The words “marketing” and “private equity” are rarely mentioned in the same sentence. This area of the investment community has an abiding image of discretion but things are changing.
Private equity (“PE”) companies are turning to content marketing (“content”) to shape and evolve their brands. Competition is now a catalyst for firms to try and shake off their reputation of remaining under the radar. Many PE firms are evolving their thinking and strategies to stand out from the crowd.
In the past, marketing meant creating content for AGMs or for reporting to existing investors. Other activities were considered unimportant or secondary. In some cases, a website is still not considered a worthwhile investment - even today there are some PE firms that just have a holding page with an email address and telephone number.
To date, the PE sector has heavily relied on networks and relationships. These of course continue to matter, but as new generations of business owners and investors appear, they are looking for successful and contemporary businesses that resonate with their own identity, values and ways of working - they want to work with firms that understand more modern ways of doing business online.
Opportunities in the market are higher in volume and more fragmented, which means firms need to position their brand and reputation alongside potential returns to win over investors and investments. Whether it is video, infographics, white papers or reports, by investing in content, PE houses are shaping their brand and investing in the future. This is something that helps in every respect:
- Origination: Increasing access to portfolio companies from addressable markets. Contacting management teams periodically with relevant content and thought leadership to establish and maintain connections.
- Winning Investments: Convincing successful businesses that you are a partner that reflects and understands their way of working and can take them where they want to go.
- Fundraising: Creating a comprehensive framework to increase awareness, expand contact networks and engage new Limited Partners (LPs) such as pension funds, family offices or sovereign wealth funds. Investors want to work with the houses that can win competitive selection processes - processes where the brand experience and themes such impact investment, ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) or track record in digital transformation are clearly presented and may be a deciding factor. Digital Fundraising is a rapidly growing area.
- Coverage: Keeping in touch with the advisory market with relevant, timely and insightful content. Staying in touch with investors across fund cycles.
- PR & Communications: Developing your public, employee or media reputation.
- Transactions: Showcasing new investments or exiting a business.
- Strategy: Presenting your management style or approach to an investment.
- Sectors: Highlighting experience, expertise and track record within industries.
- Case studies: Presenting the lifecycle of a flagship investment.
- Brand: Emphasising your brand’s key attributes.
- Thematic: Displaying key themes such as sustainability or innovation.
There are many examples where these types of content are used and deployed, including company websites, social networks, email campaigns and media publishers. The difference today is that the power of content can be used precisely and can in turn be measured and monitored effectively online. This provides powerful insights into the returns that companies get from their campaigns. Using seeding and search techniques you can push your content to the right people and attract them towards your business. Not all views are created equal, so figuring how to target LPs or precisely is crucial to measuring the success and returns from any campaign.
- Seeding: Content can be sent directly to target audiences through LinkedIn (i.e. marketing content that presents your industry credentials to Chairmen, CEOs and CFOs of sector-specific companies in your addressable market with the right market cap and geography). Targeting new investors and LPs can be done through Twitter or LinkedIn to increase awareness, generate enquiries and establish new connections. Distributing content to other private equity businesses and sponsors offering debt facilities or other vehicles.
- Search: Content can be optimised to improve how people find companies on Google. These may be for industry-specific searches (like healthcare), long-tail keywords of two words or more (such as "emerging markets private equity") or different themes and related topics (impact investment or different investment approaches). Search optimisation (SEO) is usually done organically to start with. Organic SEO should be a bi-product of good content creation and distribution. Search can also done through "paid" distribution for longer keyword groups that generate low volume but high quality traffic. For instance, a firm could serve an ad on Google if some generated a search that matched keywords similar to "mid-cap European healthcare private equity investors").
- Digital: PE houses are setting themselves up online correctly so they can capture the right data from their daily traffic and build new custom audiences in their CRM around their investor, intermediary, talent, portfolio and investment networks. This often requires a digital audit to ensure that the planning, content, distribution and measurement of content marketing activities are working correctly.
In short, content marketing can increase access to new LPs and portfolio companies. This suggests that the growing trend and increase in firms using content marketing will add much more colour and insight into an important sector, which underpins many global economic benchmarks and indicators.