The Marketing Revolution In Private Equity, With Angela Hwang

Twenty years ago, many executives in finance and asset management firms scoffed at the idea of marketing’s importance. But the world has moved on, and many leading firms have now placed marketing at the forefront of their growth strategy. Why? Because great marketing is all about data, and execs are learning that great marketing can complement great operations to create a revenue-generating growth machine.

Angela S. Hwang, Chief Marketing Officer at First National Realty Partners, joins Andy Hagans to discuss the marketing revolution that’s occurring in the world of private equity.

Episode Highlights

  • Background on Angela’s career, and how she came to run marketing operations at leading private equity real estate firm.
  • How the perception of marketing has changed in the private equity industry, especially over the past decade.
  • Why successful marketing needs to begin at the strategic level, in conversation with top-level business decisions.
  • The opportunity for private equity firms to differentiate themselves in a competitive landscape, and benefit from “low hanging fruit” in terms of sales and marketing.
  • How boutique firms can take the first steps if they would like to scale their AUM with successful marketing campaigns.

Today’s Guest: Angela Hwang

About The Alternative Investment Podcast

The Alternative Investment Podcast is a leading voice in the alternatives industry, covering private equity, venture capital, and real estate. Host Andy Hagans interviews asset managers, family offices, and industry thought leaders, as they discuss the most effective strategies to grow generational wealth.

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Show Transcript

Andy: Welcome to the show. I’m Andy Hagans, and today we’re talking about the marketing revolution in private equity, really, across the whole investment landscape, but especially in private equity. Joining me is Angela Hwang, CMO at First National Realty Partners. Angela, welcome to the show. Welcome back to the show, I should say.

Angela: Thank you, Andy. I’m really happy to be here, and excited to chat with you today.

Andy: Yeah, and, you know, you’re, like, a perfect guest, or someone I really wanna talk to about this issue, because I feel like you and I, maybe we see some things the same way, because we are, both of our careers are kind of at this intersection of marketing and finance, and sometimes it feels to me like it’s, like, left brain and right brain, or, you know, what’s the saying? “Men are from Mars, women are from Venus.” You know, it’s like this awkward intersection, but why don’t we talk about, you know, how you came to be at the same intersection that I’m at, and, you know, your career, your background.

Angela: Sure. So, I actually started my career in legal marketing, which is as creative as it gets, right? So, I started in legal marketing, but what I learned is that I really liked the business development aspect of it, and, you know, working with lawyers on their story and their brand, because, you know, the legal industry is really saturated with, you know, a lot of lawyers and…

Andy: Too many lawyers, right?

Angela: Too many lawyers. Yeah. So, like, how do they differentiate themselves, and the practice groups? And, you know, I kind of fell into it, because the practice groups that I would be supporting always ended up being real estate, technology, and private investment funds, which I kind of feel like the universe was really pointing me in this direction. So I spent about a decade, in, you know, my first career, like, my first decade of my career, in legal marketing, and I worked at Colliers International, which is a brokerage firm, so, working with brokers. So I really had some hands-on experience there.

And after that, I went back to legal marketing, working more exclusively with private investment funds. You know, the firm that I was at, Paul Hastings, they worked with, you know, clients such as Oaktree, Starwood Capital, you know, some of the biggest private equity firms, and I was always really fascinated with how they raise their money, how they go after the institutional investors and so forth. But I had a bit of a break, and I wanted to just kind of get into tech marketing because, you know, what you talked about with the two brains, I think my role was very, very analytical, and I thought, “I kind of wanna be more creative,” because I felt that maybe the legal industry wasn’t really allowing me to be as creative as I would want to be. So I went into tech marketing work for some startups. But, again, the universe kept pointing me in the FinTech…I always ended up with FinTech products, and I thought, “Okay, there’s something here, and I really enjoy it.” And I’m very data-driven. I like looking at data to make decisions about what we need to do as far as, like, the marketing strategy goes, and, you know, how we wanna target people.

Because it’s not about making pretty brochures and pretty websites, right? Like, you have to have the right audience, and you have to have the right targeting and the messaging. And I think that, ultimately, I realized I really like helping brands, you know, and companies shape their positioning in the market. Again, you know, with industries like real estate and private equity, there’s so many, you know, firms in this space. The competition is fierce. And what I noticed is a lot of people are saying the same thing. You know, “It’s a one-stop shop,” and, “Oh, yeah, we’re different because we have this and that.” It’s like, “Yeah, but how do we really differentiate ourselves?”

So, I ended up being, you know, recruited into being the head of marketing for Urban Catalyst, which is a real estate equity firm based in California. And that’s when I really got my hands dirty into marketing directly to accredited investors. And now, you know, I joined FNRP back in January as their chief marketing officer, overseeing the entire marketing strategy for the company. And, again, both firms are 506(c), which means it allows us to communicate directly to high-net-worth individuals. And that’s fascinating because, before, a lot of the equity firms, you know, marketed directly through… Well, no, I shouldn’t say directly. They work more with managing broker-dealers, broker-dealer channel, and family office, and more institutional. But 506(c) allows us to market and communicate directly to the investors. And I think that’s where the real opportunity is for marketers like ourselves, where we have the creative mind, and we have the digital marketing experience where we can run, you know, targeted ads and campaigns, and we can really segment the audience, but ultimately, we can do all of that really well. But what matters is what and how we’re communicating. So, I think that’s how we met, you know?

Andy: Yeah, yeah. No, I absolutely…you know, and, you know, you’re preaching to the choir with this, you know. But I think financial services, especially the private equity world, it’s… Some parts of the industry are still kind of in the stone age, and even putting aside technology, and skills, and everything like that, even just mindset. You know, I remember, I was at a conference one time, speaking with a private equity fund GP. And he used the phrase, “Just marketing.” And I kind of understood what he meant, which is… Because here’s the truth. You know, there’s a lot of private equity funds, a lot of private equity GPs that have managed to grow, have been wildly successful, oftentimes leveraging, you know, broker-dealer networks and all that, and they haven’t had to do any marketing.

So it’s not like I would blame this gentleman for using that phrase, but I was thinking, you know, really only in this industry, or maybe there’s, like, I don’t know, government services or something. But if you go to any other industry, you know, like, even in FinTech or e-commerce, no one would ever say, “Just marketing,” right? Like, the importance of marketing, it’s, like, you live and breathe, you live or die based on marketing, which isn’t just cost per click. It’s product, positioning…

Angela: That’s right.

Andy: …everything. So, you know, well, let’s talk…you know, how did things used to be, I guess, and we’re gonna talk about where they’re changing now, but even, let’s rewind the clock, you know, 10, 15 years ago in financial service. Let’s talk about the bad old days, you know?

Angela: Oh, yes. I would love that. So I feel your pain with that, because I think there’s still that perception in this industry. So, let’s take us back 10, 15 years. Marketing equaled collateral. That’s it. Postcards, marketing materials, and we weren’t even active on, I think, digital space, really. It was just collateral. You know, you create a really nice website, something pretty, and I remember my Colliers International days, we would do these massive banners, printed banners, with just bunch of graphics and infographics, and that was the value of marketing. We were really seen as a support function, not as a strategic function or unit of the company.

And I always thought, yeah, you know, that part of marketing’s valuable. You know, visually communicating our value is great, but nobody really paid attention to the actual positioning element of it. Meaning, like, how do we differentiate ourselves? And I think the only other thing that the industry really did is press releases. And don’t get me wrong, I love PR. Like, PR, I have a background in PR and I absolutely love PR, but PR, to, you know, just think press releases as PR is just really, it’s almost offensive to all the professionals out there, because press releases is just one small function of PR, you know?

Andy: That’s PR…that’s, like, PR to check it off your list to say that, “Oh, we did PR because we released a press release.” It’s like, you’re not really…

Angela: Yes. That’s all it is. It’s not even chapter one.

Andy: Yeah.

Angela: You know? So…

Andy: Well, do you think that, you know… Your point about the sort of very minimalist approach, shall we say, to marketing, was that due to the audience? Because here’s what I’m thinking. You know, if the entire model is more around getting in front of advisors, or having your products sold through a broker-dealer network, and it’s really, it’s almost just supporting the sales channel, but…

Angela: That’s right.

Andy: …it’s really the sales channel that’s closing the sale. And so, you know, just, I think naturally, with some sales models, marketing is actually less important, you know? Like, I get, you know, it’s, at the end of the day, if the investor, or the retail investor, the consumer, is not even gonna see your brochure, you know, if it’s only gonna be seen by the gatekeeper or the advisor, it’s kind of like, well, who cares? You know, this is gonna be sold based on trust between the advisor and the client, right?

Angela: Yeah. You’re absolutely right with gatekeeping and the way that it’s always been sold. I think it was really built on personal relationships, a roster of clients, by these, you know, reps and broker-dealers. So they really didn’t need marketing to be strategic. You know, just, you know, I’m gonna give you the talking points. I know how to sell this product. Just put this together in one-pager, and let me take it to dinner, or let me just hand them out at the conferences. And unfortunately, that’s still going on, right?

Andy: Right.

Angela: I don’t think it’s ever gonna go away, which, you know, it’s great. You know, it’s all about the personal relationships. When it comes to money, of course, there’s that element of that, but I think a lot of firms are realizing that they need to diversify the way that they raise money. So, I think that’s where the whole 506(c) structure and being able to communicate directly to the investors is really important. Because here’s another thing. With the broker-dealer channel, the high-net-worth individuals, I almost think that there wasn’t much diversity in terms of the investors.

A lot of these investors, you know, the high-net-worth individuals, it’s either their generational wealth, or they’ve been in the industry. It’s the family and friends, and people they know, but my experience from Urban Catalyst really allowed me to see that there’s all these up-and-coming professionals and people that are, you know, building their wealth. And in the next, you know, couple of years, 5, 10 years, they’re gonna be the next generation of high-net-worth individuals. And the fact that, like, they… And they don’t have that network. They’re the first generation of professionals making this money and building their wealth, and I think they’re really gonna be an important audience, but a lot of firms really aren’t targeting that.

Andy: Yeah. And that generation is not gonna have any loyalty to mom and dad’s financial advisor…

Angela: Correct.

Andy: …or, you know, firm, the asset management firm. They’re just not gonna care. They’re just, they’re used to all products and services being direct-to-consumer, right?

Angela: Absolutely. And them doing their own due diligence. They wanna look at the materials, they wanna read, they wanna consume the news and, you know, learn about different sponsors, and how commercial real estate investment works. And I feel like the industry hasn’t really tapped into the market yet, to be honest with you. Like, I think…the latest article that I saw was something about 13.5 million accredited investors in the U.S. And some may not even know that they actually meet the requirement. So I think that there’s, you know, tremendous opportunity here, but a lot of private equity firms are still behind when it comes to that, and when it comes to technology, because technology really is a game-changer, when it comes to marketing to these, you know, individuals, because now we have the ability to track everything.

Because here’s the thing, right? When you have a brochure, a printed brochure and postcards, it’s really hard to track the impressions. You know, how many people actually take action. Yes, you can add a QR code and all that, but what about, like, actual engagement? Some people may be looking at it and, you know, like, do we have a touchpoint? Like, you know, do we have a follow-up strategy in place? And I think with the emergence of, like, digital ad platforms like Google and Facebook, that really came about, like, 10, 12 years ago, so just about a decade ago. It’s really transformed the industry, but the industry hasn’t caught up to it yet.

Andy: Totally. And, I mean, I think if you run a private equity fund, it’s almost like there’s a fork in the road, where you can sort of say, “We’re gonna stick with what we know,” you know, 506(b), or sell through a broker-dealer network, and go down that path. And then the other side of it is 506(c), where you’re doing that public solicitation. And if you go to the 506(c) route, now we need to have the skillset of talking to retail investors…

Angela: That’s right.

Andy: …and that marketing skillset, and that…I mean, I can see why a lot of asset managers, a lot of sponsors avoid it, because it’s a big investment, and if it’s something you don’t have any experience with, back to that right brain, left brain thing, it’s a whole different world. You know, I guess, when you see companies take that step… You know, obviously, you worked with Urban Catalyst, who, in the Opportunity Zones world, where I would say at the forefront of, you know, really good marketing…

Angela: Absolutely.

Andy: …direct-to-consumer marketing. And then now with FNRP, you know, obviously they’re investing in marketing to the consumer. So, you’re working with these firms that are, I might say, on the bleeding edge, or, you know, that are pushing the ball forward, and are willing to… What’s really the difference between the companies that are embracing this and the companies that are not?

Angela: I would say it’s including marketing, when it comes to outlining their vision and coming up with the business strategy. So, I know that just sounds like a lot of, like, oh, okay, just corporate, you know, lingo, but what I mean by that is, you know, going back to your point about someone making a comment about “just marketing.” “Oh, marketing is support.” No, marketing should be part of that discussion, and have a seat at the table. And I think that’s what’s really differentiating Urban Catalyst and FNRP, from my experience is that, you know, we’re not just being handed down the tasks and saying, “Oh, make this brochure and website.” We’re part of the discussion.

So, let’s say that we have a goal to raise certain amount of money, or, you know, capital raise goal, fundraising goal. Marketing, you know, can outline, okay, so, let’s say it’s $50 million for the quarter, or whatnot. How are we gonna get there? So, let’s look at the historical data. You know, how much did we raise at this time last quarter, and what were the most successful channels? What was the conversion? You know, how many prospects did we get in the door, and what percentage of those people became investors? And looking at all of that, and making a decision, and working with marketing and say, “Okay, we need X amount of, you know, investment into our marketing campaigns and some of the tactics that we wanna employ, and this is what we predict.” So, there’s a lot of… It’s almost like financial modeling going on in marketing, where you all these, like, cascade reports and projections.

And I think seeing marketing almost being like a business, you know, like, being a partner with marketing, rather than seeing marketing as support, I think that’s number one. And number two is, you have to have alignment between marketing and sales. And in this world, sales being investor relations. So many companies, it’s still very disjointed. You know, I think a lot of marketers think, hey, you know what? I’ve done my job. I brought you the leads, and I’m done. And, you know, I always say, “Your job is not done until we raise money. And you have to be responsible, and work with investor relations to get there.” And so, I think that alignment is really important because, you know, as you mentioned, like, sales, they have the ears and eyes on the ground. They know what the objections are, you know, to our products. They know what the investors are happy about, unhappy about.

Andy: Totally.

Angela: And marketing used to pick their brain. Marketing used to know what those pain points are, so we can address it in the marketing materials. But if we’re saying one thing, again, going back to the message, and we’re saying one thing, and sales is like, “Well, they don’t care about that.” Well, then you need to tell us, okay? You know?

Andy: Angela, I love that. I might even take it a step further and say marketing needs to align with sales, needs to then align with investor relations, right? So then, even after the capital’s placed, what’s the communication? What’s the feedback, you know, after that investment? All of those should be aligned. But one really interesting thing you said, I didn’t take it as corporate gobbly-gook at all, you know, talking about the business strategy, because you brought up, you know, the, you know, analytics, budget, campaigns. To me, that stuff is mostly tactical, in that it kind of waterfalls down from strategy. But I think marketing needs to have a seat at the table, at the very top level, in the entire company strategy. I think some people hearing this might roll their eyes at that.

Angela: Oh, yeah.

Andy: I don’t even care. You know, roll your eyes if you want. But here’s my point. You know, as a marketer, I would say, well, what’s our unique story? How are we communicating our unique value to consumers or to investors in a way that differentiates, that resonates with them, that ultimately closes the sale, raises the capital? And if you can’t clarify that and communicate that for marketing purposes, that may actually be a sign of a larger problem, right? Which is, if you don’t…

Angela: Absolutely.

Andy: It’s not even just a marketing problem. If you don’t have a product that is truly differentiated, that you can communicate that differentiation, that’s a top-level problem. That’s not just a marketing problem, right?

Angela: Absolutely. And I think that buy-in internally is real important. And I think a lot of firms ignore that, that, like, every single person at the company should understand what the company stands for. You know, not only the core values, but also the differentiators. So, any organic conversation that you may be having, whether you are in finance or operations, everybody should understand, you know, so, what do you guys do? You know, what does your company do? Like, how are you guys different? The talking points should be aligned. And I think sometimes a lot of these firms, they don’t even know. Internally, they have no idea. So how do you expect to communicate that externally if there’s really no buy-in, and people just simply don’t understand, you know, how we’re different. So, I think that’s also really important.

And to be honest, like, it’s actually very exciting. There’s all these areas of improvement in the private equity space. But as a marketer, and I’m sure you’re gonna feel the same way, like, there’s… I mean, this means there’s tremendous opportunities to grow, and really lead the way to get the private equity industry to where the tech industry is, you know, in terms of data analysis, tracking, and, you know, getting, like, media relationships and external partnerships, and just diversifying into different marketing channels. That’s beyond, you know, being on the golf course or having dinner. Because, let me tell you, that’s not scalable. And I always say that. Every single company may start out with personal relationships, but when you get to thousands of investors, you are not gonna be able to have that one-on-one interaction.

And in order to be scalable, and, you know, repeat the successful, you know, processes and tactics, you have to have something that you can measure. Because otherwise, how are you gonna know that this is working? And, you know, I think the… What’s the word I’m looking for? The criticism that we get from being marketers is that we just spend money, right? We’re just spending money. “Oh my goodness, they spent X amount of money on this and that. What’s the ROI? What’s the ROI?” And ROI is defined so differently from one organization to another. And what I’ve seen, and I talk to my colleagues in this industry, and when I ask them, “What’s the ROI on your Google Ads?” People, every single person has a different definition. So, it’s interesting because that tells me that you really have to get on the same page with your stakeholders, with the rest of the executive team, and see, okay, what is the ROI for us, for the company? Is it the cost of capital? Is it the cost per acquisition? Or is it, you know, just ultimately how much money we raise?

It doesn’t matter how much you spend, but if we hit $50 million goal, I don’t care if you spent millions of dollars. So, that ROI, people just, you know, throw that question around, but nobody really knows. And you can define it different ways. And even with data, you can analyze it in different ways. So you have to be on the same page, because marketers may be seeing it this way, but, you know, the rest of your exec team may be thinking, no, that’s not how I saw it. So, I think having a seat at the table, and allowing marketing to really speak and talk about, like, “Hey, this is a data. Let’s take a look at it. Let’s have a discussion, so that it’s not, like, a trickle-down effect.” You know, like, I think that’s really, really important. And again, a lot of marketers are… I don’t think I find a lot of marketers having this experience, and more and more people are coming and learning, and coming up to speed, because, you know, people that are in tech marketing, they get it. I mean, they’re at the forefront of it.

They get Salesforce, they get HubSpot. They, digital marketing, they’re the experts. But I really encourage marketers in that space to, you know, think about FinTech, think about financial institutions and private equity, because, man, like, this world is just awesome. I mean, I love this industry, because seeing how people can build their wealth, you know, that’s huge. And you’re helping them to not only build their wealth, but help them with their, you know, passive income stream, and just really understanding that, like, hey, you know, it doesn’t really have to be investing in your home anymore. Like, you can actually get access to these institutional-quality real estate through us.

And why us? Why you should trust us. You know, take a look at the executive team, take a look at our experience, and really build that lifelong relationships and that trust. It’s just, I really love it, because there’s just so many opportunities here. And I really encourage people to, you know, look into this industry, because you can add so much value. And compared to 10 years ago versus now, I think more and more people get Google Ads. More and more people know how to do ads. But here’s the thing. You can do it. Doesn’t mean you’re gonna do it well. And that’s where the data analytical skills really, really, you know, can differentiate yourself. Like, you know, can differentiate you from others, because you can just, you know, put a bunch of words together and just run it. But is it really gonna be working? Is it the right…?

Andy: Yeah, yeah. You’re right. And AdWords is not for the faint of heart. You know, you said a couple interesting things that I wanna follow up on. You know, one, we were talking earlier, and you mentioned that private equity, I don’t know if you used the word cutthroat, but it’s a very competitive space, right?

Angela: It is. It really is.

Andy: But in the marketing side, it feels like the industry in some ways is still in its infancy. So, there’s a lot of low-hanging fruit, you know, whereas, you mentioned, like, a HubSpot or some of these tech companies, you know, they know their cost per user acquisition. They know their churn. They know their LTV. If you start applying these concepts in the asset management world, in the private equity world, and you know, well, what’s a user LTV? You know, in the accredited investor space, what’s the LTV of an investor…

Angela: That’s right.

Andy: …if you’re even asking that question, you’re probably ahead of the ballgame. But the interesting thing…

Angela: That’s right.

Andy: …back to that kind of top-level decision, are you gonna embrace marketing or not, I’m thinking that the companies that do, they’re gonna own that entire relationship with the end investor.

Angela: Absolutely.

Andy: They’re gonna have a direct relationship. You know, I’m thinking, like, I’m an LP in five or so different funds. So, like, I’m an LP in an origin multi-family fund. They emailed me directly. They communicate with me directly. If I invest in another fund and then a third fund, and a fourth fund, or, you know, I’m in an Opportunity Zone Fund, so when that comes to fruition after 10 years, and I get my capital back, plus a lot more, hopefully, I can recycle that right back. And they own that relationship. Whereas if it’s all through a broker-dealer network, you know, ultimately, you don’t own that, right?

Angela: That’s right.

Andy: You’re renting it.

Angela: That’s absolutely right. And I think having the direct access to these firms, and the people that are leading and running the firm, that’s super important. And, you know, one thing that you said that kind of, you know, made me think about something is, you know, marketers in this space. So, as I mentioned, you know, there’s a lot of opportunities for people with the data analytical skillset, most likely coming from other industries to this. So, I love marketers. Like, I really do. You know, I think that we’re very creative, but I would say if I can provide one constructive criticism with people that I see in the space right now, is that they still don’t have the skillset to analyze data. So, I think that’s unfortunate because a lot of marketers, you know, got into this industry, and they come from, you know, the collateral world, like the old-school marketing, which is great, and, you know, they can talk the talk. But when it comes to actually sitting down and, you know, looking at the data, that’s where there’s a bit of a gap. So, I really encourage market…

Andy: It’s hard. I have to say, Angela, it’s hard. You know, AdWords is…

Angela: Yeah. I’m terrible at math, too.

Andy: AdWords is hard, you know.

Angela: But, you know, you learn, right? It’s one of those things that… One thing that’s important is, you know, it’s not just you, right? Like, you have to have the right team of people. And what I’ve been lucky so far is that, you know, with my team at Urban Catalyst, and here at FNRP, I have a great, like, you know, group of people with me. They can really analyze the data with me. They get it.

Andy: Angela, is it the same, in your experience? Is it the same, like, left brain versus right brain? I enjoy both sides of it. Like, the creative part of me loves the story brand, the messaging. I’m, you know, creating a landing page. I wanna nail the messaging, I wanna nail the copywriting. And then there’s another part of me that, you know, I’ll dig into AdWords, I’ll look at the data, but, like, I have to admit, I’m not, like, the most mathematical person. Like, I’m very…

Angela: I feel you…

Andy: …basic.

Angela: Because it can get very complicated. I think you need both. You need both sets of skills on your team, and, you know, as, like, the CMO or the VP or the head of marketing, you have to be able to analyze, and do both. I think you have to have understanding, because positioning and creative, super important, because that’s what’s gonna draw people’s attention. And then, you know, based on their behavior, that’s where the data analysis comes in. But I think a lot of marketers in this space are still thinking marketing, you know, equals events. Marketing equals collateral.

Which are really important functions, don’t get me wrong. It’s important. But if you wanna move up, and you really wanna be leading the team, you need to just, you know, really diversify your skillset that way. And, again, maybe if you just have some understanding of it, and you have the right people behind you, that ultimately, that’s what makes you successful. So, getting the right people, you know, that you get to work with, which I, you know, luckily, I have currently at FNRP, I mean, it’s really good. We have some amazing people that put successful events together, which are important because it’s all about the relationship still. So, that is super crucial. And I have data ninjas, like, data scientists, you know, making sure all the integration is flawless, and they’re looking at the data. And I have amazing creative people, who can put together postcards and collateral that really stands out, that when you look at it, you go, “Oh, wow. This is really clean, very classy, just minimalist design, but you get the right points.” You know, you understand. And…

Andy: Well, you’re talking about, I mean, what I’m hearing, Angela, is an investment in…I don’t know what the word is. It’s almost, like, institutional-level marketing. Right?

Angela: Yeah.

Andy: It’s not a mindset like, “We’re gonna hire a college intern to do some marketing.” It’s more like, no, we… Just like for an underwriting team, or anything else, we need multiple skillsets here, and we need to invest in this to execute at a very, very high level. That’s what I’m hearing about FNRP.

Angela: Absolutely. Absolutely. I think that’s the only way you’ll be successful. If you just have one team of marketers that are just creative, without the analytical side of it, it’s just really hard to be successful. And vice versa. You can have all the analytical people, but if your product is not attractive to people, and you’re not communicating that clearly, and frankly, if your marketing materials are ugly, no one’s gonna buy it. You know? I mean, that’s the matter, you know? So…

Andy: Well, let’s talk about that differentiated product. So, this, to me, really hits home, and I had Chris Sullivan on the show a while back, and we talked about the story brand, the power of story, and he’s in communications, which isn’t marketing, but, you know, it’s complementary to marketing…

Angela: Absolutely.

Andy: …sort of involved in the same space. My experience with marketing, this is actually one of the most frustrating things, but, I guess it could be a good thing, depending on what your product is, if you have a really good product, and you understand what makes your product unique, it almost is like marketing is easy. You know, like…

Angela: Right? It speaks for itself. It really does.

Andy: Exactly. But, I think, you know, in the real world, for most companies, you know, if you’re not Tesla, if you’re not Apple, if you’re not, you know, one of the exceptions, it’s a lot harder. And I always use the phrase that, you know, “The cobbler’s children have no shoes.” And what I mean by that is, if I’m looking at someone else’s company, as a marketer, I think it’s relatively easy for me to analyze it and say, “Well, this is what makes you unique,” or at least from the outside looking in, it appears that this is what makes you unique, or your product unique and differentiated. It’s very hard to do that internally, looking at your own product. And honestly, the more deeply you are into it, you know, or maybe the longer you’ve been doing it, it’s almost impossible to see it with objective eyes.

Angela: Oh, yes. Absolutely.

Andy: So, talk about that process. How does any company, you know, not… I think FNRP does this actually quite well, from a recent presentation I saw from FNRP, but how does any company even go through this process, where they can objectively figure out what makes us unique? How do we communicate that, and objectively, what will resonate with consumers, with investors?

Angela: So, that’s a great question. Because, you know, traditionally, I think one or two people typically would be strategizing on this and then cascade a message down. But, here, and I think, you know, something the other firms can and should do is this. We need to get marketing and investor relations involved early on in the process. So, you know, let’s talk about, you know, marketing, this is a messaging that we’re putting out there on our landing pages and things like that. And the ones that get the most engagement and traction is when we talk about these specific bullet points. Investor relations, sales, what are you listening to? Like, what are you hearing from your investors? Are they resonating? And if, you know, they have questions about the track record, or others, like, should we be promoting that more? And when you ask them “How did you hear about us? What do you think? Are you looking at any other competitors? And if so, like, you know, what made you more interested in FNRP?” Getting those questions answered and putting all of that together…

Andy: I love that, Angela. I’m sorry to interrupt, but I just love that, you know…

Angela: Oh, good.

Andy: Well, I love, you know, we kind of, as marketers, we’re kind of self-centered, and we’re like, “Hey, sales needs to align with marketing,” but in a lot of ways it’s the other way around, where your salespeople, your investor relations people are gonna communicate to you, “Here’s what our investors are talking about. Here’s what they’re asking about.”

Angela: That’s right.

Andy: That really should probably drive the marketing as much as anything else, right?

Angela: Absolutely. And honestly, at FNRP, that’s what I love about FNRP is that we have an amazing leader that’s, you know, leading the investor relations team, and he’s really…he gets marketing. He understands it. And so he really encourages his IR, you know, professionals to communicate with marketing. We have an open teams channel where we would be talking about, “Hey, you know, these questions keep coming up this week. Marketing, like, do we have any materials on that? Can we create some communication to, you know, I guess, to address those concerns, if any?” You know, so, things like that.

And that open communication is so important. And I always tell sales and, you know, IR, like, “Marketing is here to support you guys, to close the deal. So, anything that you need from us, we’re here. Don’t be afraid to, you know, come to us and ask us to, you know, draft an email or draft a response, or maybe do an ad hoc Q&A, or, you know, things like that. Because we wanna know what you’re hearing, and help address it.” It’s not so much top of the funnel, where marketing just sends out emails and say, “Oh, we’re done.” No, that’s just the start of your job. Like, that’s, you know, IR has to tell us what’s going on. So, I think that alignment is important. And then, the executive team getting together and saying, “Okay, so, what exactly, you know, are we saying here?” And getting everybody’s eyes on that, I think that’s important. Anytime you wanna rebrand yourself or have a different thesis, it’s important to get different perspectives.

And I think oftentimes, firms just think, well, you know, just, if the CEO gets it, everybody gets it. Like, well, no, the CFO has to get it. You know, COOs have to get it, CMOs, everybody at the executive level should get it, and understand it. And they can repeat that outside, and then get the internal buy-in with marketing and sales, and then talk about it as a company, just all hands, “Hey, you know, this is our positioning and things like that. Does this jive with you? Do you understand?” Because unless you have the internal buy-in, how do we expect to get external buy-in? If your own people don’t even get what you’re doing, I mean, you just, you can’t help it. How can we, you know, convince our investors? We don’t even believe it. You know? So, I always say, that internal buy-in is really important, and allow people to ask questions, because, you’d be surprised. Someone in accounting can add a lot of value. They might be like, “Oh, you know what?”

Andy: No, not accounting, Angela. I mean, any other department… No, I’m kidding.

Angela: Like someone in HR.

Andy: Well, you know, what you’re talking about is, I mean, to me it’s a sign of a very healthy business culture, a company culture, where, you know, you’re not thinking quite so compartmentalized, so departmentalized, maybe I should say, where “this is marketing, you know, this is my turf,” or “that’s sales, that’s your turf,” or…

Angela: Oh, right, right.

Andy: Or whatever, you know, kind of keeping your eye on the ball, that holistic picture. And one comment that you made, you know, if we don’t understand and believe this internally, how are we gonna sell it externally? To me, that’s, like, the whole ballgame. Maybe I’m oversimplifying, but I do think this is true. If you’re out doing public speaking, giving presentations, investor presentations, even on sales calls, if you understand the story, and it’s better if it’s simple, you know, simple stories probably sell easier, but if you understand it and believe it, selling, I think, is almost easy. I mean, I know it’s never easy, but, you know, to me, a CEO, job number one is always sales, right?

Angela: That’s right.

Andy: Even if you’re not technically in the sales department. So, just understanding what makes you unique, and if you actually have a differentiated product, how is it different?

Angela: That’s right.

Andy: How is it serving investors? Just merely communicating that is probably the single most powerful thing you could do. And then, of course, AdWords, data, I’m all about all of that. But…

Angela: Absolutely.

Andy: …you gotta keep the main thing the main thing, which is start with what makes us unique and differentiated, right?

Angela: That’s the number one question. Everything else can fall into its place. But once you get that messaging right, I mean, that’s what dictates, and should dictate, your paid channel, you know, campaigns. Because if you get those, you know, talking points right, and on the same page with everyone, then that gets cascaded down to your ads, your, you know, events and brochures and things like that. So, I feel like a lot of organizations don’t spend a lot of time and energy and resources on that. But I highly recommend that you get your best people together and work on that positioning, you know, thesis and document, and spend some time to, you know, do some analysis, and also look at your competitors.

You know, there’s a lot of firms that are doing things really well, that I’m always, you know, looking at what they do in marketing, and really get inspired. And I also encourage marketers to connect with other marketers, and say, “Hey, you know, I wanna pick your brain on this. Because we’re not competing with each other. We’re really learning from each other.” And I think, while this industry is competitive, I think one advantage as a marketer is that, you know, it’s just, you can pick people’s brain. And from my experience, people are… Marketers, we’re always happy to talk, you know, so…

Andy: You just have to just stroke our egos, by telling us that we’re very smart and you wanna pick our brain. That’s all it takes, right?

Angela: There you go. Yes, yep. I’ll free up a half an hour in my calendar for that.

Andy: As long as, I always say, flattery works, just as long as it’s sincere flattery. It all, it works, you know.

Angela: That’s right.

Andy: So I just try and keep it sincere. But let’s talk about, I know we’re almost outta time, but, you know, for other firms that are listening, for other aspiring marketing professionals that are listening, or even, you know, some of our listeners are GPs, and they may be a one or two-person shop. They may be having success, but they don’t have a huge team of marketing professionals under them. What are the challenges they’re facing, and what do you think are the opportunities, especially for the smaller, more boutique sponsors and asset managers?

Angela: I think for smaller boutique firms and sponsors, I say that one of the first and best investments you can make if you wanna start marketing and build more scalable, like, marketing campaigns, is to get someone who understands digital marketing, and who’s more of a generalist, but gets that digital marketing aspect. Because you can always outsource, you know, writing, I mean, not content strategic writing, to be honest. That’s part of the positioning. But simple marketing emails and things like that. And you can get the graphics element and things like that. But someone who is very process-oriented, who can build that ecosystem behind, like, for the company, not behind, for the company, and who gets, like, HubSpot, MailChimp, you know, those CRM platforms.

Someone who can build all that and can kind of oversee everything. I think that’s the first place, because if you get a generalist who kind of understands everything, but with skillset in digital marketing, and they really think about, okay, what makes this different? And, you know, actually, I take that back. Digital marketer, but the positioning has to be number one, to be honest with you. Like, it has to be, okay, so, you know, you want… Let’s say I’m the first marketing, you know, hire. I’ll be asking, “Okay, so tell me about you guys? Like, what business do you have to be in this business? What’s your track record? Well, why do you think that, you know, people should trust to invest their hard-earned money? Tell me about that. And what are some products that you have that are different from others? What’s the unique differentiator?”

So, someone who can ask those questions, and based on that, a generalist who can kind of build a small team or, you know, who has expertise to build a CRM system where you can have some scalable, you know, processes, like building email campaigns and things like that. So, I think that’s really important, because, you know, now that I think of it, if you just have someone who can build ads and things like that, sometimes, from what I’ve seen, they just kind of put some keywords together and just, you know, blast it out, and launch those ads, and then later on, you have to backtrack. Because whatever you said has nothing to do with the company.

Andy: Right. So, Angela, what I’m hearing, I think, and I agree with it, is it’s almost like crawl before you walk, before you run, which is, to get the messaging and positioning right. And then you mentioned setting up, you know, having a CRM, which is, like, basic tracking, and then basic digital campaigns.

Angela: That’s right.

Andy: To be honest with you, if you do those three things, positioning, and, you know, the story brand stuff, the positioning and basic messaging, basic CRM system and data analysis systems, so that you can, you know, analyze lead flow and where it’s coming from, and ROI and all that. And then basic digital market…and, you know, to me, just getting the basics right in the major channels, you don’t have to do every channel. You don’t have to be on Facebook. Like…

Angela: That’s right.

Andy: I mean, honestly, I don’t even bother, usually, anymore. I mean, I might, I might not, but you do need to be on AdWords most likely. But, you know, so, you’re just talking about…football analogy, basic blocking and tackling. That’s…

Angela: There you go.

Andy: …the low-hanging fruit.

Angela: Absolutely. And when you get the basics right… And it’s interesting, because a lot of people don’t. That’s the crazy part. You just have to get the basics right, and then you can scale, and go into other, you know, channels. But just do one thing at a time and that one thing well, and just, you know, build a good campaign on AdWords, and see how you’re segmenting your audience, and get the messaging right. Just, you know, rinse and repeat. And once you see some traction, then you go, “You know, let’s look into, Instagram or Facebook.” And before you even do that, it’s like, well, is the audience there? Because these platforms are great, but, I mean, I don’t think you’re gonna find a lot of high-net-worth individuals on TikToks with teenagers. You know, like, things like that. So, you really have to take a look at it. Because the product can be great, but if it’s not the right audience, and, you know, if it’s not targeting the right people, there’s really no point. So…

Andy: A hundred percent. And, I mean, it’s almost good news, I suppose, for us in this industry. You know, you probably need to be on LinkedIn. You definitely need to be on AdWords. You definitely, even before those, I’d say you need email, right? Email never goes outta style, you know, and…

Angela: That’s right. That’s right.

Andy: …your CRM, but you absolutely don’t need to do everything. I mean, I think that’s great news.

Angela: One thing at a time. One thing at a time, and do it well. Yeah.

Andy: I love it, Angela. Words of wisdom to live by as marketers, but also as entrepreneurs. And before I let you go, I also wanna plug FNRP, because a lot of the things that we’ve talked about in terms of messaging, product differentiation, I think your team did an amazing job with your recent presentation at Alts Expo. So, I’m gonna plug my own website,, but everybody should check out specifically that FNRP presentation. I thought you really nailed the messaging on, you know, what makes FNRP unique. So, congratulations on that. But that being said, where can our audience of financial professionals and high-net-worth investors go to learn more about FNRP?

Angela: Sure. You can visit, and you’ll get access to the deals, our current offerings, and learn more about our track record and things like that. So, it’s

Andy: Thanks, Angela. I really appreciate you joining the show today.

Angela: Thank you. It was a pleasure talking to you. This was a fun topic, so thank you for inviting me.

Andy: Absolutely.

Andy Hagans
Andy Hagans

Andy is a co-founder of WealthChannel, which provides education to help investors achieve financial independence and a worry-free retirement.

He also hosts "WealthChannel With Andy Hagans," a podcast featuring deep dive interviews with the world’s top investing experts, reaching thousands of monthly listeners.

Andy graduated from the University of Notre Dame, and resides in Michigan with his wife and five children.