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Friday, May 3, 2019

Be the Ball
Guest Column by: Sandra Powers Murphy

A recent off-line conversation with a wealth advisor lead to an interesting story about building market share. The advisor had been golfing from time to time with a small group and had become particularly friendly with a very wealthy gentleman. One day, the gentleman pulled the advisor aside and said, "I realize you probably want my business, but I have to tell you, you're not ever going to get it. I'm sure that sounds strange but I just wanted to be up front. The reason why you'll never get my business is because I've worked with an advisor for many, many years and he just keeps delivering me 12 to 13 percent like clockwork. Nothing ever does worse or better ... it's magic." The advisor accepted this, wondering how this was possible. A few months later he found out. The advisor who had delivered the consistent 12 to 13 percent was none other than Bernie Madoff.

Sandra Powers Murphy
Noble Ark Ventures, LLC / ARK Global LLC
Founder / Founder, CEO
Perhaps this extreme example is not how we can 'be the ball' and deliver to our clients exactly what they want. In fact, investment management and advising clients is a challenging business. Markets go up and down, investments do well and have periods of underperformance (the legal ones), clients have money to invest, have times when they need to take money out, and these are not always at opportune times. But there are some ways in which we can 'be the ball' for our clients, whether as investment managers, or advisors. Here are a few rules for the road in maximizing value add for clients, providing them with the product and/or service they want v. the product you want to sell.

1. Know the Competition:

All too often, we want to focus on what we believe to be the best offering, the right price point, the most compelling structure and strategy. However, clients are bombarded by the market at large multiple times a day. If your offering is outside of market norms — more expensive, less liquid, higher access point, more complex — you not only will need to defend these attributes day one, but your sales and marketing efforts will never get to the meat of your offering — time will continue to be wasted defending a characteristic that is outside of the norm, and generally unnecessarily so. Yes, we'd all like to earn more in fees. Yes, a higher minimum and less liquidity can mean longer term commitments which are beneficial to the investment management strategy. Yes 'high quality' and 'better' should be meaningful reasons to ignore some less competitive terms on a certain product or service offering. Yet no, it typically does not happen that way. Clients want you and their products to 'be the ball' — to deliver the results they want, to be laser focused on them, and to be compelling, smooth, efficient, effective and 'in line' with expectations. Knowing the competition ensures that your product or service is a compelling solution in relation to your client's other opportunities across all measures.

2. Affirm Fit:

Investors are seeking to create a dynamic, integrated and holistic portfolio. Advisors and investment managers who can provide an initial value proposition that resonates AND consistent and regular reminders of how and where they add value based on changing marketing conditions and client priorities, will be in a strong position to grow and retain assets. Those who have simply provided their story and their numbers have done nothing to position themselves as a value-added contributor. They may be the ball that bounces away, awkwardly and aimlessly, lacking direction and any clear correlation to the client’s goals.

3. Make Some Noise:

Advisors and investment managers alike talk about transparency. Transparency sounds good in theory but is difficult to deliver in practice. We all want to believe we have a "secret sauce"; true transparency requires sharing of the details, relaying of key facts and opinions, prioritizing communications. A change in perspective is necessary for most of us to deliver the level of transparency desired by clients. Often, particularly once a sale is made, we too often hibernate. Make some noise! Be active! Create content! Be charitable and thoughtful in communicating with the market. Offer your opinions, views, ideas and opportunities to clients. Share your strategy's good days and what challenges it. The best client is a knowledgeable client. This is also the most resilient client. Someone is whispering in their ear all day long. Be sure you are a steady flow of their best ideas.

4. Be the Investor:

There is a reason that investors like to hear a manager is eating his/her own cooking. 'Put your money where your mouth is' resonates for a reason. Put yourself in the position of your prospect and that of your clients. What would you expect? What would you want? What else are you seeing/considering/owning in your portfolio? Better yet, be the investor. Invest fully in your own cooking. Allocate your applicable dollars to the strategy(s) and approach you are espousing. Only then will you see the impact of fees, minimums, liquidity and results. Only then will you understand what level of communications, and when, are most desired. Be the ball.

Sandra Powers Murphy, founder of Noble Ark Ventures, LLC, which offers the Noble Ark Ventures Business Development Curriculum Series. She is also the author of The Road to AUM: Driving Assets Under Management through Effective Marketing and Sales and the founder and CEO of ARK Global LLC. 

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