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Thursday
Mar202014

A Must-Read Book For Fund Company Marketers

“Must be curious.”

If I were hiring a marketer for a mutual fund or exchange-traded fund (ETF) company today, that’s the requirement that I’d lead with in a job posting.

Curiosity is what elevates the marketer from the daily grind of “making the donuts” and propels the kind of inquiry that produces above average work. For content marketing and storytelling, in particular, a marketer needs to be curious about the world around him or her.

There is a way to do fund marketing—just go to the meetings, pick up the work, turn around the work and then route it to everybody else to have the final say. Ugh.

Marketers who overcome this dynamic want to learn more, to know more and to develop a deeper understanding of how investment products are manufactured, managed, distributed and evaluated. With that knowledge as a basis, we should be better able to create and advocate for communications and marketing initiatives that better connect.

Toward Better Question-Asking

It’s never been easier for asset management marketers to learn more about the business they’re in. As I mentioned in my last post, the full ecosystem—financial advisors, wholesalers, investors, media, vendors—can be observed in real-time online.

This week, a new resource has been made available, and I wholeheartedly recommend it. Letters to a Young Analyst is a 99-page ebook by Tom Brakke, with contributions from other industry veterans.

Brakke describes himself as a consultant, writer, and investment advisor. Over his career, he has been an analyst, portfolio manager, director of research, professor, and “creator of investment products and systems for evaluating and communicating investment ideas.”

On Twitter, he is @researchpuzzler, an account (and related blog) that I consistently name when asked about favorite accounts to follow. Brakke discovers and shares relevant content that I wouldn’t stumble upon on my own. Links to his own work provide access to critical thinking on how professionals evaluate and present investment opportunities, including due diligence.

His is a different, increasingly influential voice that frequently comments on what investment managers (including their marketing efforts) are up to. It's helpful as a perspective on how your "audience" is reacting to your communications.

A few examples:

  • Alts Boot Camp—Brakke calls out a Pioneer Investments chart as “an example of the superficial simplicity with which retail alternatives are being marketed.” 
  • Years of Experience—Brakke says the promise of portfolio teams’ “years of experience” (a common measure used in asset manager marketing materials) is a mirage, and probably not worth giving so much emphasis to.
  • A Fund Manager’s Actions Should Match the Message (on the Wall Street Journal Experts blog), in which Brakke answers the question, “What is the No. 1 warning sign for investors in a fund’s marketing material?”

Brakke’s tweets are a must-read, and if you were on my Marketing staff, you’d now be required to read his book. Marketing barely rates a mention in it, and that’s the point. Curious marketers excel by learning more about everything else, including—and maybe especially—thinking beyond what’s happening in Marketing and beyond your firm’s walls. This ebook is an antidote to the “investment guru worship" that asset management marketers can be sucked into (and then help perpetuate).

Letters to a Young Analyst contains a trove of insights. I’ve tried but I can’t extract pithy lines to illustrate its value. You have to surrender to the story—in two parts of the ebook, Brakke is coaching a young analyst over a series of several “letters.” It’s a career guide that draws on his experiences, his influences and his biases. Another part of the book includes commentary from others, also filled with gems.

Taken all together, it provides a grounding for marketers who aren’t trained in investment analysis. It's Inside Investing for those who work on a different floor than the Investments team.

A better understanding of what analysts do, and even where they’re vulnerable, can help tune your next information-gathering/content idea-harvesting encounters with your Investments teams. It wasn’t written for you but you can benefit from it.

The last part of the ebook is a compilation of relevant resources (books, publications and Websites) that I’ve never seen pulled together in one place before. Brakke gives a shout-out to a few lists I maintain, and I should say that he provided the book to me as a thank-you. I would have happily paid the $24.95. There's $5 off if you're among the first 100 purchasers using the offer code: puzzlepiece.

You can buy the ebook here. Those who purchase the book will automatically be signed up for a quarterly newsletter subscription.