Asking senior partners what car best represents the firm’s values and messaging was shared as one way to test the firm’s brand at the PEI Investor Relations Forum in New York.
“Sit down with the partners one on one – they’re not allowed to talk to each other – to see how much consistency there is in their answers,” said one investor relations director onstage. “Everyone loves the question and really puts thought into it. This partner thinks we’re an Audi, and that partner thinks we’re a Telsa. Your job is to understand why and close the gaps.”
The same question can be posed to LP advisory boards and other constituents as part of an “eight-week brand audit,” the IR director said. After the process is completed, she said the feedback can be used to refine the firm’s brand, including website redesigns and new marketing literature.
Likewise, reaching out to portfolio company executives – both in the portfolio and those who selected a rival private equity bidder – can be a way to better understand the firm’s brand to outsiders, a second IR professional said onstage.
“Every few years we do a formal audit, a survey of about 400 individuals, to understand why they’re working with us or why not,” the IR professional said. In addition to portfolio company executives, he said the survey includes investment bankers, LPs and other stakeholders.
On a related matter, delegates at the conference said GPs are appreciating the need to differentiate themselves in a sea of competing fund managers but were sometimes experiencing difficulty figuring out how to do it.
“The annual meeting I see as a great opportunity for branding,” a third speaker at the forum shared. “You want your investors to find it memorable, but we’re seeing other GPs shift away from the glitzy events because LPs want to get in, get the information and get out.”
The second speaker said one proven strategy for sticking out, at least for his firm, has been holding a “What were we thinking?” segment at the LP annual meeting in which deal partners spend “20 minutes explaining in gory detail why we lost $75 million on a deal.”
“We’ve found that LPs like and appreciate that balance,” he said.