We get it. You’re busy maximizing deal flow, closing deals and finding ways to boost returns on your current investments. Marketing yourself and your firm is probably low on the priority list. After all, your track record and ability to spot high-value opportunities, negotiate deals or grow businesses speaks for itself, right? But do you stand out to the centers of influence, referral sources and deal targets who are key to your success? Do they understand what makes you unique in a crowded M&A marketplace?
How these influencers and decision-makers view you has a direct impact on your ability to identify and close deals. So, there’s clear value in spending time crafting your professional brand and managing how your network perceives you.
Consider some stats from Hinge’s “The Visible Expert.” The authors of the e-book make the case that firms with “visible experts” will attract more leads and grow faster than those without “visible experts.” How can you become a “visible expert?” The authors highlight some of the activities these professionals engage in. For example:
- 90 percent regularly write industry articles.
- More than 90 percent participate in speaking engagements.
- More than 75 percent appear in business publications.
M&A professionals should work to become “visible experts.” Here are a few keys to success:
- Develop a point of view that stands out: Study what your competitors are saying and what reporters who cover the M&A space or relevant vertical industries are writing about. Your target audiences want unique ideas and novel ways to address the concerns that keep them up at night. So, look around the bend and identify issues you don’t see others talking about. Collect and organize your thoughts. Then, bring them to market.
- Use earned media to disseminate your ideas: While paid media (i.e., advertisements) can play an important role in a company’s brand-building efforts, don’t leave earned media (i.e., coverage in credible media outlets that you earn instead of buy) out of the mix. Reporters and editors can be effective amplifiers of your ideas and brand. But only if you deliver helpful and unique insights and treat them the same way you would treat a valued prospect. Respect their time and respond promptly. Also, prepare thoroughly. Anticipate their questions and be ready to deliver informative answers. Go into every interview with a game plan. You may know how to wow a room, but talking with a reporter is not the same as talking to COIs or prospects. Reporters control the conversation, and you sometimes need to get creative to ensure you make the points during the interview that will earn you coverage and help you stand out. But also, be yourself. Letting your authentic personality shine through will help you build rapport with reporters.
- Leverage owned media channels: In addition to engaging strategically with relevant media, make full use of owned media channels (e.g., your company’s blog as well as self-publishing platforms like LinkedIn, Substack and Medium). The key to success on these platforms is quality and consistency. Don’t start a Substack if you don’t plan to write regularly. Don’t post a couple times on LinkedIn and expect an influx of leads. These platforms have democratized content creation. But with so much content available, the competition for visibility is fierce. Good writing and interesting ideas will carry the day. But visibility matters, too. To build and retain an audience on these platforms, you must produce high-quality content on a regular basis.
- Get on stage: Industry events and conferences can provide a high-visibility platform in front of engaged and relevant audiences. Find out where your COIs and prospects spend their time. Then, go there and find forums (e.g., speeches, panel discussions) that allow you to get on stage (even a virtual one) and share your expertise. Having unique and interesting points of view on M&A issues (as discussed above) will improve your chances of landing prime speaking slots at these events. If you deliver valuable, engaging content at these events, you can expect to see your network and sales pipeline grow.
Building your brand
Of course, building a differentiated brand requires time, effort and commitment. The first step is recognizing the business value you can create by working on your brand. With that understanding, you can then start to leverage all the marketing communications tools at your disposal to stand out from your competitors.
At The Agency at Sikich, our advisors specialize in helping organizations and individuals build and protect their brands. Connect with our brand specialists to learn how you can stand out.