I look at the websites of investment management firms. A lot of them.
And many, if not the vast majority, cite their “Client Service Philosophy” as a point of differentiation. I think that is a great idea and shows the right impulse, from an investment management marketing perspective.
But what happens when I dig deeper into that part of the site, hoping to find out more? More often than not, there is no content to demonstrate an unusually high level of asset management client service. As such, it seems to be treated almost like a throwaway line; something that the firm's content writers added to the website because it merely felt like something the firm should say.
Those that do describe their process too often offer pedestrian examples such as quarterly letters and direct lines of communication (“One of our principals is always available!”) as points of differentiation.
Answering the phone, returning calls and emails, sending SEC-mandated quarterly communications... what’s so spectacular about that? It isn’t a differentiator – it’s what everybody already does.
For investment managers interested in offering true differentiation, it is vital to remember that money managers really only do three things: consume data, generate data, and service their clients – these imperatives are the suns around which every other responsibility orbits.
How can firms rethink their asset management client service approach in ways that prove to be truly exceptional for 2016?
- Realize that client service shouldn’t simply be something you do – it’s the reason you exist; and
- Always ask: how can we be more helpful? What do we do poorly? Acceptably? Exceptionally?
Over time, make the poor acceptable, the acceptable exceptional, and the exceptional even moreso. Rinse and repeat until your entire client service apparatus is exceptional.
Initial Steps for 2016
So, what are some ways investment management firms can rethink and revamp their client service apparatus, on-the-fly, in time for year-end correspondence?
- Don’t simply recite what happened this year. Treat it like a story. Start in January 2015 (“When 2015 began, we were thinking…”), and walk the client through the events of the year, and how they affected the portfolio: What did you think? How did you react? Don’t simply describe, but explain, teach. Craft a narrative that would interest someone who’s not a client of yours.
- Implicit in crafting an interesting narrative is the idea at you must write for the reader, not for yourself. Sure, each firm has things they must tell their clients, but it shouldn’t be firm-centric, as in:
“We did this because…”
“We did that for these reasons…”
Instead, everything should be couched in the context of those things in which your readers are actually interested:
“Our clients invest with us for specific reasons – they expect A, B, and C, and we strive to meet those expectation s consistently. In that vein, 2015 was full of challenges, and here’s what we did to ensure our client portfolios met the highest standards…”
- Above all, strive to be helpful. Know what your clients’ concerns are and anticipate their questions in the letter. Performance down? Up? Flat? Either way, explain why in clear, unambiguous terms. Don’t hide behind jargon and industry-speak. Strive to be understood and engage your audience.
Long-term strategic ideas
For those firms hoping to use their money management client service approach to offer meaningful differentiation from their peers, here are some approaches/ideas to help with your effort in 2016:
- Reevaluate every facet of your business through the prism of client service. Always ask, “How does this help to make us of more service?”
- Generate more and better content. Other than performance, the best way to offer help on a regular basis is through a more aggressive content strategy: blogging, social media, and thought leadership pieces (eBooks, white papers, etc).
- Rethink your website strategy. Your website is your most publicly-available, widely distributed marketing option. Given what we now know about how B2B purchase decisions are now made (57% of decision-making process is finished before contact is initiated, 67% is conducted online) investment management websites cannot simply be your online brochure anymore.
It’s time to take it to the next level and make your website the hub of your marketing and client service activities. Why? Because it is the easiest interface for your clients and prospects to engage with your firm. As far as your clients and prospects are concerned, easier is always better.
- Your clients are part of your ecosystem. Ecosystems are “a biological community of interacting organisms and their physical environment; a complex network or interconnected system.” When you consider your business as “a complex network of interconnected systems,” you realize that your clients must be considered as a core component. Ecosystems only thrive when each member gets what they need to survive, then thrive.
What do your clients need to survive? Portfolio returns that meet their investment objectives. To thrive? Great client service that offers added value beyond those portfolio returns.
- Always ask. Not sure about what your clients need to thrive? Not sure about their pain points, the obstacles that keep them from efficiently meeting their goals?
Survey your clients. Ask these questions. If they don’t respond – call them. Get an answer. People are almost always willing to share their problems with those in a position to help. Our clients know their pain points much more clearly and acutely than we do, so their input is vital to the process of creating a genuinely helpful client service philosophy and process.
A reorientation, not simply a initiative
This process of rethinking how best to offer more effective asset management client service should be more than just an initiative – it must be a reorientation.
In an earlier post, I called content marketing the flip side to asset management client service, in that it’s what you do to keep your prospects happy. While that’s still true, this content isn’t and shouldn’t be merely a strategy to get clients – its power should be leveraged to keep the clients you have as well.
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at freedigitalphotos.net