Our thinking Quick reads Language matters: Five words to immediately eliminate from your marketing deck
Fundraising, investor relations and marketing
February 2020
4 min read

Language matters: Five words to immediately eliminate from your marketing deck

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“If you look like everyone else and sound like everyone else, why wouldn’t they just choose everyone else?”

Kyle Dunn

In their quest to sound different, most managers end up just doing different versions of what many other managers have already done. So much so, that investors end up passing on very qualified managers because the manager’s deck incites so little curiosity.  

To that end, below is a list of words which may be factual and accurate, but that are so over-used, they have almost completely lost any impact within the marketing process. In other words, they have practically zero marketing value.

Seek / Target

As in, “we target high risk-adjusted returns.”

I have to admit – this one is a massive pet-peeve of mine. The reason…because absolutely everyone seeks the same thing. We all seek to have double-digit returns, no monthly drawdowns, and a 3 Sharpe. Look – I seek to be a billionaire. My guess is that you do, too. But that doesn’t mean that you have any reason to believe I can do it. Particularly if nothing in my history supports that I am even close to being on my way to achieving it.

As Bill Parcells famously once said, “you are what your record says you are.”

If you have any meaningful track record – then that’s who you are from a performance perspective. If you have consistent put up 6% annualized returns as a fund manager for the last 5 years, “seeking a 10-12% annualized return” is a pretty useless statement.


/yoo-neek / (Adjective)

“Being the only one” – Merriam-Webster

“Having no like or equal; unparalleled; incomparable” – Dictionary.com

There are so few investment strategies that are truly extraordinary and singular in nature that no one else has ever done it.  They can be different; they can be distinct – but very few are likely to be absolutely unique.

Bottom-line…whatever you are doing works. No one does it exactly the same way as you. So, in that sense, I guess that everyone is unique is one way or another.

But that’s an issue because you know that if everyone is unique, the no one is.

Which naturally leads to the single most over-used word…


As in:

“Proprietary sourcing”

“Proprietary model”

“Proprietary network”

“Proprietary process”

Man – talk about a word you see in practically every deck. Again – I’m not saying it’s not accurate. There are definitely funds that genuinely have something that is so proprietary that any other descriptor would fall short.

But it’s worth noting that allocators expect that some element of your strategy or approach is proprietary. After all, if you aren’t doing something special, why would anyone be willing to pay you 2 and 20 (or even 1 and 10)?


Okay – so this one you shouldn’t necessarily remove from your deck. Often times, experience is actually the single most important aspect of a manager’s value proposition. The issue is that it is subjective – and absolutely everyone claims to have it. So, what criteria should one use to compare managers? I am pretty sure it cannot be boiled down to number of years in the industry.

Case in point – I will be the first to admit that if I still could make money consistently, I might still be working on the buy-side. But the reality is, there are lots of people that have been in the market far less time that are just better at it than me. However, when it comes to the word, ‘experience’ – my 30 years of experience beats their 10 years every time. So, by that argument, I win.

The thing about experience is this – to truly be convinced that a manager meets the high bar expected of them requires some level of meaningful interaction. Of course, a lot can be gained by reading through a manager’s investment strategy and analyzing the numbers quantitatively. But without talking to them – do you really who is driving the process, how decisions are actually made or the factors that lead to individual drawdowns? In other words, “experience” is something that investors need to “experience” for themselves.

Speaking of overused descriptors, how about the words…

Honest / Trustworthy

Name one person that you trust solely based on them telling you that they are trustworthy? Like “experience,” trust is earned and honesty is experienced. The words without the corresponding behaviors will never have value in this industry – or really any other.

Click here to see our follow up article with five more words to eliminate from your marketing deck

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