“Startup promotion – what is it like?” I was wondering while applying for a new position with Zen Assets – virtual advisory firm based in London, UK. The sphere of investment management (in which the company operates) was totally unfamiliar: earlier in my career I never had to deal with financial services. Yet, it didn’t scare me – in the PR agency (where I worked prior to Zen Assets) each manager was responsible for several clients, who represented different industries – so I got used to constant adaptation and learning. Wealth management as a field seemed promising: in terms of prestige, future connections and profitability. The task was particularly exciting: judging from the job description, I had to promote the newborn advisory to an exquisite British clientele. From scratch. Sounds super exciting! Yet, to fairly evaluate the complexity of this role, consider the following factors:
- Investment management is a highly conservative sector, as it deals with people’s hard-earned money. People trust famous brand names, and are especially cautious of startups.
- Robo-advisories have an incredibly complicated onboarding process: to become a client, you have to submit electronic copies of many personal documents, plus complete qualification and risk tolerance tests. Each stage of this process seems like a burden to many people – so they just give up.
- The last couple of years were marked by a “robo-advisor boom” – many companies of this kind have entered the market, and the biggest players (Wealthfront, Betterment, Personal Capital) are backed with million investments.
- Despite all the media buzz, the concept of a “robo advice” is still very young, and most people never really heard of it.
To put it simply, robo-advisor acts as your personal investment consultant: it analyzes your current financial situation, assesses your tolerance for risk, studies your life goals. Then virtual assistant constructs an investment portfolio for you. All these operations are performed automatically, with the help of elaborated computer algorithms. The main benefits for an investor are lower fees and higher convenience (no face-to-face meetings, availability 24/7, nice digital tools etc).
The more reports I read about virtual advisories, the more obsessed I become with promoting “a little robo of my own”. My advice would be of a great value, if you:
- promote a similar service;
- work in a startup;
- operate on a very limited advertising budget;
- have little time & human resources for promotion.
So, after a brief intro, let’s get down to business. I promised you actionable tips on how to secure initial media presence for your client. Here they are!
The first article you prepare for the “outside world” is probably called “Launch press release”. It’s natural: you’ve developed a product of your own, spent considerable amount of time on its improvement; you have a perfect written announcement in place and, of course, a complete media base with hundreds of contacts. But be realistic: nobody really cares about the new companies, unless they are truly disruptive or are backed by industry stars. To be newsworthy, you have to show stellar progress or be one-of-a-kind. If that is not the case, you can still secure SOME publicity at this stage.
For instance, you may hire a PR agency to appear in top outlets. PR agencies sell their relationships with editors – and you may benefit from it. Yet, if you operate on a limited budget (which was the case with Zen Assets), try contacting release distribution firms instead. They charge democratic fees and can deliver a couple of quality backlinks.
To promote Zen Assets’ launch, we contacted Pressat.co.uk. As a result, we got a publication on the official site of the service: Ex-Goldman Banker to Take on 400 Year Old Wealth Management Industry.
and on Bloomberg:
What did it give us?
- 2 backlinks from reputable sources;
- excellent case for promotion in social media = greater audience engagement;
- raised credibility of the startup in the eyes of potential clients.
Of course, we did not rely on Pressat only. Detailed media base was prepared far in advance – around 200 journalists covering wealth management, investing and fintech were found and listed there.
Quick tip for preparing great media base: Do not limit yourself to industry-specific journalists. Think wider! Apart from investment reporters, try contacting fintech, small business or personal finance writers (if you promote new investment service). Also, check the audience of the newspaper/magazine before including it in your media base. We used Similar Web to figure this out. Do not target big sites only – usually, they are the busiest and won’t pay attention to your news piece. By including growing media outlets you increase your chances for success.
On the 3rd of February we distributed official launch release, and three days later noticed the following publication on Webrazzi:
Publication on Webrazzi provided us with a few brand mentions in the world media. Turkey News Today shared a link on its website:
A pleasant revelation – journalists actually read releases. Most of them will not publish the full story, but if you contact the right people in the right outlets – they will take note of your announcement and come back to you with PR opportunities later on. Every ambitious journalist wants to discover the next big thing!
The next day after press release distribution, Samantha Sharf, Forbes’ millennials and money editor, tweeted about Zen Assets:
Plus, she got back to us with a promise “to keep an eye” on Zen Assets. It is a big PR win, guys, don’t you think so?
After a few months Samantha sent us a survey to participate in the “Top 50 wealth managers” listing.
Apart from media mentions, brand name “Zen Assets” appeared on the famous Q&A site Quora – long before the official launch. Obviously, somebody stumbled upon our website and decided we were standing in one line with Nutmeg and Invest Your Way. Funny, but in December we were busy with product development and didn’t think about promotion!
Here is what we learned from release distribution:
- You should write a high quality paper that will catch journalist’s attention.
- You should identify key media people in advance and have their contacts in place.
- Journalists read what you send them – we have seen a huge traffic increase the next few days.
- Do not expect journalists to copy paste your story. In the best case scenario, they will write an article dedicated to your launch themselves.
- Do expect to get noticed and receive journalistic queries in the future – you are now officially in the business game.
- If you want your release to be published in full, collaborate with distribution services.
Curious of how we moved from here? Please, check my future posts for detailed description of each new step on the way to media success.