What Should Be in Your ETF Launch Toolbox

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In 2014, 180 new ETFs came to market – that’s about one every two days – and as of June, the ETF universe is now rolling about 1,800 products deep, according to ETF.com.

Suffice it to say, if you’re planning to launch an ETF, you have some steep competition in an ever-increasingly crowded marketplace. Make no mistake: it’s imperative that you have a well-crafted plan to attract both media and investor attention right out of the gate.

Without consciously collecting an arsenal of marketing collateral, story angles and critical information about the fund, your ETF’s launch could be yesterday’s news before it even happened. Here are the five things you should have in your toolbox before the opening bell rings on your new product.

  1. A website that is equipped for modern marketing. Do you have information about your ETF, its holdings, what it tracks (if applicable) and other relevant information on your website so curious media and potential investors can do their research? If the answer is no, you’re not ready to go to market.For both compliance and marketing reasons, creating a dedicated website to support your ETF – or group of ETFs – is essential. The website should be designed to showcase what is unique about the fund and where it fits in among other offerings. You need to crisply distinguish your new product versus the others out there.In addition, make sure you have analytics set up so you can closely track the traffic to see if page visits spike around the time of the launch. In today’s web-driven environment, this should be an automatic, but some fail to make use of the analytics tools at their disposal.
  2. Fact sheet and FAQs. Think of your fact sheet as a cheat sheet. What pertinent information about your fund can you fit on a one-pager? Your fact sheet should include the fund’s elevator pitch, expense ratio, ticker, snapshot information about holdings, rebalance frequency and index details (if applicable). It probably goes without saying that your fact sheet should be a bit flashy and have some pizzazz to it. Visuals and graphics can be the difference-maker in telling a story in a compressed format.Also, have a list of FAQs on hand in case your phone rings and a reporter is on the other line. What could they ask about your fund – in particular, what is the “gotcha question” you wouldn’t want to be asked? Make sure you have crisp, concise answers prepared so you capitalize on any and all media attention. Chances are, if a reporter has a question about your fund, there’s a potential investor somewhere wondering the same thing.
  3. Competitor differentiators. With 1,800 other products competing for investors’ attention, you should know what makes yours unique and worthy of their money. It’s particularly important if there is another fund already trading that is similar to yours in strategy, holdings, sector allocation, etc.You want your fund to stand out, but it’s crucial to be able to communicate what makes you different. Why are you an innovator, not a follower? If you have that answer prepared, your ETF launch toolbox is in good shape!
  4. Reporter prioritization list. With a new ETF launching on average every two days, it can be hard to catch the media’s attention. Instead of hoping for a mass quantity of media coverage, determine which outlets are of the highest priority. Try narrowing the list down so it includes three to five outlets and go from there. As an ETF manager, launch day will be incredibly stressful for you, so you don’t want to add “Pitch 15 reporters” to your already long to-do list.Once you identify your target outlets, make sure you touch base with the reporters 24 hours or so ahead of your launch to give them a head’s up of what is coming down the pipeline. That advanced notice could give them the opportunity to clear their schedule so they can plan to cover your launch!
  5. Phase 2 ideas. You launched your fund. Now what?While a solid launch plan is critical to a fund’s long-term success, you can only ride the wave for so long before investors and the media are captivated by another, newer product.Think about some new angles for your fund to be pitching, both in terms of what might work with the media as well as how your fund might meet current issues concerning investors – perhaps something cyclical is coming up (i.e. holiday spending is a good period for the consumer discretionary sector) that ties in with your fund’s appeal, messaging and offerings. If you go through a launch and then think about phase two, you’ll find yourself scrambling and throwing everything at the wall and hoping something sticks. By thoughtfully thinking through the launch with an eye toward the long-term, you will be able to transition much more seamlessly on from the launch phase.

Launching an ETF can be stressful, but by planning ahead and making sure you are prepped with the right information, message and strategy, you can ensure it goes off without a hitch and receives the attention it deserves.