Remember being a kid heading to the breakfast table to have a fresh bowl of cereal only to find yourselves a little bored, so you start reading the cereal box? Now, imagine doing that same thing, as an adult, but the cereal box has fact sheets and investment strategies.
With Potomac Fund Management’s latest marketing campaign: a cereal called Bull Bear by Potomac, the asset manager is bringing feelings of nostalgia to the financial advisory community, while strategically implanting the firm’s strategy fit for the modern age.
The point? Potomac is writing the obituary for the wholesale method of selling via wining and dining, according to cera Gone are the days of fancy neck ties and stuffy steak dinners to woo clients, he said.
Instead, the firm’s marketing mantra has become “stop selling and start educating,” which they have executed by serving up humorous, transparent and authentic content regularly via multiple podcasts and research pieces each week that are shared on social media.
Potomac also shares content via its YouTube channel, which includes its April fools gags and a couple videos of the Potomac team shot with their children. Potomac also launched “The Potomac Couch” which is just members of the firm watching old recommendations from their podcast and poking fun at them.
Potomac’s quirky cereal box is another fun prop in the firm’s content-oriented brand relaunch which will also include a refreshed website and podcast offerings. Kelly Waltrich, former head of marketing for eMoney and Orion, said she isn’t surprised firms like Potomac are being creative and taking drastic measures to be bold and different.
“Look across companies, whether it be fintech players, or asset managers, or advisers, and you can pull 10 websites in each of those categories where they all use the same language,” she said. “Every asset manager is saying that they ‘capture the upside and protect on the downside,’ every fintech player, is saying that they can ‘bring you efficiencies, scale and growth’ and it’s just this crazy sea of sameness situation.”
As a long-time marketing executive, it’s been painful for Waltrich to see all these firms look so similar, she said.
“It is necessary to take yourself out of the old ways of doing things and find unique ways to capture the attention of your audience,” she said. “Realize that being a little fun, being human and helping people enjoy what is otherwise work, is so powerful.”
Khatta sat down with InvestmentNews for an exclusive interview to discuss the reasons behind the firm’s comedic approach to brand awareness and how it has catapulted its assets under management in the last year.
Nicole Casperson: Talk me through how the idea of a cereal marketing campaign even came about?
Manish Khatta: Cereal is really just the conclusion, like the icing on the cake. The wholesalers conference booth mentality, I think has changed and Covid-19 just accelerated it. People don’t necessarily want to get their information from a wholesaler and a PDF.
So we were faced with this dilemma. We’re a younger firm in terms of ownership and employees, even though we have a long track record. So we thought: how do we get our voice out there as an asset management firm?
We sat back and decided we had to be transparent and lead with content. So we put out as much content as possible, being as transparent as possible while letting clients into the bedroom in terms of the secrets behind what we’re doing. That led to some interesting paths.
One of the paths there was what I call the ‘eyes on brand’ marketing, where we did a bunch of different campaigns, whether they be videos about the staff, or videos about bad customer service where we would smash a computer — just random things that don’t necessarily have a lead to a client.
Most marketing is like, ‘let’s do a seminar and how many clients did we get from it?’ We said, let’s do a bunch of light hearted eyes on brand things that have nothing to do with getting the client other than brand awareness.
NC: Why is there this changing marketing dynamic for asset managers?
MK: People do business with people, not PDFs. While the face-to-face will never go away, it’s usually after the fact it’s not before the fact anymore because all the information is available on the internet.
We took the stance that we were going to sell by not selling. What we did is we ripped out all the lead scoring and funnels and magnets and decided we are just going to put out as much content as humanly possible. By the time clients come to us, they should already know about what we do and who our people are.
At that point, it’s really just having a conversation. One of the things that also led to this is I’ve seen so many marketing agency retainers, that are just horseshit. It’s $10,000 a month, and they’ll do some lead gen, some final work and I just don’t think that’s how it’s done anymore.
You have to lead with content, people are smart enough to know how to use the internet, and find you and talk about you. They’ll reach out to you when they’re interested.
So we actually don’t even do any outbound calls or outbound marketing at all. They come through the channels, and then we’ll obviously educate them about what we do after the fact.
NC: Since your business strategy shifted to transparency, how have your assets grown?
MK: Last March, we were probably around $135 million in assets give or take, and now we’re approaching $500 million.
Before the pandemic even hit, we started a library of content, podcasts, blogs and when the pandemic hit, we tripled down on that whole concept of content and transparency. Maybe it’s timing, but I just think the industry was going to be this way regardless in like five years, but the pandemic accelerated it into a very short amount of time.
NC: Is there a particular piece of content you think resonates best with clients?
MK: It’s the ‘document versus create’ concept. A lot of advisers call us and they don’t know what content to produce. My answer is always stop trying to create things and just document things.
It takes a couple seconds, where the adviser pauses, and looks at me like ‘what the hell are you talking about?’
I say, next time you have a 401(k) meeting, if the client allows it — record you testing the 401(k) software, to see the ins and outs of it and just be fully transparent about what you’re offering and document everything.
That has helped us when we started the podcast. It wasn’t an overly produced, scripted thing — we talked about our struggles and successes as a business whether we’re talking about a new HR software we need or a proposal system that we’re looking at.
That resonated more than anything because the advisers we talked to said they can tell right away when something is just a marketing production video, and people tune that out.
NC: What are you typically documenting?
MK: For instance, I’m recording a podcast on the new proposal software that we signed up for. So rather than a very refined pitch or PDF that we send out, we just record ourselves going through it and talking about the things we like and don’t like about it and we release that to our advisers.
The point is, rather than sell someone how great our proposal system is, and all these customizations, we actually just record ourselves going through it and talking about the things we like and don’t like.
We used to email this quarterly update, where I would type up all these great things happening at the company. That email readership was just not there. So we decided to record it.
That’s where other firms are missing the mark. It’s just about getting to know people because people ultimately do business with other people.
As our second lead editor, Cindy Hamilton covers health, fitness and other wellness topics. She is also instrumental in making sure the content on the site is clear and accurate for our readers. Cindy received a BA and an MA from NYU.