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For Asset Managers, Thought Leadership is the Key Differentiator

In an evolving value chain, in which investment decision-making is becoming more centralized among insulated consultants, asset management firms must be able to stand out and get noticed or risk sliding deeper into irrelevance. Short of producing chart-topping returns year after year, the only way firms win the battle of time and attention with these gatekeepers is by generating insightful and thought-provoking content that distinguishes it from other marketing content. That means going beyond the typical fact sheets, service pitches, and commentaries, which are hardly differentiators, and developing content that showcases some homegrown thought leadership.

Thought Leadership as a Powerful Marketing Tool

In a digital world, where the opportunities for face-to-face interaction are becoming scarce, thought leadership is much more than some vague concept. Regardless of the industry, business decisionmakers want to do business with organizations they can trust. Thought leadership is a way to build that trust. A survey of more than 1,300 business leaders conducted by LinkedIn and PR agency Edelman revealed that 82 percent said thought leadership increased their trust in an organization. Nearly half said thought leadership compelled them to do business with a company. Of particular note, 35 percent of business leaders also reported that poor thought leadership was a reason for not doing business with a company.

Clearly, when well-conceived and properly executed, thought leadership can be a significant brand-building factor for asset managers. It can also provide sales teams with the ability to open doors and create strategic partnerships.

The Elements of Impactful Thought Leadership

Essentially, thought leadership is about creating content that provides people with a different perspective on issues that matter to them. Authentic thought leadership challenges conventional wisdom while provoking or influencing thought.

Memorable, insightful, and impactful thought leadership content is built on the following key elements:

Timely, relevant and targeted

For the greatest impact, thought leadership content should be timely and relevant to its intended audience. As with any type of marketing content, it should be developed with the end-client in mind and tailored appropriately.

Outspoken without being confrontational

It should be original, with a clearly stated point of view that challenges the status quo and takes the conversation in a new direction without being reckless or pointlessly provocative. The idea is not to compete with news of the day but to create content with a compelling perspective that also answers the question, “what does this mean to me?”

Promote your expertise, not your product

It has to be credible, based on a particular expertise or specialty backed by extensive research. Any whiff of self-promotion or generic insights is likely to raise questions on what the article is actually selling, which can taint the authenticity of a firm’s thought leadership.

Stay in your lane

Attempting to cover all your bases with your thought leadership can only dilute your efforts and minimize your return. Find a niche, drill down and capitalize on your expertise to create memorable and impactful thought leadership.

Leverage your efforts

When you do get your thought leadership published, utilizing the reprints in your marketing efforts can compound its value to the firm. Reprints from a high profile publication – posted on your website and social media or featured in an email campaign – can bring instant credibility to the firm’s sales efforts – making it easier for your sales team to get through to decision makers.

Thought leadership done right isn’t easy; otherwise, everyone would be doing it. It requires a commitment of time and resources to produce quality content but, when it hits the target, it can be your most powerful marketing and sales tool.

For asset managers, timely and relevant industry research or opinion pieces in trade magazines, or whitepapers disseminated through digital channels can provide new perspectives on the firm. And, for clients and prospects who have come to expect purely promotional pitches, thought leadership content can be refreshing.

Dan Sondhelm is CEO of Sondhelm Partners, a firm that helps asset managers, mutual funds, ETFs, wealth managers and fintech companies grow through marketing, public relations and sales programs. Click to read Dan’s latest Insight articles and to schedule a complimentary consultation.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.


The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

Dan Sondhelm

Dan Sondhelm is the CEO of Sondhelm Partners, a firm designed to help institutional investment managers, mutual fund and ETF firms, wealth managers and fintech firms attract investors, strengthen distribution and build brands through sales, marketing and public relations strategies. Dan has been instrumental in helping boutique firms develop strong distribution programs and helping larger firms support and energize their sales teams. Dan was nominated by MutualFundWire in 2009 as one of the Most Influential People in Fund Distribution for his guidance and perspective in helping companies grow. Dan also frequently contributes to the financial news media and presents or moderates at industry conferences and webinars. Prior to establishing Sondhelm Partners, Dan was a senior partner and senior vice president at SunStar Strategic since 1990. Dan earned an MBA from the Kogod College of Business Administration at American University in Washington, DC. He lives in Alexandria, VA with his wife Jenna, twin children Madeleine and Gabriel, and cat Remy.

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