All new business initiatives require planning. Not surprisingly, then, an asset manager looking to add content marketing and social media marketing strategies to their marketing platform must do likewise.
Any Google search for “content marketing plan basics” will reveal a trove of articles on the subject, so my purpose here isn’t to regurgitate the conventional wisdom; rather, I want to offer my particular thoughts about some of the bigger picture issues surrounding social media and content marketing that are unique to asset management firms.
So, what should a basic plan look like?
First: Start with the end in mind
In other words, what ends are you trying to achieve? For some portfolio managers, being known as an “Industry Thought Leader” is an ego-driven exercise (and I mean that in the best possible way), so the creation of content and its widespread distribution is an end unto itself. For those for whom there is little allure in the reputational component of thought leadership, a more tangible reason is required: grow AUM and enhance the firm’s client service and marketing function.
Second: Pick Your Theme
Unless you are a behemoth along the lines of JPMorgan Asset Management or BlackRock, it will be exceedingly difficult to establish a broad reputation for expertise across the entire spectrum of asset classes, regions, and strategies.
So pick your spots - know what you’re best at and deliver original, thoughtful, actionable content that demonstrates your expertise. Such a targeted approach may limit your broader appeal, but it will make you an important go-to resource for the client types most important to your long-term success.
In other words, who cares if you have 10,000 Twitter followers if 9,985 of them don’t engage your content in a meaningful way?
Third: Content generation
Generating the content it isn’t easy and can often become subsumed by other tasks. If a firm wants to add content marketing and social media marketing to their marketing rotation, they need to be honest with their answer to the following question:
Will we follow through, consistently and thoughtfully, on our editorial calendar?
The peril in a failed content marketing strategy is several-fold, and each may diminish a firm's reputation for professionalism:
- It shows disrespect for the audience you’ve established;
- If you stop writing, it suggests you’ve run out of things to say, which calls into question how well you really understand your investment niche;
- It shows there aspects to marketing and client service that you just don’t “get.”
If the honest answer is no, we will not be able to create content on a regular, consistent basis, it makes sense to find a writer who understands finance and investing, can readily understand and easily describe your investment philosophy, as well as how it is reflected in your process.
He or she should also be able to help you develop a clear, easily remembered value proposition that is applicable across numerous topics. Why is this point important?
Because compliance regulations strictly delineate what can be shared over social media. Can’t mention performance or process? Then your philosophy is a natural place to begin. You should use it as context when explaining your views on the economy, markets, political economy, policymaking, corporate news, technological developments, science and the environment, and so on. Clearly, there’s no shortage of topics upon which an asset manager may opine. It just requires contemplation.
By consistently demonstrating how an investment philosophy shapes, and is shaped by, a firm’s perception of the world, clients and prospects have a clear view of your thinking, which curtails the opportunities for miscommunication and allows for easier management of client expectations down the road.
Fourth: Plot a course
Every journey begins with a basic task: what paths will take us most quickly to our destination? For an asset manager looking to leverage social media marketing, it is important to identify which distribution channels are most worthwhile.
If intimacy is a function of relationship-building, and influence is a matter or persuasion, increasing the touchpoints firms have with prospects and clients can only improve the odds of success.
In my opinion, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Slideshare, and (if appropriate) HubSpot are the best bets, as they all have a stronger professional/business lean than, say, Facebook, which is too polluted with sponsored ads and pictures of your niece’s first birthday party to be an effective business platform for most asset managers.
Also don’t forget email marketing! As you build your social media marketing following, it is absolutely vital to continue to leverage your existing contacts list. Again, SMM is not supposed to supplant your existing strategies - just augment them.
Social media also enables your “fans” to easily share your work with others, which creates a network effect, expanding the universe into which your thought leadership expands.
If a tree falls in the forest, does it make a sound? A related question: If you post a piece to your site and have no way to measure the audience response, how can you tell there was one? Is there a way to measure your influence, absent calling every prospect and client, every week, to ask what they thought about your new article?
Yes, there is. Analytics programs, such as Google Analytics (for your website) and analytics tools offered by email marketing vendors such as MailChimp and ConstantContact are an absolute must-have for any asset management firm with a website, or is interested in content marketing and social media marketing. Why? Because they provide accurate measurements that show your audience’s response to your marketing campaign, as well as to the other content on your website.
For example, can you say for sure what the most popular content on your site is? How many people downloaded your most recent commentary? Who opened your email newsletter? Who clicked through to linked content from the newsletter?
Analytics programs allow asset managers to do just that.
At the end of the day, asset managers have to make the decision as to whether or not to engage the latest marketing and client service tools that are available. The main point of resistance I’ve found among the dozens of asset managers I’ve spoken with over the years surrounds the issue of compliance.
I’ve addressed this issue in an earlier post, but it bears repeating: Over the long run, eschewing content marketing and social media marketing will prevent an asset management firm from effectively and efficiently leveraging the best arguments in its favor.
Avoiding content marketing and social media marketing cedes the ground to your competitors, pure and simple.