Finding and Developing Your Story

Jul 24, 2018

| Distribution

For investment advisers focused on managing a portfolio, the idea of developing public relations and marketing materials is not always top of mind, a high priority, or an easy undertaking. During Ultimus’ Client Summit earlier this year, one of our industry presenters, Bill Hortz, Dean of the Institute for Innovation Development, discussed the reasons why a story makes a compelling, memorable, and useful way for firms to create the basis of their public relations and marketing materials.

In the presentation, Hortz laid out a process for how investment advisers can determine and build their unique story. Since the presentation was so useful to our clients, he summarized key points to share. In this blog, he outlines five approaches to building a unique firm story for public relations and marketing purposes. He also shares four practical pointers on how to continue developing a company story and using it for firm positioning.

If growing assets and building brand awareness are a focus for your investment firm, developing your unique story will help produce better public relations messaging and more focused marketing materials. For a deeper understanding of how to bring your story to life and use it effectively, continue below.

Author Bill Hortz, Dean of the Institute for Innovation Development

“Marketing is no longer about the stuff that you make, but about the stories that you tell” – Seth Godin, Tribes author

In an age of explosive volumes of data and digital transformation, breaking through to reach and grow your audience requires a very human approach; not just more data, metrics, platitudes and fact sheets. You need to tell stories.

Storytelling continues to be one of the most powerful, effective and compelling ways to communicate–to truly reach and move another person to take action. Maybe even more so in an information bombarded world. We need curators and storytellers to make sense of this data assault to provide context, perspectives, wisdom and thought leadership. Storytelling can impart a lingering cognitive resonance to a topic, invites personal engagement and builds strong connections between people. We, as a species, are hard-wired to listen to and accept authentic stories.

While an art, storytelling is also a science. It is something that can be learned and honed. Your corporate messages can be fashioned and structured into engaging narratives, dialogues and story formats. You can also look at it as the application of facts and messaging into a format that is designed for the practical purpose of engagement of the reader/listener.

The following outlines the process we creatively apply with the firms we interview to help them in building a story mindset and then an ongoing process to continuously develop that differentiated story positioning.

  1. Communicating Your Why? – Social scientists, like Simon Sinek, have proven with their research that people are more interested and motivated, not by What you do, but Why you do it? Spend time thinking about Why you are passionate about what you do and try to verbalize it.
  2. Sharing Your Personal Story – Everyone’s life journey is unique. There may be a number of interesting or formative experiences that shaped your decisions and the development of your firm and services that may resonate with prospects. You may also have a number of key members of your firm that come from different, non-traditional paths that bring unique perspective or experiences to your firm.
  3. Curator of Intriguing Facts/Happenings – You may be focused in an area of the market or on investment processes that most intrigue and fascinate you. Share the most unique and not widely known facts and happenings in your area of expertise to further intrigue others about what you do.
  4. Deep Thought and Unvarnished Perspectives – Well thought out opinions and perspectives, actively shared, invite people to listen and create a dialogue. To become known as a vocal thought leader on important and core topics can bring kudos to thinkers willing to share and take a stand. It can help you build a tribe of followers who agree with your positions or appreciate you leading important debates and discussions in that area that is also important to them.
  5. Stock Stories – Instead of focusing on explaining conceptual investment philosophy such as top down-bottom up/deep value/free cash flow and so on, stock stories give you practical, more tangible examples of the outcomes of your portfolio process that investors can relate to. Three value managers can state the same or very similar investment philosophies but different stock stories can materially differentiate how they uniquely apply their process to the same universe of stocks and provide investors with a better picture of what to expect from their portfolio management. I can personally vouch from my experience that stock stories work exceedingly well in differentiating your firm and they work not just in retail markets but with pension consultants and institutional markets as well.

Here are some practical pointers on how to keep developing your story, mindset and positioning:

  1. 360 discussions – Do not just rely on your own thinking. Be intentional in bringing in and asking others for their thoughts and perspectives on your story: other principals, staff, clients, vendors and strategic partners. Sometimes we are so busy and engaged doing what we are doing that we cannot see the big picture or the small but powerful story to tell.
  2. Positioning as a thought leader – To build your status as a thought leader and build that social capital for your business, you need to actively and consistently get your message out in multiple formats and places to build that cumulative positioning as a recognized and accessible expert.
  3. Curation awareness – Everyone in your firm (not just portfolio managers, researchers, senior management) and external partners should be asked to be on the watch to find and collect articles, YouTube videos, tweets, interviews, webinars, and other sources that contain interesting commentary or facts in your area of expertise. They should be put in a central repository in your firm that you can readily draw from to keep feeding your thought leadership and outreach.
  4. Build a platform – Besides just internally collecting data points and stories, build out your website to create a carefully curated central repository for your clients and prospects on your areas of expertise—consider it as further positioning your firm as a subject matter network.

In the midst of hyper-competition and accelerating change, be comforted and energized. There is always a place for a unique differentiated offering and a good story! For examples of other adviser’s differentiated stories, here are a few links to Q&A articles of investment advisers with varying stories to tell:

Storytelling works because you’re sharing a memory, or a lesson, or you’re inspiring someone with your own story. Rather than just selling, you’re giving something of value. Storytelling offers the opportunity to talk with your audience, not at them. People can’t help but want to be part of your story, and that’s how marketing can happen in a natural way.” – Laura Holloway, The Storyteller Agency

This article was originally contributed to and published on the Harvest Exchange blog.

The Institute for Innovation Development is an educational and business development catalyst for growth-oriented financial advisers and financial services firms determined to lead their businesses in an operating environment of accelerating business and cultural change. We position our members with the necessary ongoing innovation resources and best practices to drive and facilitate their next-generation growth, differentiation and unique community engagement strategies. The institute was launched with the support and foresight of our founding sponsors – Pershing, Voya Financial, Ultimus Fund Solutions, Fidelity, and Charter Financial Publishing (publisher of Financial Adviser and Private Wealth magazines). For more information click here.

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