Private equity professionals do a lot of outbound work in an effort to educate their prospects, build relationships, and ideally create proprietary deal flow.
Firms who want to differentiate themselves from the 20+ other firms reaching out can do so via content marketing. An effective content marketing program can position your firm as the most helpful, the most knowledgeable, and the right strategic fit.
Is content marketing a good approach for private equity firms?
Does content marketing work in any sector? Does it work for private equity?
The short answer is yes. When done correctly, content marketing for private equity is about:
- Engaging, educating, and building trust with prospects in your database
- Demonstrating expertise and branding yourself as the right partner
The above goals of content marketing align well with those of traditional biz dev. The two disciplines complement each other because content marketing is:
- Non-threatening. While answering a phone call from an unknown number or responding to a stranger’s email can be intimidating, consuming content voluntarily is much less so and can prepare prospects for future conversations.
- Pervasive and scalable. If the only way for you to strengthen a relationship with a prospect is to get them on the phone, then you’re limited in your ability to share your most important messages. Content marketing fills the gaps and builds relationships when biz dev can’t.
- Altruistic. When you share content freely, you position yourself as a helpful partner sincerely interested in a prospect’s long-term success.
Biz dev and content marketing go hand in hand. While you can certainly see success with biz dev alone, your relationships with prospects will be stronger and conversations more meaningful when you use content as a vehicle to share your most important messages.
As an example, below are real email responses from one of my client’s prospects who had engaged with content before receiving a biz dev email:
"L_____, thanks for reaching out. Would be happy to chat, I have enjoyed the content you are creating and putting out there."
"M_____ – the articles are excellent. Thanks."
What exactly does a content marketing program consist of?
Content marketing in the private equity space consists of (listed in order of importance and difficulty):
- Creating content that will resonate with your prospects
- Promoting that content directly to those prospects via appropriate channels
- Supporting biz dev’s goal of getting prospects on the phone
1. Creating content that will resonate with your prospects
Content tends to fall under one of three categories:
- Expert content, in which you demonstrate expertise in a given strategic area for a prospective portfolio company (e.g. how to build out a sales & marketing team)
- Testimonial content, in which your port cos give a firsthand account about your qualifications as a partner
- Industry content, in which you demonstrate your understanding of a specific domain/end market
Written content is the most economical way to communicate these messages, but other formats like talking-head videos, webinars, and podcasts can also be effective.
2. Promoting content directly to prospects via appropriate channels
In the PE space, promoting content means getting your insights in front of people you already know you want to do business with—the prospects in your database. Some of the best channels to do that include:
- Follow-up biz dev emails. While the first email you send out will likely be a short intro to your firm, follow-up emails are great opportunities to start adding value with content instead of just asking for a call. You can send emails more often if each email adds value (via content).
- Your email signature. Place a link to your best content directly in your signature. Links in email signatures are among the most clicked links in an email.
- LinkedIn advertising with matched audiences. With LinkedIn’s matched audiences, you can upload a list of prospects you want to advertise to, so you know that any engagement is with people you care about.
- LinkedIn social posts. As you build credibility via LinkedIn advertising, you’ll gain organic followers to your LinkedIn company page. Posting regularly on your company page (and even on individual partners’ profiles) can set you apart from other firms who are only posting once every quarter.
- Opt-in email newsletter. If prospects like your content, they’re going to want more. Create an opt-in newsletter where prospects can sign up on your site and then receive more insights as you publish them.
A skilled content strategist can build out the processes/systems that make these channels fixtures of your promotional strategy. Managing a promotional calendar can be quite involved—below is an example of what it looks like for one of my clients:
3. Supporting biz dev’s goal of getting prospects on the phone
One of the greatest shortfalls of a content marketing program is failing to answer the following question: “Now what?”
When a prospect engages with a piece of content, that’s great! But now what?
Ultimately, the goal isn’t just to get prospects to read your content. You want to get them on a call. As such, a content marketing program that only creates and promotes good content without keeping the end goal in mind misses the point.
This is where things get fancy: a good content marketing program should provide answers to the following questions:
- Which prospects are looking at which pieces of content?
- Which pieces of content do prospects tend to look at before they agree to a conversation?
- Which piece of content should I send to this specific prospect that would have the greatest net benefit?
This aspect of a content marketing program is the most difficult. It is also essential. With the right analytics tracking, you can have answers to these questions. You just need to have someone who knows how to set it up.
Where’s the best place to start?
The best place to start is with a phone call. Schedule a call with me (Jack Vawdrey) in the coming week so we can discuss in more detail how to build out your own content strategy, what the working relationship looks like, and how you will measure the value of your prospects’ interactions with content.