A strong brand helps private equity firms source the best deals, raise the most capital and attract the most desirable employees. According to a new BackBay Communications survey of 45 senior private equity professionals, 70% say brand building for private equity firms is very important, while 30% say it is somewhat important. The survey results were published on October 11th and can be viewed here.
Private equity firms are increasingly recognizing that they need to take steps to build their business by building their brand to succeed in today’s competitive marketplace. That means identifying their unique value proposition and developing a brand strategy, message and design that facilitates deal sourcing and fund raising by attracting business owners and limited partners.
With 12 years of experience helping private equity firms build, grow and defend their brands, BackBay Communications has come up with five Dos and Don’ts to help PE firms stay ahead of the game.
The DON’Ts in Private Equity Brand Building
DON’T just talk to yourselves. You need to solicit outside opinions. It is essential to have differentiated firm positioning that is credible, focused, and compelling. Simply getting the firm partners in a room to figure it out doesn’t work. This needs to be based on thorough and impartial research involving candid feedback from firm members as well as limited partners, investment bankers/business brokers, and portfolio company CEOs. It also should include an assessment of the positioning and marketing efforts of key competitors. An investment of time and money is what it takes to do it right.
DON’T try this at home. Or at the office for that matter. Leave it to the pros. Many people have a nephew who recently graduated from college with an art minor who is getting started in web development, but you need seasoned design capabilities. Even more importantly – knowledge of private equity to conduct the research and create the positioning that informs the name, logo, website, marketing materials, and ongoing integrated marketing and PR campaign.
DON’T do it on the cheap. It doesn’t need to be exorbitantly expensive to create and maintain a compelling brand, but it is a major strategic initiative and an investment in the firm’s future success.
DON’T rush it. Good things take time. It’s best not to call an agency a month before going to the market for fundraising, as too often happens. At that point, the best solution becomes an interim one.
DON’T elevate design over content. They are both essential. The design should reflect a firm’s key differentiators, speak to the firm’s audiences and provide a platform for ongoing fresh content such as thought leadership articles, news, social media and videos.
The DOs in Private Equity Brand Building
DO start with research. Thorough internal and external research will identify the key differentiators for the firm. These will serve as the foundation of the brand. The research will take the brand positioning out of the realm of the subjective and, importantly, build consensus within the firm.
DO hire a private equity branding specialist. There are a lot of good design firms, but very few brand research and message development firms that specialize in the complex private equity industry. And even fewer who, in addition to developing the brand, can successfully build and carry out a strategic integrated marketing communications plan.
DO allocate enough time and resources. Thorough brand research and message development takes time – usually two to three months – and resources. Logo development and the associated stationery package usually takes one month, and marketing collateral can take one to two months. Websites usually take three to six months. An integrated marketing communications and public relations campaign should be ongoing and proactive and not solely focused on announcing transactions but on highlighting expertise.
DO support the brand with an integrated, ongoing marketing and public relations campaign. Leverage the new brand positioning through multiple channels to reach limited partners, business owners, investment bankers and business brokers and referral sources. Incorporate brand positioning into your website and marketing materials, presentations and the boilerplate paragraph in news releases. Once it is in place, support it through ongoing firm news announcements, thought leadership pieces, email communications, conference speaking and awards programs. It is important to prove it through real life examples and knowledge sharing, but not just to say you’re smart, accomplished and a great partner.
DO reach out for a free brand assessment discussion. We’re pleased to discuss your goals and needs and provide advice.