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Advisors, Private Equity

How to Implement Digital Marketing Strategies That Work

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Digital marketing is an increasingly important tool in cultivating business relationships. Capital providers and investment banks today are using different digital tools to manage both existing and prospective contacts.

At Axial Concord 2015, panelists discussed the advantages and challenges of using digital media as a way to stay in front of their constituents, make new connections, and increase deal flow.

They provided a few techniques on how to use digital media efficiently and avoid the pitfalls of blasting out irrelevant messages to one’s audience.

A Tailored Approach

Competition for attention in today’s atmosphere is increasingly fierce. This is particularly true for “private equity sponsors, who may have a tough time differentiating themselves,” says Eric Mattson, principal at Excellere, a lower middle market private equity fund. “We all have capital and it’s all the same color, so it’s important to be able to communicate other points of distinction.”

One way to be a more effective digital marketer is to target messages to a specific audience. Valerio Forte, head of business development at global private equity investment firm H.I.G. Capital, says that they are devising ways to reach out to smaller firms. “We understand there’s a certain number of companies who may not travel as much to conferences,” he says. “We are trying to tailor an outreach to these smaller organizations so they are aware of what H.I.G. is doing and where we can work together.”

Don’t Be Passive

Being proactive is necessary to avoid roadblocks in a company’s digital efforts, including becoming irrelevant to a firm’s constituencies. Being thoughtful about outreach — rather than blasting random messages to an entire subscriber base — helps to keep audiences engaged.

“We put a lot of thought into what we communicate to each particular audience,” says Mattson. “For example, if we’re sending a message about our interest in investing in clinician services, we target M&A advisors in the healthcare space. If we just blasted everyone in our database, the non-healthcare advisors may not pay attention to our next message, which could be non-healthcare related. We certainly don’t want our messages being ignored.”

Using undifferentiated techniques is much less likely to get the point across to the desired targets. “A passive banner ad that appears on a website is not likely to drive the right type of deal flow — it might even be more of a distraction,” says Joe Burkhart, a managing director at debt fund Saratoga Investment Corp., which targets deal sizes that are between $5 million and $25 million. “What you want is to focus on the relationships that actually matter instead of relying on the likelihood of a referral from a banner ad. The sales and marketing approach should be very targeted.”

Content Marketing

Generic digital messages are not the answer. Neither is relying on outside sources for material as effective in developing relationships for one’s business. “I think content marketing can be a very powerful tool to establish brand and expertise,” Burkhart says. “If I write an article like the one I did recently on Axial Forum, about the technology and software I use every day — that content is hopefully helping others and our brand is recognized and associated with that assistance.”

Most people don’t generate their own social media content, says Burkhart. Being one of the few to do so “helps in building a personal brand.” Achieving recognition on a company level requires additional time and resources. “Companies have to commit to producing their own content on a recurring basis, or else it’s a waste because the consumers of media demand consistency.”

Identifying your audience is a good first step. If you have multiple audiences, decide whether you want to create separate channels for each one or focus on one primary group.

“Our digital strategy leverages our industry thesis approach,” says Mattson. “So the most important thing that we do is to provide drilled-down information about who we are as quickly and clearly as we can, especially in an environment where attention spans are short.”

Next, establish your target channels — you might focus on creating a blog, sending out a monthly newsletter, or building out your firm’s presence on LinkedIn.

Finally, establish a regular cadence for posting new content. If possible, task someone on your team with managing the content marketing function. Even if everyone in the company contributes, having one person responsible for execution will add a layer of accountability that will lead to better results.

Audiences today are inundated with information from a range of sources. “I receive more than 20 eblast messages a day — mostly in the form of newsletters — from competitors, capital and other services providers, and intermediaries. Unless they instantly catch my attention with a relevant topic, they go unread,” Mattson says. “That is a cautionary, but real-world cue for companies to be thoughtful about their digital strategy.”

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