Posts Tagged ‘marketing’

The Investor Casting Couch

Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017

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“The Investor Casting Couch”: a mindset that says we are best served at our first meeting, acting cagey, and getting the other party (co-investor, adviser or entrepreneur) to reveal themselves to us first to protect our own self-interest, at all costs. In extreme cases, we must do as little as possible to reveal our own past, ideas or intellectual property.

Reality: Your actions merely serve to show that you have close to zero interest in building a trusting peer-level relationship, collegiality or collaborating in anything other than constant “fear” (stolen IP or contacts). You might, of course, be right on the odd occasion when you have a rogue across the boardroom table. However, 9 times out of 10 assuming that you have done your due diligence properly, you are merely revealing the depth and breath of your own insecurities. Why would you create that first impression? In the misplaced belief, it projects your superiority when all it does is project your stupidity. Why would anyone, except the desperate, choose to spend a millisecond further in your company?

I see this mindset widely adopted by experienced bankers, corporate financiers, private equity and venture capital professionals to the point of huge irritation. They have been a success in their career but they refuse to act like a success. Stop, in the name of common sense!

© James Berkeley 2017. All Rights Reserved.

 

 

Social Media: The Investors Perspective

Wednesday, February 1st, 2017

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I get asked by investors about the role of social media in stimulating the profitable growth of mid-market business-to-consumer and business-to-business targets seeking growth capital. My default response is ‘why does someone want to share their video, tweet, blog? Then, how does it help them (entrepreneur) and you (investor) achieve your goals in the next 12 months?’ If you don’t have a compelling answer to that question, it is probably a waste of time and going to have zero impact on the firm’s growth. Review any YouTube, Twitter, Instagram or Facebook listing of most popular videos, tweets, images or blog posts and there is always that one thing that made people share it. That is the secret sauce. The son of one of my old bosses, Sam Tsui, an American songwriter, has had incredible success attracting 2.5 million subscribers to his YouTube channel. Sam is talented (Yale-educated). He possesses a great voice. He has learned to leverage the medium with great effect (singing duets with himself) in order to create a strong brand.

However, sharing alone is insufficient for Sam and the businesses I describe because there is no taste or noise filter, think of profane rants from soccer fans, product disasters and compromising personal photos, dressed up as “comedy” or black humour.

There needs to be a “gravity” pull for your target audience and a reason to keep returning. That requires volume, value and consistent messaging (“VVM”) to create engagement. Paid promotion works to raise “conscious” awareness of your product or service for a millisecond but it does little to stimulate someone to act (subscribe, make the call, visit the store, buy). So long as you put the marketing investment in the appropriate context, there is little to worry about but you must be willing to be intellectually honest about the results.

© James Berkeley 2017. All Rights Reserved.

 

Why Should They Care?

Thursday, January 19th, 2017

I hate being “pitched” ideas, it immediately feels like my interests (building a trusting relationship) are being subordinated to advance your interests (line your pockets). Yet we all need to attract ideal customers or investors with a memorable description of our impressive value. How else can they recall when they need your product, service or proposed investment? You need a clear crisp 1 or 2 sentence statement. It needs to embrace:

  • Legitimate immediate value
  • Impressive results from its’ application and use
  • Improved performance, not problem solving
  • Your target audience’s aspirations
  • It needs to be specific, not too general

It is not about your approach, technology or ideas. Nor is it a sales tag line.

“We have created a platform to resolve the shortcomings of wealth managers, who put their interests before their customers” is interesting but it tells me little about what is really in it for me.

Contrast this with “We dramatically improve HNW investors’ performance, security and peace of mind in complex and ambiguous situations”, which begs the immediate question “great, tell me what would you suggest in this situation?” You have given the other party a reason to care about you (their self-interest), to immediately delve into a pragmatic not conceptual discussion and to recommend you to others.

© James Berkeley 2017. All Rights Reserved.

 

What Does A Family Office Do

Wednesday, August 31st, 2016

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Spending time trying to define the differences between a “Private Office”, a “Private Investment Office”, a Single or Multi “Family Office”, is largely an exercise in futility. They are all labels that started with clarity but overtime have diffused into a host of different products, services and relationships serving the needs of HNW and UHNW individuals. There is no faculty. Today, there are hedge funds (SAC), private equity firms (Blue Pool Capital), investment firms (George Soros), lifestyle and concierge service firms, lawyers (DLA Piper), accountants (KPMG), search firms and a host of others morphing into one or more of these labels.

If you are establishing such an organisation today, seeking to utilise their services or do business with them, it is far more valuable to powerfully state, “we are an expert in …..” or ask “what exactly are you an expert in?” A great response, “We are the market-leading expert in accelerating the preservation of UHNW clients’ inter-generational wealth and the generation of income to support their lifestyle needs.” A lousy response, “we are an expert in financial and non-financial needs of UHNW clients including….(a laundry list of services)”

The listener wants to quickly know why THEY should give you the time of day. If you cannot peek their interest quickly, perhaps you are a commodity they can do without or you don’t value your own services highly? Which is it?

© James Berkeley 2016. All Rights Reserved.

Trusting Your Fundraising Technique

Tuesday, August 16th, 2016

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The crucible of the Olympics separates those, who implicitly trust their technique honed over early mornings and thousands of hours of practice and those, who fear the headlines that will be writ large about their despair. The “mental toughness” commentators talk about is really a mindset issue. A “fear of failure” cripples talent. A “no fear” mindset allows talent to flow.

Owners and top managers in growth businesses don’t have to wait four years for their golden opportunity. Rarely is your failure final, nor are you likely to be written off publicly.

Why cannot you walk into that investor meeting knowing you have tremendous value to bring and do your absolute best without fear? Why cannot you exude implicit confidence in your recommendations and demonstrate absolute credibility? If you knew you couldn’t fail what would you say to the current or prospective investor and how would you direct the conversation to convert the opportunity?

Many entrepreneurs and executives tell me hundreds of reasons why the investor passed on the opportunity. Most have reasonable language techniques but they don’t trust themselves in the moment. They freeze, their mind becomes scrambled and they default to “selling” (proving their worth) rather providing value (showing their worth) to the other party. When their conversation is subordinated to a sales pitch, which is quickly rejected, it is game over.

Believe in your skills and expertise implicitly and maintain a mindset that failure is temporary at worst. Your audience want you to succeed. They are investing 60 minutes of time because they believe it will be time well spent building a formal or informal relationship with you.

© James Berkeley 2016. All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

What Is Your Story

Tuesday, May 31st, 2016

 

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Every week I get smart, intelligent entrepreneurs coming to me for “help” with strategy and tactics to grow their business, raise capital, partner or even exit. I decline the overwhelming majority not because they don’t have a smart proposition but because I don’t have confidence that they can create and communicate a compelling story.

If they cannot convince me that they can get over the line, why would I invest my time and energy in convincing others? Of course, there are people I overlook who go on to prove me wrong.

The problem I find is that Founders, who may have been hugely successful in a big organisation or a different environment automatically assume their past performance and credibility confers a compelling story to others. Much as the celebrity dropping the “do you know who I am” line at the overbooked airline desk or the nightclub hostess. It rarely works.

It is about today’s story, today’s investment decision, and today’s health of your business.

Who are you today? What do you actually represent to a high potential investor, buyer or partner? How are they better off or personally better supported in investing in your success?

Knowing the answers to those questions doesn’t confer success but it sure gets your head and story into the appropriate context.

© James Berkeley 2016. All Rights Reserved.

The Media Mirror

Friday, April 1st, 2016

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Why do so many business media interviews tell us less about the individual’s story and more about their fears? If the objective of talking to a “friendly” reporter is to increase the likelihood that you are seen as an object of  interest (credibility, intellect, empathy) amongst your key constituents (clients, prospects, shareholders, employees, business partners etc), you would be wise to start by understanding the reporter’s objectives.

1. What logical and emotional priorities is he/she seeking to accomplish?
2. Why interview me? (unique story)
3. Why now? (event or occurrence)
4. Why in the manner suggested? (environment, conditions etc)
5. How is the reporter better off or better supported after the interview is published?

I see a great many successful business folk, investors and board chairs expressing anguish at what they see in the “media mirror”. “He twisted my words”, “She portrayed me in an ugly or vulgar light” or “They lied to me”.

The reporter is the easy soft target for their frustration when the real culprit is the individual themselves. They failed to ask themselves the right questions before agreeing to the interview and they walked into the interview I’ll-prepared with their ego dangling out front.

Media promotion is an important part of building a marketing gravity to businesses that  want to lower acquisition overheads and accelerate top line revenues. Doing it right is more important than not doing it at all.

 

Copyright James Berkeley 2016. All Rights Reserved.

 

Obese Businesses In A Healthy World

Monday, March 21st, 2016

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If you hire a personal fitness trainer or financial adviser, you would reasonably expect that they visibly are the embodiment of the healthy lifestyle and prudent risk taking that they promote. If you hire a large consulting firm you would reasonably expect that they are the embodiment of  the reinvention and innovation they promote. Specifically,

  • How does our brand stand out in a crowded market when our buyers don’t see the differences?
  • How do we bridge the gap between our existing buyers’ perception about the quality of our work (high) and their propensity to recommend and refer us to new prospects (low)?
  • Which area of the market should we stake out and leverage digital technology to transform our clients’ future?

That thought crossed my mind at the recent launch event of Source Global Research’s UK and global consulting market findings. The hard evidence suggests that many of these large firms don’t have the answers in respect of their own market. Buyers report close to zero differentiation across their service offering and a low propensity to recommend or refer these firms. The consulting firms themselves are directing marketing resources to the entirety of the market without regard to their ideal buyers, largely reliant on foot soldiers knocking on client doors and service offerings driven by production capability rather than client need.

Indeed, I walked away thinking that many boutique and solo consulting firms including my own are actually way ahead of many large global consultants. Forced by necessity, small entrepreneurial firms have created strong and clear value propositions, identified and directed limited marketing resources to their ideal buyers not every buyer, prioritised building a strong marketing gravity to their brand and created a range of offerings at increasing price points that are tightly customised to their target client’s needs. For once, the grass is indeed greener on the small guy’s side of the fence.

This isn’t an isolated phenomena. Clients of large advisory firms in global equities and fixed income research, investment banking, re(insurance) broking, private equity, private banking and so forth are coming to a conclusion that the large firms and traditional value chain is not working for their benefit. While small firms are creating new value propositions, new ways to attract clients, new ways to integrate high tech into the client experience and so forth, the larger players are largely falling back on trying to sell more of the same in more ingenious manners (leverage) and defending their turf. The trouble is that they don’t have watertight doors. Technology is rapidly providing faster and more impressive ways to apply knowledge to capital and human resources. Size alone is not a guarantee of future survival.

Everyone talks about “disruption” today as if it demands a new or unique response before, during or after an event. I don’t look at it that way. I see it that many large and mid-sized advisory firms in different sectors have got away from the marketing focus, discipline and resolve to compete effectively. They have layered complexity (bureaucracy) over what started out as a simple business with a simple marketing structure and process. The world has and will always change (new regulation, new technology, new capital sources, new competition will arise).

If they prioritise, hire and develop the requisite marketing skills, have their people do the right things, hold them accountable and reward them appropriately, they will have control and relevance. If they sail away from that imperative, they will have increasing insecurity and fear, which ultimately will lead to increasing mergers or worse, extinction.

© James Berkeley 2016. All Rights Reserved.

Publishing Path

Tuesday, September 8th, 2015

Walk in a hotel and the best concierges will not only point you towards where to go, they will lead the way to your destination and in so doing provide immediate value, sometimes in surprising ways (what to see, where to eat, how to get into the must-see show).

What does your publishing tell others (ideal customers, shareholders, employees, business partners) about “what”, “where”, “when”, “why” and “how” you want them to act with your help?

Telling me what you think is moderately valuable, showing me how you would act with my money and best interests at heart is impressive. Having others doing the telling (testimonials, hosted events, forums and so on) is even more impactful.

Every bank, insurer, asset and investment manager and advisory firm is weekly or daily self-publishing (published research, newsletters, online presence). The overwhelming majority of the effort is having little or no impact on their key constituents’ behaviour. That is a fact. It is bland, it is regurgitated ideas packaged as “new” or statements of the blindingly obvious. The intent is not clear or it acts as a “stop sign”.

They persist “because everyone else is doing it”.

Stop for a moment and ask this:

1. What would my ideal customer base look like in 12 months?

2. What aspects of my publishing would not only attract them to our brand (results, credibility, expertise) but cause them to act (emotional connection) in a positive manner? That is a huge difference.

3. What offerings do we have or we can create that our publishing can point existing or prospective clients towards at different price points offering increasing value?

4. How do we best curate our publishing within an existing client or a new client relationship?

Publishing is like a sequence of sign posts with different dimensions.

1. Are they pointing towards your future or past business?
2. Are they moving the customer faster towards your offerings and their desired improvement?
3. Are they offering immediate value that builds trust and enhances your credibility?
4. Is the frequency and quality of the publishing consistent with where you want your business, relationships, customer base, finances and productivity to be in 12 months?

A nice smile or an arm pointing out where to go is helpful but if it doesn’t visibly get me to my desired destination.

Focus on results (increased credibility, lower acquisition costs, stronger brand, larger pipeline) and work backwards with your publishing as the “sign posts”.

Copyright James Berkeley 2015. All Rights Reserved.