Investment management firms can better understand if their goals for 2016 make sense by using the SMART goal setting methodology.
What’s the old saying? An unwritten goal is just a wish? Well, for folks in investment management marketing, we can revise that old saw thusly:
A goal with no foundational basis is just a hope.
And hope is not a strategy.
What do we mean by “foundational basis?” Well, when investment management goals are set at the start of the year, whether they are related to sales, marketing, or another business function (say, client service), too often the goals are based more on arbitrary emotional impulses than on cold, hard business realities.
For example, does either of these sound familiar?
Last year, we fell short of our growth target. We need to step it up in 2016.
We met our 2015 goals. Now let’s target an additional 15% on top of last year’s AUM growth.
First, what's meant by “step it up?” Step what up? That's a not-so-veiled shot at the investment management sales and marketing team. Is it justified?
Secondly, it’s great to meet and exceed goals, but there are usually subtle issues that arrive alongside success (and failure, for that matter) which must be accounted for.
In both of these scenarios, the same questions must be answered before setting goals for the ensuing year:
- What conditions were in place to enable or prevent success?
- Were those conditions external or internal? In other words, was success determined by, say, market or economic conditions that were either favorable or unfavorable to the investment approach?
- Were you leveraging existing networks that had yet to be exhausted, or was the firm trying to make inroads elsewhere?
- What resources were allocated?
- If we measure the results by metrics other than bottom-line AUM growth, can the effort still be considered a success or a failure?
So, how can investment management firms quality-check their 2016 investment management goals to make sure they fully account for these kinds of issues?
SMART Goal Setting
The SMART goal setting methodology is fairly rigorous, requiring a firm's management to ensure their goals comport with (and can be measured according to) five separate criteria. It requires the goals to be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely.
Let’s take a look at each of these in a bit more detail and see how investment management marketing and sales teams can better quantify and define the terms of a successful campaign.
Goals must be both concrete and multifaceted.
For example, simply saying, “Grow AUM” isn’t sufficient. But neither is “Grow AUM by 20%.” Specific numbers must be accompanied by specific steps a firm can take in order to reach their goal. Each of these steps should have their own benchmarks for success. For example,
“Our top-line 2016 goal is to grow our AUM by 20%. To do so, we will:
- Increase our client base by 5%
- Make 10 additional cold calls per day
- Grow our blog subscribership 10% per month
- Write 1 white paper per quarter
- Post 3 social media messages per day
- Engage our LinkedIn network once daily
- Participate on a weekly basis 1-3 of our LinkedIn Groups community forums.”
Ensure the various goals can be tracked using clear, unambiguous metrics.
In that vein, investment managers should work to establish multiple criteria for success. If your only measurement is “Grow AUM by 20%,” it fails to appreciate the efforts, or capture the true value, of the investment management marketing and sales team’s efforts.
What I mean is: look at the steps in the “Specific” area above. If a firm hit each of those benchmarks, but AUM didn’t immediately follow, did the marketing team fail? I’d suggest that the effort was extremely successful because the conditions which will enable future growth were established.
Remember: prospects have their own agency. You can’t force them to invest with you. All you can do is control that which you have influence over: be ethical, attractive, and differentiated, and thus a place worthy of doing business with.
Assets will follow.
Work toward a goal that is challenging but realistic, while accounting for past experience.
If the firm’s never grown AUM faster than 10% in any given year, is a 25% target fair? Are you planning on boosting the sales and marketing budget accordingly?
Speaking of budgets, are you allocating sufficient resources? According to a recent Gartner survey of the Financial Services Industry, firms spend, on average, 10.6% of their total operating budget on marketing, with a quarter of that budget earmarked for digital marketing activities.
If you aren’t spending similarly, you are likely being outspent and outworked by competitors who truly understand the advantages a well-funded sales and marketing effort provides.
Just because a goal is attainable doesn't necessarily make it realistic.
Be honest with yourself - you know intimately the capabilities of your team. Does everything have to line up perfectly for the goals to be attained? Have you accounted for the hurdles, expected or unexpected, you may have to overcome?
Clearly establish the time parameters in which your firm hopes to accomplish its goals.
Annual goals are fine, but keep in mind if your firm is implementing a new marketing effort, such as Inbound Marketing for Investment Managers, these initiatives take an extended period of time to develop.
This is especially true when a firm looks to enter new markets, is establishing new networks of prospects, is launching new products, or is initiating a new marketing strategy.
So be sure the timetable is realistic. If you’re not sure, talk to others in the industry who have undertaken similar initiatives and ask about their experience. Learn about their successes and failures. What roadblocks did they encounter and think about what you can do to avoid them.
At the end of the day, your investment management marketing and sales teams need hard-and-fast goals to keep them focused on specific end results. Just make sure they are quantifiable, fair, and allow for multiple definitions of “success.”