HOLLISTON, Mass. - During Richard Sincere's tenure as senior vice president of marketing for Fidelity Investment Advisor Group, the division's assets grew from $3.4 billion to more than $22 billion. That is not bad for two and a half years of work. It is also not a bad statistic to quote to prospects when you hang out your own shingle as Sincere and his wife Deb did one and a half years ago.
Today, Sincere & Co., LLC has marketing contracts with Kobrick Cendant Funds of Boston, The Lipper Funds of New York, Standish Funds of Boston, Van Eck Securities Corporation of New York and William Blair Mutual Funds of Chicago for selected funds within their fund families.
Sincere's intent is to focus on a small group of non-competing funds that are outside the mainstream.
"We are interested in fund families that have a strong story to go along with their strong performance," he said. "I like to find funds that are pre-Morningstar and get out in front with the story. For example, Lipper Funds just hit their three-year mark and both funds I work on received five stars. By introducing well-performing, respected funds outside of the mainstream to registered investment advisors, we help them to enhance their value to their clients."
Sincere's interest in the underdogs dates back to his work with Fidelity's Institutional FundsNetwork.
"The big companies with good stories got all the attention," said Sincere. "I asked Fidelity to let me focus on the smaller funds that had great stories, but perhaps the company's strength wasn't in marketing. Fidelity didn't want to do that, so I decided to start my own business with the same focus."
In a universe of more than 12,000 mutual funds, differentiating a fund from the masses is Sincere's first step in attracting assets.
"In working to position a fund and shape the message, we'll look at the quantitative side - the numbers, etc., but it's also important to analyze the message from a qualitative standpoint," said Sincere. "Does the fund family know what they stand for? Are there people who can articulate the message? I tell my clients that 80 percent of our work is strategy. The other 20 percent is execution, but that 20 percent has to be perfect."
Effectively communicating a fund's message requires an integrated marketing plan, Sincere said. Sincere & Co.'s sales and marketing support includes marketing communications campaigns, representation at and sponsorship of events and seminars and meetings with registered investment advisors.
"When people use the term marketing, they are always thinking sales," said Sincere. "Because of my background - before Fidelity I worked for Citicorp/Citibank in Chicago for ten years and earned my MBA at Northwestern - when I think of marketing, I think of classical marketing. That means direct mail, advertising, events and public relations. Because many of my clients can sit at a dinner table and raise $30 million, they are not used to doing marketing in the traditional sense."
Traditional marketing does not mean deluging the audience with expensive materials, Sincere said. Instead, he tries to include more detail than the Morningstar data that normally is included in company brochures, he said. And, he tries to make the brochure design simpler than most, he said.
"Rather than the expensive brochures, what advisors want is a one-pager full of information that really helps," Sincere said. "We provide more information than Morningstar because the bottom line is that you need to add value."
Sincere works hard at trying to present new and different information than is already available to his customers.
For example, when Sincere recently scheduled a speaking engagement for his customer, Ken Lipper, Sincere encouraged Lipper to talk about the growth of his business rather than the performance of his funds, the standard fare for fund managers. On May 13th, Lipper was to present a seminar in New York entitled "How I Built my Business from 0 to $5 Billion."
"This is a topic advisors will be interested in and can learn from," said Sincere. "Because another part of my company provides marketing consulting to RIAs and markets fee advisors' programs to other advisors, we have a good sense of what RIAs are looking for."
Sincere's approach to marketing seems to be working.
"Not only have assets started to roll in, but we have other indications that our programs are successful," said Sincere. "For example, we're expecting more than one hundred people to see Ken Lipper. However, we've also received responses saying, Sorry I can't come to this seminar, but please keep me on your mailing list.'" That response indicates that the information he is disseminating and the talks he is organizing are of considerable interest to his audience, Sincere said. It is very unusual for direct mail recipients to take the time to ask to be kept on a mailing list, he said.
Sincere says it is important to be especially sensitive to the RIA audience.
"We frequently ask, Do you want us to keep mailing to you?'" said Sincere. "I'm very big on getting feedback. What I hear from the RIAs will dictate what I do going forward."