Click the link below for a step-by-step marketing plan for a private equity firm. Make a copy of the Google Sheet and if you have questions about the various marketing strategies or marketing materials, click the info icon next to the item for a quick explanation.
*Note, any marketing materials/tactics listed in blue are private equity marketing services we provide at Jack Vawdrey LLC. In any other area, we can make a referral.
In the PE space, the term “marketing” often refers to any activity intended to promote a given fund, such as business development emails, deal announcements, portfolio highlights on social media, and so on. Overall, the goal of marketing is to close more deals (ideally proprietary) and build a brand that LPs will be attracted to.
While any marketing effort is good, the best overall marketing strategy to build your firm’s brand will incorporate to varying degrees the following PE marketing sub-strategies:
The below table summarizes how each sub-strategy contributes to an overall marketing strategy, with more details below.
Business development for private equity is the default marketing strategy for a PE fund, and more and more firms are investing resources to build out the biz dev function.
The fundamental objective of biz dev is to have a conversation with prospective portfolio companies and begin building the relationship. The primary tactics for business development include:
Cold emails are an essential channel through which a firm markets itself. Ultimately, a prospect has to make contact and get on a call to move the relationship forward. Email is the best way to coordinate this contact because this channel is asynchronous—no one has to pick up the phone or be available in person to learn more about your company.
Automation is key to reaching scalability with your cold email efforts.
A basic automated email flow might look like the following:
Once you’ve successfully made contact with a prospect, you can then take a bespoke approach, in many cases conducting a quarterly follow up and lending support where possible.
If you’re not employing the above biz dev strategies, then proprietary deal origination will be difficult for you. Unless you’re hoping to rely solely on intermediaries to fund deal flow, you can’t not do biz dev and hope to succeed as a fund.
That being said, less and less are funds able to rely on biz dev alone to build their pipeline. When your cold email is one among 20+, you need to have some other way to differentiate your firm. You can do so by investing in content marketing and PR.
Content marketing, as you likely know, is a marketing strategy wherein a company creates content to educate prospects and build trust for a future relationship. Content marketing is highly valuable for complex business transactions, and there’s no more complicated transaction than partnering with a private equity firm..
The objectives of a content marketing program are threefold:
While much of these activities could also happen on a call with a prospect, think about how hard it is to get someone on a call. Prospects are much more likely to engage with a piece of content than they are to agree to a call. While a call will certainly be necessary at some point, you want to give your prospects as much opportunity as possible to learn about your firm on their own.
Generally, digital marketing (also called internet marketing) is the umbrella term under which content marketing lives, alongside disciplines like paid advertising and social media marketing.
In the private equity space, the terms digital marketing and content marketing are almost synonymous, since you almost always share content with prospects as you market to them on the various channels.
A content marketing program for a private equity firm has three parts:
Content creation involves identifying and explaining topics that either 1) demonstrate expertise as a capital partner, 2) showcase success with past portfolio companies, or 3) demonstrate your understanding of a given industry/sector. These pieces of content can take the form of articles, videos, webinars, podcasts, and more.
Content promotion involves placing that content in front of your prospects, specifically prospects within your database. The primary channels for promoting content include:
Content intelligence involves using web analytics tracking integrated with your CRM to answer the following questions:
See the below examples of a content marketing strategy in action:
Your firm creates an article about what companies should look for in a private equity partner. You share the article organically on social media and also boost the post with paid advertising to an audience of your prospects. Your analytics reporting shows whether that post is more likely to result in a conversation compared to other articles.
Your firm records a testimonial video with a portfolio company. You run a YouTube retargeting campaign to any prospect who visits your site. Your reporting shows how much of the video your prospect watched relative to the advertising cost.
You create a research piece covering trends in a given industry. You share the material via biz dev email and a marketing newsletter to your prospects. Your reporting shows who clicks through the link and what other resources they view on your site.
Your first priority should be to implement a basic biz dev function, but once you do you should start investing in content marketing. Doing so will make your biz dev efforts more effective because:
Similarly, you should also begin PR efforts fairly early in the lifetime of your firm.
While content marketing focuses on educating and building trust with prospects, public relations focuses on showcasing your firm’s success to build social proof for future portfolio companies as well as for intermediaries and LPs.
The most common PR tactics include the following:
Investment & exit announcements. When you bring on a new portfolio company or exit an existing investment, you’ll want to publish a press release (on your site and on a major syndicate) then share that press release across your various channels.
Fund announcements. Fund announcements are press releases reporting any recently raised funds.
Portfolio news. As your portfolio companies achieve important milestones, you’ll want to share their successes on your various channels. These announcements may come in the form of a press release on your own site, a press release on the port co’s site, or a simple social media announcement.
Hiring & promotion announcements. A common PR tactic in the PE space is to publish a release any time you hire or promote key individuals at the firm. These announcements signal the growth of your firm.
Media appearances. In cases where your firm or a partner at your firm makes an appearance in the media as an expert contributor or otherwise, you will want to publicize that appearance on your various channels where appropriate.
Creating and publishing announcements like the ones mentioned above could be done fairly easily by an outside contractor. As your marketing efforts mature, you’ll want to consider bringing on a PR agency who can not only shoulder the basic PR work but also introduce you to media correspondents as an expert contributor.
In what order should you deploy the above strategies and which specific tactics should you use? While you’ll want to adjust your strategy to your circumstances and goals, below is a checklist with specifics that should direct you along a good path. These tasks aren’t purely sequential—some you will be doing simultaneously and others you can wait to do until necessary.
If you have questions about a specific list item, click on it for more details.
For an interactive version of the checklist, feel free to copy this Google Sheet so you can better plan out who will be responsible for which tasks.
Building a strong brand requires not only the right strategy and tactics but also a severe amount of consistency. If you are consistent in promoting your firm over time using the above tactics, your brand will gain the recognition you need to influence more prospects, close more deals, and impress more LPs.
The best way to achieve consistency in marketing is to have a dedicated resource to oversee execution. To learn more about how I can help you achieve that consistency, connect with me on LinkedIn.
As a PE firm, you have a pretty clear idea of what kinds of companies you want to work with. You likely have a CRM full of prospects that match your criteria. The best way to market your firm is to target those prospects directly.
Platforms like LinkedIn Advertising and of course email allow you to upload a list of contacts and share marketing materials with the prospects on your list, so you know every dollar you spend in outreach is going to someone you care about.
Your website is the first place your prospects will go to get to know your firm. In fact, your prospects will visit your website many, many times before they ever respond to your emails.
The standard resources of a private equity site include:
If you don't have a website or it doesn't contain the above resources, then you'll want to hire a web developer to assist you in making updates.
We don't offer web development services at Jack Vawdrey LLC, but we're happy to refer you to someone in our network.
In the private equity world, there's really only one social media platform that you need to worry about, and that's LinkedIn. (Once your marketing program becomes more mature, you can begin considering YouTube as well.)
Setting up social media accounts involves creating or updating a company page to include:
Your outreach program is both a hunting and a harvesting action—hunting because you're actively pursuing relationships with prospects, and harvesting because you're reaching out to prospects who have already spent significant time getting to know your firm through your other marketing efforts.
Your outreach should span several channels, including cold email, cold calls, and optionally LinkedIn messaging, which some firms avoid because they feel it negatively reflects on their brand.
Your outreach program might look something like the following
Once you've planned a sequence of emails, calls, and LinkedIn outreach you'd like to conduct with your prospects, you'll want to select a platform that enables you to automate sending out email messages and planning your calls. There are many, many solutions out there. Here's a short list of a few:
When you begin sending cold emails to prospects, what are you going to say? Of course you'll want to introduce yourself and your firm, but then what?
To add value and avoid pestering your prospects with too many requests for a call, you should create and send them some content that accomplishes one of the following objectives:
Boilerplate copy is the text describing your firm that you'll include at the bottom of every press release you publish. Here's an example from Trivest Partners:
Your investment & exit announcements (sometimes called "tombstones") should be visually appealing cards that show:
Below is an example that Fuel Ventures shared on their LinkedIn page:
Hiring and promotion announcements are a great way to both signal the progress of your firm as well as celebrate the growth of your team members. Below is an example announcement from Insight Partners, though for a smaller firm these announcements will showcase only one or two promotions at a time.
When your port cos hit an exciting milestone (such as a key hire or inclusion on a list like the Inc. 5000), you should publicly celebrate that win. Doing so shows how you and your port cos win together as a partnership.
The process for sharing portfolio news need not be complicated. Whoever is managing your social media accounts should:
Below is an example of portfolio news that Vista Equity Partners published:
A press release is your signal to the world that your firm is doing something noteworthy. To be candid, readers are much less likely to read through your press releases than they are a piece of topical content, but press releases are still important because:
A basic press release will include the following:
What do you write about as a private equity firm? Content tends to fall under one of three categories: educational, expertise-focused, and testimonial.
To come up with topics in all three of these areas, here are some questions to ask yourself:
The best way to brainstorm is in a group because you'll be able to play off of each other. In your first brainstorming session, make a goal to come up with 50 topics, then narrow your list down to 25 to start.
You'll need a dedicated resource to help you execute your content strategy. A skilled writer will be able to interview your team members about the topics you've brainstormed and turn those interviews into written content.
Your writer doesn't necessarily have to come from a finance background. The best way to hire a writer is to:
Keep in mind that your writer should be willing and able to not only write content but also to promote it on social media, in email templates, and more. A content strategist focused on private equity can help you know what to look for.
How many pieces of content do you need to publish monthly? In most cases you only need to create a couple pieces of content per month. The reason for this rule of thumb is that most of your exposure will come from paid social advertising (at least in the beginning), and a paid social campaign should have at least 2 weeks to run to reasonably reach a good portion of your audience. You don't want to spend money creating content that no one ever sees.
For each piece of content you create, create a social media post to promote that article. Some best practices to follow:
Feel free to use hashtags, but just know that they're more about stylizing your post than they are about improving reach.
Content doesn't promote itself—you need to use appropriate channels to get that content in front of your target audience. Creating an email template for your biz dev people will reduce friction on their end to share this content with the prospects they've been nurturing.
The email could be something like this:
"Hi [first name],
Since a lot of the founders we engage with express concerns about [X issue], we put together an article to answer some of their questions related to this topic. You can view that article here [link to article].
Hope business is going well at [company name],"