Comments (26)

  • Associate 2 in PE - LBOs
Jan 21, 2022 - 12:13pm

1. How can you tell if your firm is good at this competency

2. What is the playbook to get there

3. Of the steps in the playbook above, which do PE firms do on their own, and which do third parties help with, and how?  (This answer should be both factual and a chance for you to advertise, which is ok - it's a good platform to do so since you are sharing an interesting topic so it's a fair deal, but please clearly indicate which is which)

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Jan 21, 2022 - 12:33pm
ilovecats, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Solid questions; gaseous answers:

1) What constitutes "good" is subjective. Maybe better is if the brand is so weak or dated that it's clearly detracting from the firm's ability to source/retain great talent; find/maintain/grow solid intermediary relationships; and see/close good deals. It's less about the design of things, though that has some bearing. Branding, as the "pros" will tell you, is an all-encompassing measure of an org, and generally from the outside. Difficult to build, really easy to break.

2) The playbook is going to differ between firms. Every org has a focus or sweet spot, and if you approach the firm like a group of actual human beings (as you should), the firm also has a personality. Good idea to tap into that personality every way possible. Traditionally we see robotic/impersonal comms in finance because I guess people feel it's too risky to have a personality in a regulated field. (I don't buy that, by the way. You have to mind your Ps and Qs, but you can be real.)

3) This part is interesting. I'm not seeing many firms with internal marketing talent, so for firms that are doing a better job either have really clever/savvy investment team members, or much of it is outsourced. I'm a fan of having a dedicated internal resource to focus and guide the marketing function, ideally with some skills of their own beyond management, who knows when and where to look elsewhere for complementary skills.

I have no interest in advertising. I'd prefer to just be helpful to people, as much as possible. (Not sure if this was.)

  • Associate 2 in PE - LBOs
Jan 21, 2022 - 1:24pm

Got it - so are you an in-house marketer or a third party? I assumed from your OP you were a third party. Thanks for sharing this, either way - it's interesting.

Jan 22, 2022 - 1:20pm
Appley, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Could you share about your own journey into getting there? How did your background in marketing land you there? What sort of experience did you leverage to get there? Did you network your way in? If you did, how did you get the attention of your team?

Did you work in advertisement or another marketing function?

Jan 22, 2022 - 3:43pm
ilovecats, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Great questions!

For me, it's been a wide variety of brand development roles across several industries...none of which were PE funny enough, so I've had to learn the business starting with only a rudimentary understanding. Spent most of my career as an early marketing hire or the only marketer on staff. Several early-stage companies and startups. A few larger organizations. Never worked in advertising or a traditional marketing agency, but have held those kinds of responsibilities in previous roles. I've certainly collaborated with those kinds of agencies.

In my opinion, the biggest contributors to success as a "department of one" is having a broad skillset, a bias for action, and no fear of failure. You have to be willing to try things, and it helps to be able to do it as an individual contributor. Meaning, you don't always have to spend money hiring others to bring an idea to life. (Do that after you've proven the concept.) It also helps if you know how to test things behind some kind of curtain, or in parallel, so you aren't breaking things in broad daylight to the detriment of the firm!

I've found there are very few people in marketing roles within PE firms - those actively marketing the firm - and even more rare are LMM firms placing high importance on marketing in its first 25 hires.

As for getting the attention of the firm, that was pure serendipity. I've always had high initiative, and I don't give up easily on great opportunities. The firm had posted a mid-level marketing role, and the timing worked for me, so I applied. I was like a 95% match, which also doesn't happen often. I definitely had to chase it down, since it was a recruiter role, but I got the job after two months and about eight interviews. I saw a lot of potential in the role that the firm itself didn't see, and with credit to firm leadership for letting me experiment, that's turned out very well.

Last bit of advice: develop thick skin. Branding is intensely personal, and everyone has an opinion on it.

Jan 22, 2022 - 3:55pm
m_1, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I'm surprised there aren't more firms pushing content harder.

Distill the internal playbook into concise, well written blogs and articles -> attract deal flow from those looking to sell their company plus show potential hires and LPs how competent you are.

Have you seen anyone do content well? It's a big initiative for us this year and our best deal flow has come from content flows.

Jan 22, 2022 - 7:50pm
loanboy043, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I can. And not good content. Reaction yesterday i got from an MD was - "Wow. This is Amazing". I challenge u to DM me so I can prove me right.

I create differentiated content and have a process that focuses on providing data driven insights via proprietary databases (columns + rows - rows are key). And then it's about quantifying the data of various buckets via the databases in rows - to generate those conclusions and summarize.

Basically any data or information platform that summarizes trends only touches the wall. That's easy. I don't just touch the wall-i run thru it.

DM me if interested in discussing further - and I'll gladly prove myself right. I'm busy w/ online course creation but as Vince McMahon once said "we are open for business".

Thoughts?

Jan 24, 2022 - 11:53am
ilovecats, what's your opinion? Comment below:

A few firms are, but a content strategy requires time and resources to do properly. We're just now getting into this. LMM firms don't typically have/make the time to distill their thoughts into meaningful content.

Also, content is a long game and really tough attribution. Similar to social media, you have to commit to doing things consistently, and without a true quarterback, this is tough to pull off in a way that really moves the needle on deal sourcing.

But no question about it: from a branding perspective, a killer content platform is gold.

Jan 22, 2022 - 3:57pm
m_1, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Are PE firms doing anything interesting on the marketing side when it comes to sourcing LPs/deals? 

IE running geofenced digital ads around relevant industry conferences both for sourcing deals + LPs? You can saturate a conference inexpensively, kind of amazing.

Jan 24, 2022 - 12:01pm
ilovecats, what's your opinion? Comment below:

The geofencing idea is a pretty bold B2B/B2C move, and while it can probably be done, you'd have to make that hyper-relevant to the audience. You've defined a closed group, but you still have to be creative in how you reach them.

Let's say you surround SEMA in Vegas touting your firm's history of investing in aftermarket auto parts distributors. How do you plan on breaking through the rest of the noise? That's a huge convention and a wide net. Let's instead say you geofence an annual meeting for a given franchisor. Maybe you're rolling up a subset of franchises, and you want to reach new franchisees to join your platform. Probably a lot easier to reach them, but your pool of potentials is way smaller.

Tricky, but a fun marketing problem to solve!

Jan 23, 2022 - 6:56pm
PE-biz-dev, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Thanks so much for doing this!

1) Which PE firms would you point to as doing a very good job at marketing / branding today? Why?

2) One thing we often talk about is LP messaging v. entrepreneur/seller messaging. Given that you usually don't have control over who will see your social posts, content marketing, etc, how do you balance these two target personas? Should the messaging be identical (enough) for both?

3) How do you measure success for marketing in this role? And what has been the biggest difference maker for you (in terms of channel, approach, etc) as it relates to optimizing whatever that KPI is?

Jan 28, 2022 - 9:01am
ilovecats, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Thanks for the questions!

1) I probably shouldn't opine on specifically which firms are doing well because frankly, I don't know what their success looks like. We can make some basic assumptions that a robust branding effort (from what we can see) is almost certainly a worthwhile investment for them. From our perspective, we continue to put a great deal of time and effort into elevating everything across the firm (branding, website/digital, pitch decks, virtual presentations, social media footprint, etc) and it's paying big dividends from a deal sourcing standpoint. There's a level of sophistication and credibility that a refined look lends to any organization. Credibility breeds trust, and we like working with people we trust.

2) Interesting question about different messages. We do tailor our outreach a little, but it's still pretty consistent across audiences. Intermediaries are different than business owners, however, and where a broker might want to know more about how they participate in the economics of a deal, a Founder probably dislikes the idea of being "a deal" in the first place. So we have to be mindful of those audiences to a point, but you're right - it's hard to know who's going to see a given piece of content. We lean more toward Founders in our tone, since that's the audience most want to reach. That might be different for other firms.

3) Attribution is very difficult in marketing, and not just in PE. A quick Google search will unearth gold on that topic. We have a few overarching goals for our marketing, which are more aspirational; then a few KPIs we can actually track that we think will set us apart and tie back to achieving those goals. But it's still pretty nebulous. I think we all find comfort and confidence in that fact that metrics are up across the firm - top-of-funnel deal flow, engagement, audience sizes, email efficacy, total closed investments, capital deployment, and value creation - and marketing touches every part of this. So, while we can't always point specifically to what's working (or not working), we can safely say that our marketing effort is an overwhelming net positive for the firm.

  • Associate 2 in PE - LBOs
Jan 23, 2022 - 8:52pm

What are your thoughts on podcasts/interviews to drive content? For example I work at a firm that has a large executive network and a ton of interesting investing and operator LPs (founder worked at a top firm and did some of the most recognizable deals in the sector) so I've been trying to think about how to bring it up to him. 

Jan 24, 2022 - 12:13pm
ilovecats, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Big fan of podcasts, interviews, and quest appearances. We've strategized a podcast for our firm, but found that it required a LOT of time and effort to do it the way we wanted.

You have the quick-hit daily/weekly strategy that drives better audience growth through consistent outreach, though perhaps more forgettable from a content value standpoint from episode to episode. But a "memorable episode" gives way to staying top of mind, which is immensely valuable.

You have an ongoing monthly strategy that elevates the production and invites guests, etc. This requires substantially more planning, and the per-episode value rises as a result.

Then you have what we were thinking about doing: create a somewhat finite series of episodes, maybe 10-12, that serve as a library of reference material going forward. So when you're talking to a Founder two years from now, you can reference a specific topic covered in an episode. They become more evergreen, but that kind of content takes substantial planning. And while it may serve its purpose for a few years, it will have eventually run its course.

What I'm doing this year is encouraging our team to find ways to join other people's podcasts as guests...tapping into new audiences by leveraging existing platforms rather than creating our own. I'd still like to create our own, but until we have that ability, I feel like this is a better use of our time and resources.

  • Associate 2 in PE - LBOs
Jan 24, 2022 - 1:58pm

Thank you very much!

So this definitely doesn't sound as simple as working with the managing partner to come up with question lists and setting up interviews with a handful of big name LPs/executive contacts. Roughly how much time do you think would need to be dedicated towards something like this? Is it totally unrealistic to try and manages this as a side project as an associate? My fund does not have any dedicated marketing/IR folks and likely would not be interested in hiring one. 

Jan 28, 2022 - 6:16pm
Andy_888, what's your opinion? Comment below:

What do you think about Andreesen Horowitz marketing? Not PE, but looks like marketing is more developed at VCs and GEs 

Jan 31, 2022 - 12:08pm
ilovecats, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I agree with your view that VC marketing is more developed. I think VCs as a cohort are more attuned to content-driven positioning, so you see more of them having made the investment into marketing and brand. I'm not totally sure why that is, other than VCs are generally appealing to much younger companies and by extension much younger demographics than PE, which I imagine plays into it. VCs are also largely tech-focused due to the growth trajectories of those companies - over, say, a distributor or a franchisor, so the savvy firms are making sure they stay ahead of the curve for their audience.

I think PE has a lot to learn from VCs in this regard. There is a LOT of the same stuff done across PE; whereas VCs seem to have more variety in their approach.

Feb 18, 2022 - 9:49am
Appley, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Hopefully you're still around, I've got new questions!

What is the team structure like for you at a PE firm? Do you report to a partner or a managing director for the client you are staffed on?

In that same vein, how do you tie back effectiveness KPIs to your campaigns? Do you partner with agencies for marketing campaigns on behalf of clients?

Feb 18, 2022 - 2:02pm
ilovecats, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I'm here!

To clarify, I'm an internal PE firm hire, not part of an agency. We're only marketing our firm and our portfolio companies.

I won't get into team structure too much, other than to say it's a lean operation. And as a firm-level head of marketing, I report to the Managing Partner. In my view, that's an effective and appropriate structure, given our efforts are aimed at building the firm brand and supporting all strategies and teams. Buy-in at the highest level is also great for trying new tactics and getting things done.

Tying back to KPIs is something I've touched on previously, and it's the trickiest part of the marketing function. Some channels are easier to track and measure than others, but attribution is like crossing a rotting rope bridge guarded by an 8-headed fire-breather.

Our overarching goal is to drive deal flow, but how do we account for this scenario...an email campaign sent four months ago elicits a reaction from an intermediary today that results in that person emailing the partner they worked with on a deal three years ago...? We have no way to track THAT with any accuracy, and unfortunately for us, that's how a lot of success happens in PE marketing, at least in my experience. So, we do what we can, and we celebrate every win - without regard for attribution. At the end of the day, we're all confident that our efforts to build the brand feed all successful outcomes.

And to answer your last question, we've partnered with specialized agencies in the past, but we now do everything in-house apart from a new program for targeted content development.

Hope this helps in some way!

Mar 29, 2022 - 8:49pm
ilovecats, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Nice early flurry of interest in this thread. Still here if anyone has ideas or questions on the role of marketing in PE. (More aligned with bizdev than anything.)

It's fun to engage here. You all ask interesting, smart questions. Let's keep it going.

Mar 30, 2022 - 10:57am
austin2nyc, what's your opinion? Comment below:

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Mar 30, 2022 - 11:48am
ilovecats, what's your opinion? Comment below:

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