The two biggest objections to content marketing and social media marketing I hear from marketing and client service folks at asset management firms are: 1). compliance (which I examined in this post), and 2). return on investment (ROI).
Admittedly, ROI is a tricky metric to pin down when it comes to content and social media marketing in the asset management industry.
It doesn’t neatly line up mathematically, as it would for a software company measuring the success of a new product. Nor do the traditional methods of measuring engagement and conversion rates for retail or B2B industries work for large swaths of the asset management industry.
Because asset management is a business that relies on the development of relationships over a relatively long time frame because:
1. For institutions, client accounts tend to be quite large, in both absolute and relative terms; and
2. For wealth managers and retail money managers, though the amounts are typically smaller, there is an undeniable emotional component that complicates the development of trust-based relationships.
Further, you are as likely to find a “Click to Invest” button on an asset manager’s website (which would allow for a clear analysis between site visits and sales conversions) as you are to obtain a million-dollar account from a Google search (the odds are beyond miniscule).
In other words, there are no "impulse buys" in the asset management industry.
If many of the traditional metrics for measuring the ROI of a CM/SMM strategy are elusive, how can asset managers better conceptualize the role of CM/SMM in a firm’s overall marketing strategy?
Think about this: content marketing and client service are two sides of the same coin.
Ask yourself what is the ROI of a well-developed, successful client service apparatus? I think that most asset managers would concede there isn’t one that’s measurable. Rather, client service is, at best, one strategy they use to differentiate themselves, and at worst, it is an SEC-mandated cost of doing business.
So if client service is the cost of keeping your clients happy, then think of CM/SMM as what you do keep your prospects happy.
Over time, a well-executed content marketing strategy will enable an asset management firm to develop a detailed library of thought leadership, which provides potential clients with the means to develop a long-term understanding of who you are, what you do, how you do it, and why you do it.
Because clients and prospects are busy and are loathe to waste time, offering them the means to learn about you through, say, two years of blog posts, eBooks, and newsletters will help to streamline the sales process. How?
When the initial meetings are finally arranged, makes it easier to cut to the chase and address how your investing philosophy and processes helps to address their particular needs, rather than spending a large chunk of the first meeting on background discovery.
Content marketing helps create an online library of thought leadership while social media marketing helps build the network that opens new lines of communication. In concert, they allow asset managers to establish credibility in their expertise and enhance their professional reputation up front. Client service is what's done on the back end to maintain those hard-won clients.
Understandably, many marketers might need some additional, more concrete metrics, so here’s my back-of-the-envelope way of figuring a rough ROI for CM/SMM:
Over the course of, say, 18 months, keep track of the hours spent working on the content and engaging the social media marketing. Then, multiply that number by the rough hourly wage of the employees (or just use the total amount contracted to the firm to whom you’ve outsourced the project).
The product then offers a sense of the opportunity costs of the strategy over time.
When a new client comes on board, just ask what effect the content library had on their decision to invest with you? That’s the advantage of the long-term relationship building that occurs prior to the conclusion of the sales process – you can just ask.
This calculation really only measures actual asset growth, not any of the other fringe benefits of content marketing (ie: media exposure, speaking engagements, reputational enhancement, etc.)
Once your professional credentials are established, and the prospect is comfortable with your philosophy, strategy, process, and performance, the only real issue in the prospect’s mind is: do I like these people? And that part is all on you.