Targeted Musings on Financial Marketing

Keep it simple: your ETF’s message should be straightforward, even if your fund’s value proposition is anything but

27 Jun 2019

As the ETF marketplace continues to grow at what seems like an ever-accelerating pace, issuers are facing an increasingly challenging task: capturing investor mindshare to grow assets under management (AUM). As ETF issuers begin to craft a marketing plan, one of the first important decisions they must make is how to position their ETF in today’s crowded landscape. This can be a difficult proposition, even for seasoned financial marketers. Naturally, your ETF may have a wide range of noteworthy characteristics, distinguishing nuances and details, all of which could prove valuable to a number of different “slices” of investors.


From Complex to Simple

Where to begin? How is one supposed to begin to isolate the most important value propositions for a fund? The problem only becomes more difficult when you realize that many financial marketers have been intimately involved in the development, ideation, and creation of the fund itself. While this familiarity with the fund may at first appear to be a strength, it does not necessarily place asset managers in an ideal position in which to dispassionately evaluate whether a particular message or value proposition will resonate with potential investors, or indeed, what the target audience ought to look like.

The resultant marketing plan is often too muddled, complex, and nuanced to effectively communicate the top-line value propositions of a fund. Too many pieces of ETF marketing collateral assume that investors are going to take the time to dig into a multi-page prospectus, or are willing to read a “wall-of-text” report detailing a fund’s various use-cases. While some investors will dive into lengthy complex materials, more often than not an investor conducting casual research is not going to be willing to devote much more than a minute to deciding whether they’re interested in learning more. In other words, ETF messaging needs to be as simple as possible, even when —especially when—the ETF is sophisticated, unusual, or complex.

How can ETF marketers accomplish this? Many ETF issuers turn to third party marketing agencies that can appraise an issuer’s offerings more objectively, especially since so many issuers and ETF marketers are often “too close” to their funds, and are unaccustomed to placing themselves in the shoes of would-be investors. Third party marketing agencies can be a huge asset to issuers struggling with messaging and high level marketing; or in simply executing an animated video, infographic, or other content project that they can’t seem to find the bandwidth for internally.


Putting the Pieces Together

By placing themselves in investors’ shoes, ETF issuers can go a long way towards simplifying their topline value propositions and messaging. Imagine never having heard of your company, your brand, or your ETF before. You come across it for the first time on a website, at a conference or in conversation with some other investor or colleague. As an ETF issuer, what’s the one thing you want this potential investor to know about your fund? That’s a great starting point.

No matter the ETF, no matter the audience, ETF marketing must be simplified if issuers hope to stand a chance of gathering mindshare and increasing AUM. That’s why you absolutely must keep it simple.