6 Ingredients for Effective Institutional Thought Leadership

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We know how challenging it can be to get the attention of institutional investors, but luckily for asset managers, there is one tool in the institutional marketing toolbox that offers the best opportunity of getting noticed: thought leadership. When done right, institutional investors will not only read thought leadership from managers they are already doing business with, but will also consume pieces from unknown managers, offering firms a way in—and a chance to build a favorable brand impression.

According to a series of focus groups and one-on-one interviews we conducted with institutional investors, thought leadership materials must have six ingredients to craft effective thought leadership materials for this exclusive audience:

  1. Timely
  2. Unique
  3. Sophisticated
  4. Engaging
  5. Objective
  6. Credible

Thought leadership has the greatest chance of being read if the topic is timely and unique. To reach institutional investors, lead with bold and forward-focused statements. No one wants to read the same thing written by 20 different managers, so strive to produce the most differentiated viewpoints backed by well-constructed arguments.

“If I’ve got something right now about the Dutch elections … I’m much more likely to read it.” Investment Committee Chair, New York, $330M Endowment & Foundation Investor

“I like to read dissent because I’m bombarded with mainstream views. 
I want some rational expectation with the cause for each view they have.” CFO, IDI, $50M Defined Contribution Investor

Effective pieces must balance being sophisticated, engaging and objective. For asset managers, the key lies in knowing how to adjust the sophistication dial to match the appropriate tone of voice and education level for each institutional investor segment. To execute this strategy, create community- and industry-specific content tailored to the needs and interests of each audience. For example, the objectives of retirement plans serving part-time employees dramatically differ from the objectives of retirement plans serving aging baby boomers. Similarly, the thought leadership pieces that most resonate with the unique needs of an oil and gas company retirement plans vary greatly from those that most resonate with non-profit or university pension plans.

“It’s not as good as some of the endowment manager commentary. … They know the audience that they are speaking to is probably not as a sophisticated group of investors, and so it’s not as detailed and deep.” CFO, New York, $80M DC and Endowment & Foundation Investor

I loved how it just focused me in right away and giving real eight reasons why they’re bullish on real assets … I’d love to spend time reading this and understanding why they’re bullish on real assets.” SVP Finance, New York, $70M Defined Contribution Investor

“So they took more objective approach to that, rather than saying,‘Here’s why you need to have it’… I’m looking for a more objective view of assets management than someone trying to persuading [sic] you why they’re best.” CFO, IDI, $50M Defined Contribution Investor

Finally, thought leadership produced by firms must be backed by strong underlying investment performance in order to be deemed credible and worthy of consumption.

“They may be saying things that sound insightful, but if they’re not making good returns then you think, well, it looks a little suspect.” CIO, New York, $2B Endowment & Foundation Investor

At the end of day, however, it’s important for managers to lead with strategic ideas. After all, a smart, forward-thinking, provocative piece has the potential of not only being read by the primary target but passed along to trusted institutional investor colleagues and community members.


For more information on this report, Cutting Through the Institutional Marketing Clutter™, review an overview.


This entry was posted in Brand and Messaging, Financial Services and tagged by Sonia Sharigian. Bookmark the permalink.
Sonia Sharigian

About Sonia Sharigian

Sonia is a product director for Cogent Reports with more than 10 years of experience in journalism, marketing and research. She has managed numerous qualitative and quantitative studies in the financial services industry, as well as the hospitality, consumer packaged goods and retail sectors. Prior to Market Strategies, Sonia served as a community manager for Communispace Corporation, where she helped major brands generate game-changing insights via online communities. She also worked as a public relations specialist for Putnam Investments and as a staff reporter for Community Newspaper Company. Sonia earned an MBA from Boston University School of Management and a bachelor’s degree in communications from Simmons College. She is an ardent Patriots fan who recently became hooked on sprint triathlons.

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