Since 2000, the number of Private Equity firms is up 143% to 3,530. These firms are raising and deploying record amounts of capital — just over $300 billion in 2016. Prospective investors have more choice than ever before in where to invest their funds.
Companies looking for growth capital have more access than ever, and it is sending valuations through the roof. Today, the difference between success and failure as a private equity company often lies in the quality of the story they tell.
The decision process in selecting a private equity partner is not much different from that of other B2B services industries. Consulting has recognized that it must invest heavily in how it talks about its people, process and IP. The agency world invests in content to inspire clients and prospective clients around what is possible with their capabilities.
The financial services world is built on personal relationships and knowing your market and customers. As B2B marketers have learned and Gartner has validated with their most recent study, the company website is by far the most important marketing asset for B2B companies. So why do most private funds significantly under-invest in telling their story?
Private Equity Websites - Old School
Old school Private Equity websites follow the same predictable formula: listing their investment philosophy, partners, current and exited portfolio companies and contact information. The sites are text heavy and rarely optimized for mobile. They don’t utilize modern design techniques, higher engagement forms of media (video, blogs, case studies, thought leadership) or Search/Mobile optimization techniques that would help them to stand out and be discovered.
As a result, these firms don’t rise above the noise and have to rely on much more expensive ways to be heard, such as bidding high on deals to get a seat at the table or relying on investment banking relationships to deliver deal flow. These firms don’t get the benefit of prospective companies and investors finding them and connecting with their vision of the world.
Private Equity Websites - New School
We recently worked with a progressive private equity firm out of Chicago called Madison Industries. Madison has a unique and inspirational mission to make the world safer, healthier and more productive. Madison kicked off their website redesign project with 5 objectives in mind:
- Communicate their “why” to employees and customers.
- Attract entrepreneurs who are wanting to accelerate their company’s growth and are looking for a partner who is invested in long-term solutions.
- Attract larger corporations and their capital partners who are looking to divest assets.
- Build company loyalty and company culture for current employees and portfolio companies.
- Recruit talent to join a great team.
These objectives are not that dissimilar from the objectives of other private equity firms for the role of their websites. The difference is in the execution, content quality and overall storyline approach.
Pictured: Springbox client, Madison, recently invested in story telling.
Private Equity Website Design Done Right
Here are some of the key lessons learned that should apply to any firm that is looking to uplevel their story:
- Make investments in engaging content. Madison uses video to tell their story and to add an emotional element to their mission. They have also invested in high resolution images that support the story and provide visual appeal.
- Use advanced design techniques. Madison uses Parallax inside a responsive framework to deliver an engaging scrolling experience that brings you along in the story. Parallax Example
- Design Mobile First. Rather than designing a desktop site and then adapting it to mobile, Madison’s site was built to be viewed on mobile first. As a result, you see that the content story is simple and blocked out so that it will show well on any device. In addition to the enhanced user experience that comes from this, there is a significant search engine optimization benefit as Google considers the site to be mobile optimized. As a side note, Google has announced that 2018 will be the year that they shift to a mobile-only index. What this means is that any content on your desktop site that is not on your mobile site will not be indexed and therefore not discoverable. Designing mobile first solves this issue.
- Pay off your promise by showing outcomes. Financial outcomes are important, but they’re not the only consideration. Forbes released a study in December 2017 that says that 82% of Millennials expect successful companies to have a purpose-driven mission, and 78% say that they will look for those with a purpose that matches their own. Madison does a nice job of including the Impact of their mission as part of their story.
- Simple things like iconography make a difference. Most people read headlines and skip the details. You want your site to communicate its benefits even at a glance. Using iconography can create visual cues and helps the reader to better process and remember what they have read. Further, using custom iconography can enhance your brand and give your site a modern look and feel.
- Most Important, understand your “why.” So many clients come to us looking to modernize, but they have not thought about how they want to uniquely tell their story. This is the most difficult but impactful part of the process. Map out your “why” and then outline your story early in the design part of the project in order to get the most cohesive final product.
It continues to amaze me how many funds with hundreds of millions or even billions under management still have websites that look like a template from the 1990s. They want to present themselves as leading edge from a technology perspective but their own sites say otherwise. If you have the skills in house, this is a must do for 2018, and if you don’t, find the right partner to help you get the site across the line. Your website is an asset that will pay back handsomely over time if you make the right investments today.
About the Author:
Tom West is a career Digital Business Leader having run multiple top 100 ecommerce sites as President and general manager. Today he acts as a digital director for multiple companies and helps many more to reach their full digital potential through his company, Springbox. You might also like Tom's Practical CEO Guide to Digital Transformation.