June 24, 2013

Conference Marketing - Creativity Required

by Melissa Murphy

Exhibiting at conferences attended by financial advisors or other key client audiences can be an excellent way for fund companies to spur growth. Participation often comes with a hefty price tag so diligent analysis about what you hope to accomplish as an exhibitor and how it fits into your overall strategy is critical.  A detailed calculation of related expenses is important as the $10,000+ fee for booth space is just the tip of the cost iceberg and does not include the booth itself, additional marketing materials, pre- and post-conference marketing and travel costs for your executives.  However, the relationships your firm and wholesalers can build with advisors can have a big impact on sales.

Your booth represents your brand and should reflect its imagery and core messaging. It should also be creative and differentiated from the competition.
The Motley Fool Funds' director of business development and Morningstar Investment Conference exhibitor Carl Hendley summed up his experience as follows: "The Morningstar investment Conference is a terrific event for us in that it allows us to introduce our firm and funds to a wide variety of attendees, many of whom may be familiar with the larger Motley Fool brand but unaware that we have a mutual fund business. More important than that, however, is that we get to hear from advisors – to learn how they are working with clients, what challenges they face, and what they need from a fund company – and how we can help. We hear a lot of exhibitors talking about value, ROI, what metrics to attach to attendance and such. This was our third conference appearance and for us the metrics are simple – maximize every second that you are there. We had someone at our booth during the entire show, we attended all of the major presentations, and we had hundreds of meaningful conversation during our three days on the floor. While it’s a little tricky to tie a number to a conference we always feel like we received the most possible value after we leave. Standing out in a crowd takes a little guts (as well as an imaginative design team) but that comes naturally for us.  I think the most important thing is that you are honest. Releasing a paper on Active Share or creating a Nerf target game that highlights our commitment to True Active Management is terrific but it only makes sense if our firm is living that message in the way we invest and communicate with Advisors.  We are taking the road less travelled in our investment approach – it only made sense that our presence at the conference reflected that."

Richard Clark, director of sales and marketing for Jensen Investment Management added, "We have always felt that the Morningstar conference is one of the premier events of its type in the investment industry.  Sponsorship gives us the opportunity to engage with the investment professionals that attend the conference, many of which are current clients that we may not have the opportunity to see in our travels throughout the year.  For those attendees that are not clients, the conference also provides us an opportunity to interact with some of the best investment advisors in the country."

Approximately 175 fund companies and service providers exhibited at the 25th annual Morningstar Investment Conference earlier this month in Chicago. We evaluated booths for overall design and execution, brand identity, clarity of message and creativity/differentiation.
We are proud to present Fund Factor's Morningstar Investment Conference Exhibitor Excellence Awards.
1) Best large fund company booth: Oppenheimer (This booth was open and inviting with a differentiated color scheme. The messaging was clear - passive is not the only answer. The second messaging panel was timely in nature. The booth used multimedia elements well.)

Motley Fool
2) Best small fund company booth: Motley Fool Funds  (Motley Fool's brand has always been about having a little more fun with your investments and their fund division has embraced this mantra. The booth quips, "Yes, We Have Funds," along with an array of peppy, amusing messages. The fun factor at the booth goes into overdrive, as visitors are encouraged to point a Nerf dart gun at a target.) 

3) Best draw to the booth: tie - John Hancock Funds and Scout Funds (John Hancock invited attendees to meet baseball legend Rich "Goose" Gossage at their booth and Scout's caricature artist was a reason for advisors to visit the booth and stay awhile - connecting with the firm's representatives - for a drawing.) 
John Hancock

4) Best giveaway: Jensen* (If you don’t determine that Jensen's investment process is all about quality growth companies in the first three seconds of your visit to their booth, you will as soon as you pick up one of their t-shirts for babies and toddlers with the copy: I heart quality growth. Get the young ones started early!) 

5) Best pre-conference marketing: Nationwide Funds (When a small package was brought to my desk the Monday of the week of the conference, I was intrigued. It contained a note about giving a personal touch to investing and a stack of notecards embossed with my name along with matching envelopes. There was also a call to action to stop by the Nationwide Fund's booth for a personalized pen. Nice touch.)


*Client of SunStar Strategic

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