In a world where many asset managers don’t give a second thought to committing millions of dollars towards a new investment with a time horizon of 3- to 5- years, their reluctance to do the same with a new marketing initiative (minus the millions of dollars, of course) is curious.
Perhaps it shouldn’t be – after all, committing to an untested marketing initiative (untested for their firm, anyway…) requires a leap of faith many managers are unwilling to make. After all, isn’t it easier to simply stick with what you know and with what has delivered results in the past?
To that I say: Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Times change.
Whether it’s something managers want to admit (or even acknowledge), the marketing landscape is rapidly changing, and drastically so. According to the Content Marketing Institute’s “2015 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends— North America,” 86% of B2B marketers surveyed said they use content marketing, with 70% committing to a higher volume of content creation in 2015 compared to 2014 (I don't think I'm too far out on a limb to suggest that in the asset management industry the percentage of firms involved in content marketing are nowhere near as high).
Interestingly, only 38% of those surveyed believe they are effective at content marketing, with only 21% believing they can successfully track ROI, which leads me to think there’s more than just correlation at work here (I tackle the ROI issue for asset managers here).
I’ll admit that many of the fundamentals governing the asset management industry don’t necessarily apply to other B2B industries (in fact, only 3% of the industries surveyed were from the Banking/Accounting/Financials area). Personally, I believe the highly regulated nature of the asset management industry alone arguably makes it unique.
Despite some incongruity, there are a few important reasons why CM/SMM are actually quite well-suited for the asset management industry.
First, and this is not an unimportant consideration, the big global asset managers (J.P. Morgan Asset Management, Blackrock, Fidelity, etc.) all employ aggressive content marketing strategies. If for no other reason than social proof, small-to-midsized firms should be taking a long hard look at implementing a content marketing strategy in 2015.
The big firms wouldn’t be doing it if it were a fools errand.
More broadly, CM/SMM is a long game; one where credibility and reputation are built over time. Similarly, in asset management there are no quick fixes, either within the investment portfolios or in the marketing and sales effort. There are very few giant leaps forward. Under most circumstances, progress is measured in slow, deliberate steps of not less than 3-month, or even 3- or 5-year cycles.
There is also the fact that the entire asset management industry is built upon an intellectual foundation, with a deeply anchored philosophical base. Every asset manager, whether on their website, in the pitch book, or in meetings must explain to potential clients the philosophical rationale for their entire investment strategy. It is a statement of belief that gains ever-greater credibility as evidence supporting it piles up.
The best way to “pile up” such evidence is through thought leadership. The best way to approach thought leadership is via content marketing. And the most efficient way to disseminate content is through social media.
CM/SMM help asset management firms to extend their thought leadership by demonstrating an engagement with the marketplace of ideas, and a sensitivity to issues and concerns their prospects may have yet to deliberate.
Additionally, it provides advance notice of the type of open, honest communications strategy a client can expect during the course of the relationship, vis-à-vis client service, while also highlighting a firm's interest in leveraging a new, but quickly emerging and evolving marketing strategy.
Each of these characteristics help to establish the aura of professionalism and confidence all successful businesses maintain. But it doesn’t happen overnight, and certainly not without a well-developed (and well-executed) content marketing and social media marketing strategy.