It’s Time for Investment Banking Marketing to Step Up its Game

by Debra Andrews | October 28, 2020

In the professional services world, lots of industries have adopted modern marketing principles—and they’re achieving measurable, predictable results, including increased revenue.

It started with CPA firms in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Then law firms followed suit. Today, professional services firms in many industries use modern marketing to drive their prospects through the buying journey and achieve significant revenue growth.

And yet…investment banking firms still cling to the old ways of marketing. That’s unfortunate, because it’s holding them back from truly differentiating themselves from competitors, generating new leads, and driving revenue growth.

Getting Past the Stumbling Block

Why don’t most investment banking firms adopt modern marketing principles that can generate high returns? My theory (based on my experience in this industry) is that they’re almost afraid to stand out.

In developing a strategic marketing plan for one of our investment banking clients, we encountered that very mindset. We conducted a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis, did research with their customers, and developed a positioning that would differentiate the firm and resonate with their ideal buyers. The client wasn’t comfortable with the positioning because they felt it was too sales oriented and glitzy. I sensed a fear of standing out too much…a notion that, if we look too different or come off as “sales-y” we’ll turn off prospective buyers. So we toned down some of their key points of differentiation, even though they were valid points.

Sadly, it’s a common theme we‘ve seen play out, over and over. Instead of embracing strategic marketing and modern marketing principles, many investment banking firms rely on client referrals and the old way of marketing, including cold calls. That may have worked 30 years ago, but it may not be how the buyers of investment banking services make a purchase today, especially as Millennials are moving into senior-level positions.

It’s time for investment banking firms to step up their marketing game. By embracing modern marketing principles and approaching marketing as a profit center, rather than a cost center, these firms can attract ideal buyers and achieve aggressive growth.

These Aren’t Your Father’s Buyers

Evolving the way investment banking services are marketed is fast becoming a necessity. That’s because prospects of all ages and generations move through a much different buying journey than they did decades ago. Today much of the buying journey happens digitally, often starting with a Google search. Buyers want to learn as much as they can about a firm before engaging with sales, and they do that by checking out its website, LinkedIn and other social media presence, and leadership bios. If an investment banking firm’s digital footprint comes across as outdated, boring, irrelevant, or not useful, the buying journey will end right there.    

When you consider that the C-suite of most middle market companies is starting to turn over, with baby boomers looking to retire and hand the reins to the next generation, a modern approach to marketing becomes even more vital. These buyers of investment banking services expect to learn as much as they can about a firm digitally. And in a crowded field, where buyers need help identifying what makes one firm different from another, there’s no room for marketing mistakes.  

If you’re still just working the phones or waiting for the next client referral, you’re leaving a huge opportunity on the table and a gift to your competition. It’s not a question of whether investment banking marketing will evolve. That’s a given. It’s a question of who will lead the way and come out ahead. Investment banking firms that use modern marketing to build a strong brand and a relevant digital footprint are the likely winners.

Moving the Needle with Modern Marketing     

It’s time for investment banking firms to catch up with their professional services peers and adopt modern marketing to drive revenue growth.

Modern marketing drives a measurable ROI by identifying your ideal buyers and nurturing them through the revenue funnel, from the point of awareness to the point of purchase. If you provide those leads with useful, appropriate information at each stage of their buying journey, you can become their trusted advisor—before you’ve ever spoken a word to them.

How do you begin to evolve to a modern marketing approach? Questions like these can get you started:

  • Do you have a marketing function in the organization? Not an individual marketer, but a true marketing function that demonstrates you view marketing as an investment, not an expense.
  • Do you have a strategic marketing plan that outlines which markets you’ll target in the short and long term, what your ideal buyers look like, and what your messaging will be?  
  • Does your brand reflect your company and who you are?
  • Do you have a company story that clearly articulates how you’re different from competitors?
  • Does your marketing go beyond sales enablement? A strong pitch deck is an important sales tool—but it’s not marketing.
  • Does your website serve as a helpful resource for your ideal buyers? Is it optimized to rank high in Google searches? Does it stand out from your competitors’ sites, or is it a “wall of same”?
  • Do you have a plan for consistent, proactive communication—including informative content, public relations, and social media? Does your communication plan provide touchpoints that align with where buyers are in the sales cycle? 
  • Do you offer a repository of content that goes beyond building awareness and is useful to potential buyers, such as blogs, guides, and webinars that position you as a trusted advisor?
  • Do you gate some of your content, so you can capture leads and nurture them through their buying journey?
  • Does your digital footprint back up your claims? For instance, if you say that you specialize in certain industries, does your blog, social media, public relations, and other content demonstrate your expertise in those areas?
  • Does any of your content explain your firm’s process and approach? When buyers are ready to sell their life’s work, they need the confidence and comfort level that comes from knowing what to expect. 
  • Do you have the marketing infrastructure and automation tools to support critical marketing steps like scoring leads, using predictive analytics to understand their intent, and nurturing them through every stage of the revenue funnel?
  • Does your marketing build in the human factor? People do business with people. They want to know your story and get to know your staff as human beings who are not only credible but passionate about their work.  

Don’t Go it Alone

And finally…have you sought help from experienced marketing professionals who understand the investment banking world and who know how the sell-side works? If your only experience using outside marketing help involved an agency or individual that doesn’t know investment banking, you haven’t gotten a true picture of how strategic marketing can help your business grow.

Just like the buyers of your investment banking services look for firms that specialize in their industry, you should look for a marketing partner that knows and understands investment banking specifically and professional services generally. It’s also best to find an agency that’s grounded in research and strategy and is able to develop a solid marketing foundation.

When a company founder is ready to sell a business they’ve invested their life in, choosing the right investment banking firm is a huge decision. Getting it right is vital. And that’s what makes your marketing so important. If you tell your story in an authentic and impactful way that connects with buyers, you’ll gain their trust, generate leads, and turn those leads into sales.

If you’re ready to break away from the mold, differentiate your investment banking firm, and drive strong revenue growth, contact the experienced investment banking marketers at Marketri!