For decades, private equity deal flow had historically relied on the networking strength of a firm’s executives. But with personal connections only being able to take a brand so far, digital marketing has become an absolute necessity for private equity firms to secure deals in more recent years.
In fact, a recent study found that 67% of private equity firms believe a strong brand is the key to driving deal sourcing and generating awareness among CEOs and management teams. Digital marketing and social media, in particular, can enable firms to establish a strong brand, differentiate themselves as desirable partners, and open up a world of investment and deal-sourcing opportunities.
While most of us are exposed to countless forms of digital advertising and social media promotions daily, these tactics look quite different when applied to private equity marketing. The goal of digital marketing in the private equity space isn’t as simple as encouraging a consumer to impulse buy a new pair of shoes. Private equity firms must earn the attention of business leaders and investors who meet an extremely specific set of criteria, and then keep their attention long enough to secure a partnership.
The Most Effective Private Equity Digital Marketing Strategies
But with so many worthwhile digital strategies to choose from when building a reputable brand and promoting your private equity firm, you’re probably wondering about the best place to start. When we focus on actual results, the most effective digital marketing strategies for private equity focus primarily on social media, content marketing and digital marketing.
1. Grow Your Social Media Presence
Nobody wants to engage with a faceless organization. Social media offers an opportunity to show off your firm’s personality, share the perspectives of your firm’s executives, and directly engage with other private equity professionals. While the list of social media platforms is ever-expanding and it certainly never hurts to experiment, LinkedIn tends to be the most effective platform for private equity firms and their executives to reach their target audiences since it’s the leading destination for professional networking.
Here are some best practices for leveraging social media marketing for your private equity firm:
The point is to be social: Social media marketing isn’t just about posting. Supporting others through commenting, reacting and direct messaging are just as important as sharing your thoughts in a LinkedIn post. These actions indicate you are actively invested in industry conversations and in helping other private equity professionals advance their careers rather than simply self-promotion.
Go beyond your company profile: LinkedIn research shows that personal accounts featuring a profile picture are 14 times more likely to be viewed than those without a headshot. That’s because social media is about human connection. Take advantage of this by creating a social media strategy for your executives’ personal profiles in addition to your company page. All too often, executives rarely post on their personal LinkedIn pages except to share company news or a recent promotion. This is a huge missed opportunity to tap into the wealth of your executives’ personal networks.
Consistency trumps perfection: Building a following on social media takes time. Don’t expect a few monthly posts to transform your firm’s pipeline for deal sourcing and fundraising. In fact, companies that post 1-5 times per week on social media achieve more meaningful marketing results. That said, it’s important to strike a balance between planned and impromptu. Pick a few topics every week to discuss on social media and then adjust your strategy according to what resonates best with your audience.
2. Build a Content Marketing Strategy
Content marketing is a digital strategy that involves creating unique content and then regularly sharing it with your target audiences to build their trust and interest in your brand. This content may include blogs, videos, case studies, emails, articles and other forms of content that serve to educate and/or entertain your audience. The goal is for your audience to actively seek out and engage with your content because they find it valuable.
The most challenging aspect of creating an effective content marketing strategy is how to differentiate your brand message from what your competitors are saying. All too often, private equity firms publish content about the same generic topics everyone else in the industry has already beaten into the ground just for the sake of having something new on their websites. But if your content isn’t special in some way, why would your audience choose to seek it out over your competitors’ content?
Avoid generic content creation by following these tips:
If it’s obvious, it’s not worth publishing: The private equity industry does not need yet another list of “5 Best Practices for Growing Your Business” offering generic tips for business growth that are actually just common knowledge. To provide truly valuable content, you must go beyond resharing the obvious. Perhaps you can survey your portfolio companies and publish original findings based on that data. Or maybe one of your executives has a thrilling tale about how they overcame a certain business challenge that they’re willing to discuss in a blog or video. The more you can get personal and go beyond the basics, the more valuable your content will be.
Offer a unique perspective: Many firms opt for sharing perspectives that are “safe,” meaning they’re non-controversial and unlikely to come under fire. But entirely neutral perspectives are often unoriginal and unlikely to generate any real traction for your firm because they parrot what everyone else in the industry is already saying. For example, countless firms have published articles about how small businesses can prepare for a recession with essentially the same advice. Content marketing isn’t about churning out a bland thought piece on the same topic to keep up with everyone else; it’s about adding something new to the discussion that hasn’t been said yet.
Your business differentiator is also your marketing differentiator: The thing that makes your business different from your competitors could also be what sets your content marketing apart from the pack. For example, if your firm focuses on growing businesses in certain industries or geographic areas, your content should reflect that by being hyper-relevant to businesses operating in those spaces. Keep up with news that is specific to those industries and regions, then create content that helps your audience process and react to that news from a business productivity standpoint.
3. Implement Digital Marketing Tactics
Sometimes, stronger and more targeted marketing is needed to get your private equity firm in front of the right investors and business owners. Digital marketing, in all of its many forms, is perfect for this. Especially when coupled with organic social media and content marketing tactics, digital marketing has the power to swiftly convert passive followers into engaged leads.
Digital marketing for private equity works by ensuring your firm’s message appears in front of your exact target audience. You can set specific audience parameters such as age, industry, role, education and region. On certain ad platforms, you’re even able to target the exact individuals you wish to reach, such as your existing leads. Digital ads can appear in front of your target audience while they’re using a search engine, scrolling social media, browsing a news site or just listening to their favorite podcast.
Here are a few digital marketing tactics you may consider implementing:
LinkedIn ads: You can use sponsored content, display ads and sponsored InMail messages to target specific demographics and professionals who are interested in finance and investing. While you can run ads on other social media sites too, LinkedIn is ideal for B2B advertising campaigns.
Search engine marketing (SEM): Running pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns ensures that your firm is visible on the search engine results page (SERP) when a user submits a query that’s relevant to your firm. For example, a search for “private equity firms for small businesses in Boston” yields hundreds of thousands of organic results. With this in mind, your ad dollars can secure a prime spot at the top of the search results, on the “near me” map or other key spots that increase your firm’s online visibility.
Retargeting ads: Using retargeting ads to reach individuals who have visited your firm's website but didn't take a specific action also can be an effective way to stay top-of-mind. This is a great tactic to use after a networking event or virtual webcast where your firm’s executives may have spent valuable time gathering new contacts.
Display ads: Partnering with relevant industry websites, online trade magazines or financial news platforms to run display ads will also directly expose your message to engaged members of your target audience while they have business on their minds.
Podcast sponsorships: Sponsoring podcasts in the finance and investment space is a great way to differentiate the way your audience consumes your message. Hearing your advertisement aloud resonates differently than viewing it on a screen. Plus, sponsoring podcasts demonstrates your firm is in touch with important industry conversations.
Video ads: Creating informative video ads for platforms like YouTube, Vimeo and social media platforms in general is another effective way to engage with your target audiences. Keep in mind that video ads should go beyond a logo and a slogan to captivate users enough to keep watching through the end of your ad.
Consider using any combination of these digital marketing tactics to reach your audience across multiple touchpoints. In fact, increasing the number of touchpoints, or interactions, that your audience has with your brand significantly impacts the extent to which it will consider working with you.
As the business world increasingly becomes more virtually connected and shifts away from proximity-based partnerships, digital marketing and social media are more necessary than ever in order to build a brand capable of continuously raising capital, increasing deal flow and growing your portfolio companies. The strength of your firm’s personal connections is still important of course, but a strong digital presence will ultimately empower your firm and its executives to maximize those networks.