DQCOMM sat down with Richard Jackson, Founder & Principal at Jackson Analytics.
We wanted to learn a bit more about how investment management firms of all stripes can use the data they produce in the service of their investment management marketing effort.
Daniel Quinn Communications: What does your firm do & how does it help investment management firms in their marketing efforts?
Richard Jackson: If I had to boil it all down to a single sentence, I’d say, Jackson Analytics' purpose is to help ensure that investment management firms have an effective top-to-bottom marketing strategy, with a strong focus on product data management and distribution.
Jackson Analytics' specific niche is data marketing. We founded the firm because database searches are one of the most common, and thus important, conduits through which investment managers get connected with prospects. And over the course of our careers, we’ve lost count of the number of times we’ve found the data which managers feed into these databases is out-of-date, incomplete, or just plain wrong.
And when we bring this to their attention, managers typically have one of two reactions: utter surprise or resigned acknowledgement.
In our view, bad, inaccurate data is a terrible first foot to put forward for any manager. Jackson Analytics helps our clients to make sure that the data they provide to databases (and, by extension, to their clients and prospects) is accurate and timely.
Our main tool for doing so is our proprietary Jackson Analytics Investment Data Center (JA-IDC).
Importantly, we are RIAAs and RAICs with more than 50 combined years experience. We've raised billions in assets, have sold investment products for the institutional and retail markets, and are subject to the same regulatory requirements as our clients. We’ve "carried the bag" on countless occasions, and thus know exactly how investment management marketing sets the table for the sales process.
DQCOMM: With all the recent focus on new marketing strategies (Inbound Marketing for investment managers, content marketing, social media marketing, marketing-as-storytelling), it seems like a focus on traditional data marketing is a bit antiquated.
RJ: Antiquated? Really? I’ve read a number of your blog posts about investment management marketing, and how performance data is a poor differentiator. And I agree, up to a point. You can’t just throw a top-quartile five-year record out onto a database and expect the world to beat down your door. Undeniably, there is an important narrative component to all of this - we view our website as our "24 hour global access" brochure, for example, and spent significant resources on our messaging.
That said, if you really think about it, what is the only real marketable, tangible thing investment managers produce?
It’s data - performance, asset growth, attribution, holdings, alpha, beta, portfolio standard deviation – it’s all about the data.
30 years ago, it was mostly about the relationship. But now that data is more readily available, investors are correspondingly more sophisticated, AND compliance is more quantitatively-driven as well. The result is that the broad footprint, integrity, and reliability of the data produced by a firm is what ultimately drives the investment decision.
I'm not saying relationships aren't important - they clearly are, it's just that the pendulum is swinging in a data-focused direction. Narrative and data must be highly correlated because that data is what proves the narrative. If a firm says their investment process is highly correleted, but their returns are three standard deviations from its benchmark, well...
DQCOMM: Point taken. You and I have talked before about how investment management is one of the few industries that still confuses “marketing” with “sales.” In the context of your business, what do “marketing” and “sales” mean to you?
RJ: Although they are related, marketing and sales are distinct business activities that are independent of each other. Successful firms need both working optimally to grow.
We see marketing as having three components: the data, the story the data can support, and the distribution. Wordsmithing, while extremely important, can’t cover for a data set that’s incongruous, for lack of a better word. And unless the data and the narrative are put where the right people will find them, it’s the tree falling in a forest with nobody to hear it.
Sales means sitting in a room with a prospect who is sufficiently intrigued, and wants to know exactly how the process will directly benefit them.
Ours is very much an industry that is still sold, not simply bought. And I don’t think that will ever change. As such, actively "showing" a firm’s data is the only way to acquire a new investor, and remains the only way to retain an existing one.
DQCOMM: “The only way?” But don’t you think that unduly diminishes the role of client service and communications strategy? I mean, how many managers out there have bottom quartile performance but robust AUM growth and client retention? Their success can’t be data-related, can it?
RJ: Client service and communications are exceptionally important. But if a firm has terrible performance, they can’t really count on any modicum of long-term stability.
There’s the old P.T. Barnum line about a fool and his money being easily parted. In our business, a good way to paraphrase it would be to say, “A disinterested investor and his money are easily parted.”
Firms with poor performance over the long term rely on data-less marketing, opaque communications, disinterested clients, a hyper-aggressive sales staff, or some combination of the above. I wouldn’t want to pin my firm’s future on a superior ability obfuscate and/or lie. Nor would I want to attract the types of clients who endure that sort of nonsense in the first place.
DQCOMM: Let’s talk about distribution for a moment. What do investment managers need to understand about marketing via industry databases?
RJ: First, managers need to understand that their data is the evidence proving they have accomplished what they say they have, that it was done in the manner in which it is being described, and is a repeatable process.
Second, access to industry databases and distribution outlets has become as easy as it is complicated and cumbersome. What I mean is, there are now so many databases for firms to populate if they want to maximize their chances of being found by their target prospects, that mainatining a consistent, acurate, c0mplete presence in them all is no easy task.
Third, the “assess and search” process considers a manager's data to be the centerpiece of its argument. As such, database entries must be thoroughly reconciled for accuracy. Remember: no serious money is ever placed without thorough data due diligence.
DQCOMM: Any last advice?
RJ: A database profile must be complete and accurate. If investment managers take nothing else from this discussion, understand this: your data is your resume.
When a consultant looks at an incomplete database profile, they don’t see a cagey firm holding their cards close to their vest. They see a firm that either doesn’t get it, doesn’t care, or lacks the resources to get it done.
Without question, data entry is tedious and time-consuming, and we understand the impulse to try and automate as much of it as possible. But to rely on one database to populate a competing database is a very bad idea. Equally problematic is an over-relaince on click-and-upload software. Both suffer from the same weakness: a complete lack of either reconciliation or human interpretation of the data. An automated database upload or a software program can't tell if the data is accurate or makes sense.
DQCOMM: Thanks, Richard. Your thoughts are appreciated.
Richard Jackson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org