater comfort and continued anonymity simply by hoping that investors take interest in your fund the old-fashioned way…solely through its track record and word-of-mouth recommendations. And if you’re lucky enough to get noticed and remembered by investors in that manner, you are truly exceptional.

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