Winning distribution through broker/dealers and wirehouses often depends on offering a fund that has top-tier performance. But short of performance, access to distribution can often be gained by offering a unique niche product that has a good story to tell.

Companies that can offer a unique product that fits well with existing market conditions stand a good chance of winning shelf space with distributors, said Donald Cassidy, senior analyst with Lipper. By offering a product that fills a hole in brokers' line up or by providing a fund that addresses market conditions, fund groups can gain shelf space without posting outstanding performance, he said.

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