Hedge Funds may soon be able to market. | DiMassimo Goldstein

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Hedge Funds may soon be able to market.

With the stage now set to reduce the restrictions on how privately traded securities can be marketed, there’s a very real concern that unsophisticated investors can be mislead by advertising for risky or even fraudulent investments.

Concerned opponents of the change conjure up images of billboards, TV ads and telemarketing calls touting high-risk investment opportunities to the unsuspecting masses. Yes, dishonest and unethical marketing happens, and sometimes it even works. Neither is unique to financial services.

Rather, let’s talk about good marketing. Good marketing is an essential component to building strong brands, and strong brands – brands that have real meaning to the public – are built on values and high-quality products and services. When brands are allowed to compete in the open, it becomes clear which ones are the good ones.

For years, hedge funds have been shrouded in secrecy. This was by design, as they had a finite but very willing and deep-pocketed constituency. Now that funds are looking to expand their reach, they have some work to do. If hedge funds are going to come out from behind the curtain, marketing must give their prospects a clear and distinctive reason to care. They must show how their expertise differentiates them from more familiar choices, as well as from one another. Whether it’s with incremental change like building out their website or major change like a full branding campaign, knowledge sharing should be at the center of establishing credibility.

Hedge funds are, at their core, knowledge organizations, with deep expertise in niche areas. They can begin to expand their market by sharing that expertise to educate an extremely targeted audience. They can model responsible and effective marketing by developing and distributing content of utility and credibility, by building trust and relevance with customers and prospects through sharing what they know and even extending their knowledge networks.

When the restrictions on marketing come down, hedge funds can play a central role in building new customer relationships, in shaping how their industry is viewed, and in highlighting their distinctive expertise. And that is the best defense against misleading marketing.