Opera singers are said to have it – the ability to hear any musical note and tell you exactly what that note is – from A Minor to G Sharp with 100% accuracy. This skill is often referred to as the Absolute Pitch, but most of us know it as ‘Perfect Pitch’.
When we look at the how many fund managers tell their investment story through their PowerPoint slide decks, their “Pitches” are far from perfect, and we think that there is a better way.
So how did we get here?
Like any industry, things just develop over time and become the norm – a standard template emerges that says we must have our slide deck in a particular order because this is how it has always been done. Provided below is an example of the typical structure: –
- Our Company
- Our Team
- Our Philosophy
- Our Process
- Our Product
- Our Performance
And given the regulatory changes in our industry over the past decade – 10 pages of disclaimers to keep the compliance officers happy (100 pages if a US firm)…
So what is wrong with this structure/approach?
The above slide order suffers from one major problem in my view, and that is, that Channel WIIFM is nowhere to found. It also assumes that a customer’s key interest, is in learning about the company, prior to learning about the opportunity that is being presented. In a face to face appointment, which is the most valuable sales exchange that there is, we recommend moving quickly into, “this is how my capability/product/idea is going to help you produce better returns/better outcomes/lower risk, and here is why,” if we want to engage the audience. There is little hope of engaging an audience if we start off by blabbing on about our company first (there are exceptions of course!).
The fast moving consumer good markets provide a simple example of how to engage in Channel WIIFM quickly
If we look to fast moving consumer good (FMCG) companies, we can find the answer on how to effectively communicate very quickly. They are experts at stressing what benefits they provide on their packaging to engage you upfront. The purchaser can then make a decision as to whether these benefits matter at the time of purchase. If they are not ready to make the purchase at that time, they may go away and conduct their own research on the company and products being offered, so that when they are next ready to buy that product, they will have what they need to act.
Take the Colgate ‘Cavity Protection’ product, as one example. On the label it clearly communicates that if you are interested in having ‘Stronger Teeth (primary benefit) with Active Flavour (augmented benefit)’ (versus inactive flavour?) then here is a product for you – remembering that Colgate have tens of products in this segment, and so their message needs to be quick to engage their target audience.
Obviously we all know who Colgate is, and that helps our purchasing decision because of their very heavy investment in brand and distribution (a subject for a different time).
Is there a better way for fund managers to present their stories using the Colgate approach?
We argue yes.
The ‘what’s on the box’ is very simple and effective in communicating the key benefits – hopefully those message resonate with the target audience, so that a purchase can occur. To use an analogy, Colgate has a very small amount of real-estate in which to communicate with an audience – after all, a toothpaste box is pretty small. In the same way, a fund manager only has three to five minutes in which to engage their audience in what can sometimes be a 45-60 minute exchange. Time, as we know, is the most precious real-estate on earth, so we need to treat it with respect (especially so given we are using other peoples time to present the case).
To generate better engagement, the new pitch agenda could be reordered as such:-
- Our Beliefs/Philosophy – this is what we believe, this is the problem we are solving and why we present such a great opportunity for your clients. I’m interested.. tell me more about this.
- The Evidence – here is the evidence that what we do works, and that our set of beliefs can be exploited. Other investors like you have also invested in our fund (risk reduction strategy). You now have my full attention…
- Our Edge – this is how we are able to exploit this market anomaly/weakness versus our competitors, this is how we are unique and is why we have delivered, and will continue to deliver into the future. More please – the rest of the structure will allow the client to delve deeper, subject to what they want to learn.
- Our Process – this is how we go about capturing those inefficiencies etc
- Our Products – this is how you can access this capability
- Our Team – here are the smarty pants that make it happen – all CFAs are created equal in the eyes of the Lord, so look for interesting ways in which to tell your team story.
- Our Company – we have been doing this a long time – you can trust us.
The first three points listed above, should be short and punchy (the key parts of the elevator pitch) – the other subjects will take time but until you have the clients attention, they will have little interest in the process and company etc. Importantly, the order shifts from boilerplate, mind numbing “aren’t we wonderful statements” to “here is a great opportunity that you must consider.” If the client can see the same opportunity (and not all of them will – try pitching active equities to a DFA zealot!), they will naturally ask questions about your company and the team etc. But until you get me excited – why would I want to know about these aspects of the firm etc?
In a similar way, Apple does not have to tell everyone how good they are or who they are. They know they are good, so they just get on with creating exciting products and services – every time there is a new product release there are lines out the door! Their packaging is the most austere in the IT industry too, to highlight how confident they are about their proposition. Less is best as it were.
It’s all about the conversation and not the word count
It is great to have a well laid out pitch document, as we suggest above, however, over the past two years we have been asking our managers to have these pitch books to hand, as documents to refer to at various times throughout the pitch, and to instead, focus on having an engaging conversation with the target audience.
The conversation should match the agenda laid out above – it should be authentic, from the heart and should showcase your passion for what you offer. (We have assumed that the client has been pre-qualified and wants to hear about the opportunity in this instance).
Evidence that this approach works
We recently assisted an offshore manager refine their pitch in a room of very forthright investors. Their brief was to provide ‘no holds barred’ feedback to the manager, and we did not assist the manager with their pitch prior to the session – it was an earth shattering experience for the manager – there was nowhere to hide!
But there is always light after the darkness… The day after the pitch service, I got a call from their Head of Sales in the region who said they had just road tested parts of our feedback in the two meetings held that day. And the result? “We have not had that level of engagement in our meetings in some time.” (We have not supplied the fund manager name for confidentiality but if you would like to speak to them about their experience, please call me to discuss).
To summarise – in any pitch, focus on Channel WIIFM to get the audience excited early on. To do that, we have to turn the pitch agenda upside down and focus on client outcomes and how exciting the opportunity is – what have you got to lose by taking this approach?
Andrew Fairweather, Founding Partner and Managing Director