Ackman’s fund zooms ahead as he casts himself as corporate helpmate

Ackman's fund zooms ahead as he casts himself as corporate helpmate

BOSTON (Reuters) – For months, activist investor William Ackman promised to rebuild his record. Now he has some numbers to prove it.

FILE PHOTO: William ‘Bill’ Ackman, CEO and Portfolio Manager of Pershing Square Capital Management, speaks during the Sohn Investment Conference in New York City, U.S., May 8, 2017. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Since Jan. 1, Pershing Square Holdings has gained 31.9 percent, making it the best start to a year in the firm’s 15-year history, Ackman wrote in a letter released on Monday.

More importantly, Ackman laid out how his hedge fund is essentially transforming itself into a holding company that owns stakes in public companies and offers a helping hand to struggling management teams to resurrect once-strong returns.

“We attribute our improved performance to initiatives that we have implemented over the last 18 months,” he wrote.

With his own transformation on firmer ground, Ackman said he can again help others. “Pershing Square, as a large influential investor with a track record for successful turnarounds, can provide management with the required runway and necessary long-term backing to succeed.”

For years Ackman earned billions for himself and clients while growing Pershing Square Capital Management into a roughly $20 billion firm. But in 2015 a soured bet on drug company Valeant paved the way for three years of losses, when investors ran for the exits, shrinking assets to $8 billion.

Now Ackman’s publicly traded fund, Pershing Square Holdings, makes up roughly three-quarters of the firm’s $8 billion in assets and the capital is stable because investors have to sell to another investor before exiting.

Permanent capital will help improve his own returns over time and let him become a helpmate to struggling companies, Ackman wrote.

To get here, Ackman went back to his roots and last year laid off staff, told his investor relations executives to stop raising new capital and re-dedicated himself to researching investment ideas instead of jetting around the world to visit with clients.

Ackman and his colleagues now own more than 20 percent of Pershing Square Holdings’ outstanding shares, he wrote.

His business, he explained to anyone who does not know about investments in companies like Chipotle and Canadian Pacific , is buying companies at a discount and helping them flourish again.

Over the last months, Ackman, once a fixture at conferences and on television, adopted a more low-key style, which he is translating to portfolio companies as well.

He said he has a lot of influence but prefers to use it “sparingly.” “Occasionally, we will ask a question, share an idea, or raise an issue. Most of the time, our CEOs rarely hear from us,” Ackman wrote, saying they call him. “We view our job as oversight, not day-to-day management.”

Reporting by Svea Herbst-Bayliss; editing by Grant McCooland Leslie Adler

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Ackman’s fund zooms ahead as he casts himself as corporate helpmate

Ackman's fund zooms ahead as he casts himself as corporate helpmate

BOSTON (Reuters) – For months, activist investor William Ackman promised to rebuild his record. Now he has some numbers to prove it.

FILE PHOTO: William ‘Bill’ Ackman, CEO and Portfolio Manager of Pershing Square Capital Management, speaks during the Sohn Investment Conference in New York City, U.S., May 8, 2017. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Since Jan. 1, Pershing Square Holdings has gained 31.9 percent, making it the best start to a year in the firm’s 15-year history, Ackman wrote in a letter released on Monday.

More importantly, Ackman laid out how his hedge fund is essentially transforming itself into a holding company that owns stakes in public companies and offers a helping hand to struggling management teams to resurrect once-strong returns.

“We attribute our improved performance to initiatives that we have implemented over the last 18 months,” he wrote.

With his own transformation on firmer ground, Ackman said he can again help others. “Pershing Square, as a large influential investor with a track record for successful turnarounds, can provide management with the required runway and necessary long-term backing to succeed.”

For years Ackman earned billions for himself and clients while growing Pershing Square Capital Management into a roughly $20 billion firm. But in 2015 a soured bet on drug company Valeant paved the way for three years of losses, when investors ran for the exits, shrinking assets to $8 billion.

Now Ackman’s publicly traded fund, Pershing Square Holdings, makes up roughly three-quarters of the firm’s $8 billion in assets and the capital is stable because investors have to sell to another investor before exiting.

Permanent capital will help improve his own returns over time and let him become a helpmate to struggling companies, Ackman wrote.

To get here, Ackman went back to his roots and last year laid off staff, told his investor relations executives to stop raising new capital and re-dedicated himself to researching investment ideas instead of jetting around the world to visit with clients.

Ackman and his colleagues now own more than 20 percent of Pershing Square Holdings’ outstanding shares, he wrote.

His business, he explained to anyone who does not know about investments in companies like Chipotle and Canadian Pacific , is buying companies at a discount and helping them flourish again.

Over the last months, Ackman, once a fixture at conferences and on television, adopted a more low-key style, which he is translating to portfolio companies as well.

He said he has a lot of influence but prefers to use it “sparingly.” “Occasionally, we will ask a question, share an idea, or raise an issue. Most of the time, our CEOs rarely hear from us,” Ackman wrote, saying they call him. “We view our job as oversight, not day-to-day management.”

Reporting by Svea Herbst-Bayliss; editing by Grant McCooland Leslie Adler

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How customer-obsessed brands are pulling ahead in the emotion economy

How customer-obsessed brands are pulling ahead in the emotion economy

How customer-obsessed brands are pulling ahead in the emotion economy

Glossier and the power of customer connection

When Emily Weiss launched her beauty blog Into the Gloss back in 2010, it was because she wanted a platform for storytelling. There were no products, and the pioneering beauty brand we know as Glossier was yet to be born.

But within a few short years, Weiss leveraged her cult following from the blog and parlayed it into a line of Direct to Consumer (DTC) beauty products, which quickly produced a 10,000 person wait list for Glossier’s two (yes, just two) initial beauty products.

How customer-obsessed brands are pulling ahead in the emotion economy
A snap from Glossier’s flagship brick and mortar story in NYC.

Since then, the beauty brand has expanded to experiment with short and long-term retail locations, has achieved multi-million dollar rounds of funding and boasts 275% annual growth—not to mention its network of high-impact influencers, brand ambassadors, and hopelessly devoted customers.

How customer-obsessed brands are pulling ahead in the emotion economy
Image source.

So how’d they accomplish all of this?

By putting their customers at the core of everything they do.

The reality is that customer-obsessed brands like Glossier are winning in the marketplace—and they’re doing that by working tirelessly to understand who their customers are, why they behave the way they do, and by finding out how they can provide more value. Often times, this is thanks to harnessing rich customer data and translating it into ideal customer experiences.

Today’s marketers are shifting from the attention economy to the emotion economy. It isn’t simply enough to catch the eyes of customers; it’s also important to deliver happiness and win their hearts. Buying is often an emotional decision, and customer experiences have to trigger the right emotions to get them to buy — and keep buying. When customers are engaged emotionally, they are much more compelled to take the actions that drive business.

Over the next few months, we’ll investigate several disruptive brands like Glossier who are disrupting industries and look at what can we learn and adopt from them to stay competitive.

The rise of customer experience as a competitive battleground

For modern merchants, it’s not enough to have the best product photos or to offer the fastest shipping. Most of the time, it’s not even enough to be the cheapest.

With so much competition around price and product, brands are turning to customer experience (CX) as the competitive differentiator that sets their business apart. In fact, Gartner data shows that 81% of brands expect to be competing mostly or completely on the basis of CX by as soon as 2020.

As a result, customer expectations around experience have risen as well. Deloitte found that the consumer’s decision to buy a product or service is impacted by their overall enjoyment of their individual experience, while ThinkJar research indicates 55% of customers are willing to pay more for a better customer experience.

But it doesn’t stop there. When it comes to customer retention, customer experience plays a major role as well. Temkin data shows that 86% of customers who had an excellent interaction with a brand were likely to make another purchase, 77% were likely to recommend the brand, and 79% were likely to trust the brand. Not bad, right?

How customer-obsessed brands are pulling ahead in the emotion economy
Image source.

What does all of this data tell us? That CX matters more than ever before.

Focusing on customer interactions and optimizing experiences across all brand touchpoints isn’t a ‘nice to have.’ It’s a must-have.

And that’s where data plays a major role.

The how: Gathering and leveraging the right data

Every ideal customer experience program hinges on in-depth customer data, and is the result of an ongoing optimization process (not a one-and-done) that encompasses different departments, channels, and formats. The key is to gather actionable information around who the customer is, why they behave the way they do, and how more value can be provided to them.

The question, however, is: Where do you find that information so you can put it to good use?

Customer data can be found in a variety of different ways, including:

  • Surveys/feedback collection: From quick Net Promoter Score ratings to customer satisfaction surveys with open-ended responses, ongoing survey efforts can give your customers a voice and provide valuable context around your current customer experience.
  • Customer outreach: You can take the feedback collection a step further by doing outreach to individual customers or customer groups that meet specific criteria (such as number of purchases, average lifetime customer value, etc.)
  • Review mining: Looking to customer reviews on individual products and across social channels can provide insights into what’s working for your brand as well as areas for improvement.
  • Analytics: The numbers don’t lie. Looking to important KPIs like conversion rate, customer acquisition cost, lifetime value of a customer, average order value, and other revenue-related metrics will provide actionable benchmarks that help you make smarter, more data-backed choices around your customer experience optimization efforts.
  • Experimentation: Testing different variations of your digital experiences is a necessity if you want to better understand what works (and what doesn’t) when it comes to creating a delightful customer experience. If possible, you should always run experiments to validate your customer research. Qualitative data often provides powerful insights, but if you can validate those insights across a much larger sample size, this is one of the best ways to find winning strategies that drive results.

Case Study

Discover how one organization is translating customer research into an ideal customer experience

For one SaaS company, in-depth customer research—including customer surveys, interviews, and an analytics deep-dive—led to 3 consecutive winning experiments, each generating +15% lift. Get the full story >>

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to data collection, but it’s a good starting place. We’ll be diving deeper into this topic in future editions of this series.

Brands executing stellar CX (and what we can learn)

When you hear about brands associated with stellar CX execution, Glossier is a name that crops up again and again, along with others like Casper and Outdoor Voices.

The common theme between all three of these brands? They’re 100% customer obsessed.

They are also consistently improving and never let their efforts become static. Instead, their customer experience programs involve continuous experimentation and evolve based on data and input from customer feedback loops.

Glossier, for example, employs a team of data scientists who conduct experiments that study improvements in different metrics, and have built a self-proclaimed culture of hypothesis-driven development. “We’re frequently running experiments to learn more about our customers and how we can improve their experience on our e-commerce platform,” wrote Glossier’s Meghan Heintz.

And it’s paying off:

These three companies aren’t the only ones hyper-focusing on their customers, either. Other brands are following suit, and that means there are implications for retailers across all industries as this approach becomes the norm rather than the exception.

In coming editions of this series, we’ll get into the nuts and bolts of customer obsession and look at how different brands are executing customer-centric experiences via data-driven marketing, feedback collection, customer support insights, analytics, and experimentation.

If you’re curious about how to step up your company’s customer experience strategy and get on the level of brands making waves (and money), stay tuned and sign up to get future editions in your inbox.

Author

How customer-obsessed brands are pulling ahead in the emotion economy

Kaleigh Moore

Freelance Writer

In this 22-page guide, jam-packed with scientific theory and real-world examples, learn how to create an emotionally resonant customer experience.

Get your guide now

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