As is often the case, it's what people do, rather than what they say, that's most telling.
Let’s get this out of the way early.
If an investment manager
- does good work
- has responsive client service, and
- keeps a decent track record
then there is no reason why they should struggle to grow their assets under management.
If they do, then the problem is the marketing. Full. Stop.
But it's not because investment management marketers don't get it - they do. The problem is that marketing is either poorly understood or severely undervalued by the portfolio management team/firm management.
"We need to establish differentiation."
This is one of the most pervasive inconsistencies of the investment management industry: everybody implicitly understands the importance of differentiating themselves from the crowd, yet the conservatism of the industry discourages any deviation from established norms.
A crazy-innovative process?
Paradigm-challenging way of reading the markets?
Top decile performance?
Change of this kind is accepted and celebrated because it's what the industry expects - it's how respect is accorded in the industry. But here's a question to chew on:
Who cares what your peers think of you?
They'll sell you out in a New York minute if given half a chance. What matters is: what do clients and prospects think?
This should be the primary driver behind a firm's entire marketing strategy, whether digital or traditional: how do we better persuade our prospects to work with us, and keep our current clients happy?
You can't differentiate by being the same
"It's not how the industry works."
"No clients are clamoring for us to have one."
Today, having a website is simply another cost of doing business.
Similarly, if a marketing director now says, "Let's blog a couple of times a week about the stuff in which our audience is interested, and then push it out via email and on social media," the typical response is stony silence... at best. More often than not we hear:
"What's the ROI?"
"We tried that a few years ago & nobody read it."
"We're not going to get any business from a Facebook post or Google search."
"We'll just annoy people with too many emails."
- What's the ROI of a firm's professional reputation? What's the ROI of building a brand associated with transparency, clarity, and a client-centric communications strategy? What's the ROI of a robust client service function? Just because something defies easy measurement doesn't mean it isn't critically important.
- Honestly, if nobody read your content, it's because it was either bad or nobody could find it.
- If your audience is on social media, whether it's Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn, they will be exposed to the content that's posted there. And if the content is high quality and helpful, it just might spawn a future business relationship. It happens every day.
- High quality, helpful content is never an annoyance. What's annoying is content that's rote, overtly self-promotional, self-serving, and clumsily executed.
So, this all begs an important question:
What is "Good" Content?
- answers questions
- helps to solve problems
- educates an audience on issues that are important to them
- is in the preferred form and positioned in places where it will be found by the target audience.
(Note that market commentaries don't really fall into any of these categories - which is why nobody reads them.)
It's called "Content Marketing," not "Content Sales"
Marketing and sales are usually lumped together, but they are distinctly different activities that should have independent goals. Importantly, marketing goals should be free from any tie with asset growth.
Asset growth is a sales activity - not marketing. Marketing is about awareness and education. As such, the goals must reflect this function. Look to growth in these metrics to better measure your content marketing effort:
- website traffic
- audience growth
- leads generated/qualified
- social media connectivity
The content that attracts visitors to your firm can be used to nurture your leads and help convert them into clients, but its primary purpose is to attract the types of clients with whom you most want to work, or your key Buyer Personas.
In the end...
It's just not enough to have a differentiated investment process, philosophy, or take on the market. To achieve true differentiation, firms need to ensure their entire business apparatus is designed specifically to add value beyond portfolio returns.
And the best way to achieve that end is to commit to helping clients and prospects solve their problems and issues through a sustained Inbound Marketing campaign.