36ONE Asset Management’s co-founder, Steve Liptz, ses innovative marketing tactics to secure great clients in a tough economy.
Thanks to a lean business strategy and products that performed well, 36ONE Asset Management not only survived the market crash in 2008, but managed to enjoy impressive growth instead.
However, while strong performance will always help a business grow, particularly in the investment industry, 36ONE Asset Management’s co-founder, Steve Liptz knew it was essential for the business to get as much exposure as possible.
As a result, marketing became a key area of investment. “While we’ve kept the business lean, we’ve gone all out to build our brand. Instead of taking out adverts though, we’ve focused most of our energy on sponsorships that align with our interests,” says Liptz.
According to Liptz, sponsorships provide clarity on what the company’s trying to achieve, and shows what the brand stands for: Not just money, but lifestyle choices.
“Life should be about enjoyment, but also investing in the future. We’ve aligned ourselves with sports events that we believe embody everything we stand for: Training, preparation, hard work and team-effort.
"We sponsored Christoph Sauser and the late Burry Stander to become the winning team at the Absa Cape Epic; we sponsor the JP Morgan Corporate Challenge, and we even launched our own cycling event.
It’s a slow process, but it will be an enduring one. We understand that we’re building brand longevity, and that clients will grow to know exactly what we stand for. That’s our mission.”
It’s also an excellent way to attract clients. “Right from the beginning our focus has been on relationship building,” says Liptz. “We first identify key clients. The next step is learning as much as we can about the individuals and their businesses.
"We can then invite them to events we believe they’d enjoy. It’s not a hard sell. Instead, it’s a great environment to keep them abreast of how we’re doing, and keep in touch to find out how they’re doing. We don’t overburden them, but focus on building relationships instead, and when they’re ready to invest, we’re already familiar with each other and they have a good understanding of what we offer. Great clients don’t happen by accident. It takes time to foster the right relationships.”
Attracting clients is one thing, but keeping them requires excellent administration and customer service, and more importantly, good returns.
“At the end of the day, our clients trust us with their futures, which means we have to perform. We focus on individuals and large corporate accounts and we develop products to suit them, based on our understanding of their needs. The best marketing strategy to attract clients is worthless if we can’t keep them."
According to Liptz, when he and co-founder Cy Jacobs first set out, they had a few key decisions to make.
“We didn’t want to be stockbrokers. Instead, we wanted to be asset managers. We would manage the funds and decide what to invest in, but the actual trades would be executed by other companies who specialise in trade execution.
"In the investment industry there are three levels: Pure execution (stockbrokers), advice, and discretionary portfolio management, in which your asset manager chooses how to invest your funds to grow your portfolio. That was where we wanted to be. It’s more specialised, and the rewards are greater.
“We also knew that we really wanted to grow the assets we managed. We would do this by keeping our team small so that we wouldn’t become too corporate, and focusing on smaller clients. We are experts on the South African equity market.
"We can also invest in Africa and international markets, but our real edge is in local markets. Our markets are not big enough to manage very large amounts of money, and so with smaller assets under management we can keep our investments flexible.”
The lesson? Know exactly who you are and what you want to be, and then follow that with a laser focus.
“It’s difficult to offer great service if you’re trying to be too many things to too many people. Have a clear focus at the beginning at stick to it. Become a trusted partner for each and every one of your clients. The growth will follow.”