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  4. Episode 34: Top 6 Tips For Effective and Impactful ESG Marketing

Guest speaker:

Paul Ellis, Impact Investing Marketing & Social Media Consultant & Founder of The Sustainable Finance Podcast.

Top 6 Tips For Effective and Impactful ESG Marketing

Episode 34 | Duration: 13 minutes

What are the key strategies for financial advisors looking to market their ESG offerings? Discover 6 tips and tricks for sustainable and effective ESG marketing.

  • Keesa Schreane [00:00:20] ESG investing drives that value. ESG nvesting also drives profitability.  In the first half of 2020, Two hundred and seventy-five billion of new financing was raised on capital markets, which included sustainability bonds, syndicated loans, and equity capital issuance tied to sustainability outcome. Now, given the clear value proposition and a clear bottom-line benefit, marketing efforts around ESG investing should be simple and straightforward, right? Well, not quite. Not all the time. Now, whether we're looking at across the board ESG standards or greenwashing, stating facts around ESG investing in a simple, direct way calls for solid marketing and communication strategies. To discuss those strategies, here with us is Paul Ellis, Impact Investing, Marketing and social media consultant and founder of the Sustainable Finance Podcast. Paul, thanks for joining us.  

    Paul Ellis [00:01:29] Thanks very much for having me on the program today.  

    [00:01:33] So some people think it's a bit disingenuous to build a brand around ESG investing, so should brand building happened organically, or does building a strategy actually waters down the value in some way?  

    Paul Ellis [00:01:50] Well, I started building a brand in ESG investing back in 2002, Keesa. And I found it to be completely in line with what my clients were interested in learning more about and participating in related to their investment portfolio strategies. This has been a rapidly growing part of the industry, as you said, overall, a long period of time and the pace is picking up now and more financial advisors and investors want to learn about this part of the industry. So I think we're right in stride with this being fast-growing. And there's a lot there are, as you said, a lot of things to consider.  

    Keesa Schreane [00:02:38] So if we're thinking about differentiating factors between ESG portfolios, how should we call out differentiated factors and what are those differentiating factors that should be called out when marketing,.  

    Paul Ellis [00:02:52] When an adviser or anyone who is marketing for ESG investment strategies, they should be very clear about the key indicators that they are focusing by company, by industry and by sector of the economy related to allocating capital to ESG strategies. ESGis a data set, if you will, that is added to fundamental financial analysis and supports. Especially today, with lots of concerns about the environment and the emerging social issues that we're seeing now is more important than ever for company management and investors to scrutinize how firms are evaluating their participation in these areas in addition to fundamental financial analysis.  

    Keesa Schreane [00:03:52] Great, so with that, Paul, walk us through your top six tips for marketing ESG portfolios with impact. What would you start with?  

    Paul Ellis [00:04:01] Well, I would start with the thing that drives all the rest that is sitting down with your clients and creating an investment policy statement that integrates their personal values into the investment process. This is the best first step I found always, because not only does it allow the financial adviser to better understand what things matter from an investment standpoint to the client, but it also deepens the relationship that an adviser, whether it's a woman or a man, male adviser, builds with their clients all the time. And by the way, just a little sideline. The demographics of our industry are changing rapidly, as you know. And women will be controlling much more wealth over the next 10 to 20 years. And so it's really important that advisers are working with either individual female clients or couples that are male/female couples, that they really incorporate a woman's perspective into this process. And the investment policy statement is a good place to start.  

    Paul Ellis [00:05:18] So after you do that and get clear on what it is that your clients are interested, then I think it's really valuable to engage those clients in a dialog about their ESG focused consumer preferences. All of us make decisions as consumers that affect the companies that create the consumer goods that we are purchasing or considering making investments in. When you think about it, Keesa the same process goes into making a choice about what companies to invest in. So for advisors who dig deeper into their clients' consumer protections, they will learn a lot about those clients' ESG investment preferences in the process.  

    Paul Ellis [00:06:15] The third step is really to start slowly. There is a lot of information, a lot of data to share and to consume and to understand, both on the adviser's part and on the investor's part. And so it's best to, what I say to most advisers that I consult with, dip your toe into the water first and then ask your client to join you gradually allocating assets in their portfolio to ESG strategies and giving those allocations time to start reflecting what ESG is all about. Now, that's happened very rapidly in the past six months. And you've mentioned it at the top of the call. ESG preferences are really emerging, especially on the social side of the ledger. In the last six months or so. When requiring company management to look much more closely at those issues.  

    Paul Ellis [00:07:23] But it's not something that you have to push into all right away, this is a gradual process for most financial advisors and investors to take on. One of the ways that an adviser can do that and incorporate some marketing outreach to their local community is to put together and ESG focused regular email or a newsletter, for example, that you write periodically that links articles about ESG investing or once again about consumer companies and how they're managing these types of issues and making that available and sending it to all of your clients. That was one of the most effective tools I found for bringing in new perspective clients. Of course, my clients would pass it on to their email chain, to other people that they thought might be interested in participating in ESG investing 

    Paul Ellis [00:08:29] Did you find that there was an issue with a lot of other communications? A lot of people saying they felt that they were being overwhelmed by newsletters and posts. Or did you not feel that was the case with your client?  

    Paul Ellis [00:08:44] Well, that's a very good question Keesa. As you're right. We are subject to a lot of inflow through the media these days. But what I saw was that my clients especially tuned in to what I sent them because we had already had these long-range investment planning discussions and they saw the newsletter as an opportunity to take in more of what I was focusing on as their financial adviser. So they say my newsletter was one of the first things that my clients open when they got it. I did it quarterly. And it does take some time and effort. But it's also something that's very valuable as a tool as I was going to say, for attracting local media attention to an adviser's practices. Hope that answers your question.  

    Keesa Schreane [00:09:44] Oh, yeah. Yeah, I'm ready to hear the other or the other tactic.  

    Paul Ellis [00:09:48] Sure, sure. Then what's also important is to focus on the very personal direct introductions and client relationships and all advisers use to build their practice and to market to their community in the first place. In this respect, building the ESG part of your practice is not any different from the way you've already built your practice, or if you're new to the industry, can be fully integrated into your marketing plans or how you're going to grow your practice from day one. Senior advisors that I work with and consult with are often very concerned, that is they began putting together a great transition plan to gradually move out of their practice and bring in new younger investors. Their concern is that introducing new ideas like ESG investing might be disruptive to the continuity of the relationships that they have. I'm sure you talk on your programs on a regular basis about all the studies that say going forward, both women and younger investors are more and more interested in ESG strategies. And so the senior male advisors, in particular, should really pay attention to this part of how they introduce their clients and invite other people join the practice. As we all know now, face to face, or like it's today - a computer to computer - conversations is one of the most effective ways to get to know new potential clients, as well as continue to work very closely and deepen the relationships you already have.  

    Paul Ellis [00:11:46] And then finally, I think one of the things to do is sending the message to your community that you're in this for the long run. One way to do it, if you want people in your community to consider you as an ESG investment specialist, is to identify one or two or three local NGOs or nonprofit organizations that are doing things related to ESG issues that you can participate in, either as a contributor or board member, attending events, getting to know their membership, working with them to put on marketing. The events for their members and your clients at the same time. That's a really good way to cross-pollinate the way that you can market yourself as well as local ESG investment.  

    Keesa Schreane [00:12:46] That is amazing, Paul. I'm really interested, totally align and agree to the points about who the new audience is and where the demographics are really shifting. So, Paul, amazing insights. Paul Ellis, thank you so much for joining. And also, thank you, our audience, for joining. As always, let us know how we are doing. We have a comment or reach out to us on LinkedIn or reach out to me directly. In the meantime, make sure to check out Elena Philipova's interview on the Sustainable Finance Podcast coming up soon. Thank you for joining.