Private equity digital marketing generally focuses overwhelmingly on the firm’s website. That’s fine for “box check” functionality (Are these guys real, who are the people involved, and what other deals are they in?).
But websites will do little to actively solve the top marketing private equity digital marketing challenge that almost all firms have today – generating quality deal flow.
Why? Because websites are passive, relying on the initiative of others – presumably entrepreneurs, CEOs and board members thinking about capital and liquidity issues – to go out and find them. That suggests either a significant search presence, a reliance on paid search results (which brings its own credibility challenges), or the pre-existence of a very strong brand.
But PE investors who want to play offense on deal flow generation need to put their industry and sector knowledge on display – and need to do it in an authoritative, focused, and consistent way. That suggests the creation of expert content – content that shows your firm’s partners actually know a lot about their target industries, and that they have real value-add capabilities in those industry segments.
It also suggests the need to find a way to get that authoritative content under the noses of decision makers and influencers at potential targets. Thinking that your treatise on the future of, say, oilfield services companies, or home healthcare providers, or organic food processors, or whatever sector your firm is aggressively pursuing, will be found, read, and digested by your target audiences is more than a bit of a fool’s errand.
Here are five guidelines for private equity digital marketing that are specifically focused on deal flow generation:
- Focus, focus, focus. We’ve moved to a search-driven world. That means people can always find the best of anything in any category. Should an entrepreneur have a desire to, say, take some chips off the table and roll the dice on an aggressive growth phase for their fifteen year old environmental services company, they’re unlikely to go looking for generalists. They’re going to want to know what your firm knows about the current state of play in the environmental services industry, and why you’re smarter than they are about driving strategy to dominate it.
- Don’t proclaim depth of knowledge – demonstrate it. In the early stages of exploration, no deal prospect cares to read site copy about your firm’s status as a “trusted partner for entrepreneurs,” your “proven ability to add value,” or your “experience with executing a buy-and-build growth strategy.” Not that they don’t care in reality – just that what you proclaim about yourself if unlikely to be taken at face value. It is, after all, YOUR website. Instead, you need to show what you know and put the inner workings of your industry brain – and your context and perspective and experience – on display for them to see. Let THEM decide you’re the “leading private equity investor in the warranty servicing industry,” as opposed to you saying it about yourself.
- Break it down. If an entrepreneur is wondering what your bona fides are in their industry, it’s unlikely they want to read your 50-page white paper on it. Instead, create a series of tightly focused media pieces breaking your industry insights down into digestible chunks. You know a lot about why EBITDA multiples are unlikely to persist at this level in their sector? Tell them. You know how regulatory changes are going to impact their cost structure over the next five years? Tell them. And then go create a separate piece about the next thing you know that they need to know you know.
- Seek authority. As noted above, every PE firm on the planet can pretty much say whatever they want to about themselves or their views on their own website. So it doesn’t carry much weight, or bring much SEO authority if you blog about your industry views (unless you’re doing so with remarkable consistency and drawing a significant audience by doing so). Nor does your firm’s once-a-week tweet on the industry get you anywhere. Your firm likely knows a great deal about the industry segments you invest in. Enough so that business media platforms and publications will likely want the insights, particularly in today’s environment of newsroom famine in the media business. Publish your work at CNBC or Marketwatch or Environmental Services Week or anywhere that says, “I’m an authority on this segment.” Your website doesn’t.
- Exploit your work. You can plunk your expert commentary on the future of store fixture manufacturers in the face of Amazon right on the front page of USA Today and it still won’t make it into the hands of everyone you want to see it. The world’s too saturated with media providers for your intended audience to be counted on to stumble onto your content, and that’s true whether it runs in a focused trade or in The Wall Street Journal. When you create good and focused and authoritative content, it’s YOUR job to get it under the noses of your target audience. That’s the bad news. The good news is that digital marketing tools, ranging from old standbys like email to aggressive social media targeting tools, can be extremely effective at putting that fishing lure of authoritative content you’ve created right on top of the nose of the hungry fish you’re trying to catch.
The further good news is that this kind of work is what we do all day long for financial services, healthcare, tech and professional services clients here at Deke Digital. Dive in and check us out: www.dekedigital.com/content.