The Intricacies of Serving Middle Market Private Equity: A Considered Branding Approach

May 20, 2023     |     Darien Group

Our last post discussed our investment management branding approach for spinouts. Here, we discuss the middle market and best practices for mid-sized investment managers.

The term “middle market” can be nebulous, encompassing a wide spectrum of entities. On one end, there are firms we’d classify as middle or lower-middle market. These are established players with around 20 years of history, funds not exceeding a billion dollars, and a moderate number of full-time staff plus a team of operating partners. They maintain portfolios of about 15-20 platforms driving add-on acquisitions.

On the other end, you have stalwarts flirting with the divide between the middle market and the mega-cap or upper-middle market. These firms might boast 100 or more full-time employees. Typically, they have been around for three or more decades, and have diversified their product line to include credit, small-cap deals, or structured capital/equity.

The Branding Needs and Challenges of Middle Market Private Equity

Despite the vast differences within this category, the middle market use case is fairly consistent. These firms seek our services when they aren’t satisfied with their digital presence or are preparing for fundraising.

The dissatisfaction often stems from: 

  • A perceived outdatedness of their websites
  • A lack of representation of the firm’s identity
  • Consistent shortcomings since the website’s inception 
  • Evolutions in strategy and management successions

Opportunity: Investment Management Branding for Mid-Sized Investment Managers

We work closely with these firms to improve their digital presence. More often than not, our key point of contact is within the Investor Relations department. 

Our partnership includes frequent interactions and deep consultations to understand the needs of other constituents within the firm. This is a crucial aspect of our approach because, while we interact with other stakeholders, such as transaction professionals, senior management, founders, deal originators, and finance handlers, the IR department is our primary partner.

We act as synthesizers of different voices within the firm and the external voices we consult, such as portfolio company management, investment bankers the firm knows well, and Limited Partners. 

Darien Group’s Granular Branding Approach

Our granular approach is optimal for firms characterized by the nuanced and long-standing identity and legacy that often comes with decades of history in the investment management space. It is crucial to capture and appropriately represent a variety of perspectives and insights from all constituents of a middle market firm.

Designing a new website or brand or working on fundraising collateral demands a deep understanding of the firm’s identity, competitive set, and strong points. We also need to accommodate personal preferences within the firm – something like the right shade of green, as seemingly simple as it is to many, can be meaningful to others. 

We strive to produce a deliverable that excites everyone involved. With that goal in mind, we’ve developed and honed a process that incorporates relevant voices and presents work to key internal stakeholders at the right times to ensure alignment. 

Darien Group also tries to educate our clients about the ‘design by committee’ syndrome. Too many voices and competing vantage points can dilute the impact, leading to a compromise that satisfies no one. Instead, our approach helps us create a brand design with a clear and cohesive vision.

For firms with a long history, one of our key creative imperatives is to design a modern yet respectful representation of their legacy and heritage. We’ve handled numerous brand refreshes, rebrands, and new websites. Through all of this, we have developed a strong internal barometer and process for achieving the delicate balance between preserving legacy and promoting modernity.

Conclusion: Investment Management Branding for Middle Market Private Equity

Now that we’ve covered some of the needs, challenges, and opportunities mid-sized investment managers face when it comes to branding, you’re ready for your next steps: contacting Darien Group to discuss exactly how we can put our approach to work for you. 

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