While not true of all, for many asset management firms, the marketing function has traditionally been the responsibility of a junior partner. It has often been used in a transactional way – as an enabler for the sales teams, who hold the responsibility for the essential commercial client relationship. As digitisation permeates all aspects of life and takes on an even more important role than ever before, the value of more intentional, purposeful and strategic marketing leadership is becoming apparent.
Facilitating the work of the sales team is undoubtedly an essential part of the marketing department's role. However, it’s so much more sophisticated than simply collecting business cards at conferences. Historically, areas of distribution management, including marketing, brand, customer service, insight and product development, have orbited around a key contact exchange. However, as with other primarily B2B sales and marketing relationships, Covid-19 and all it entails has put the digital cat amongst the traditional sales management pigeons.
Creating and ensuring brand value; nurturing a cohesive working relationship between sales and marketing – feeding information into one another rather than as a one-way stream, and developing carefully monitored data that’s analysed and put to proactive use – these are the things that, if your firm wasn’t doing them before, will come to sort the wheat from the chaff moving forward. The winners might not be the businesses that you think they’ll be.
Recent research from McKinsey indicates that businesses that have been forced to migrate their face-to-face sales models to remote engagement through digital channels are unlikely to shift back to the old world as the pandemic fades. Across a range of industries, a digital approach appears to suit both clients and providers.
Key points from the thought leader's October report included:
- More than three quarters of buyers and sellers say they now prefer digital self-serve and remote human engagement over face-to-face interactions;
- 70% of B2B decision-makers say they are open to making new, fully self-serve or remote purchases above $50,000, and 27% would spend more than $500,000;
- B2B decision-makers globally say that online and remote selling is as effective as in-person engagement, or even more so—and they're not just talking about selling to warm leads;
- The amount of revenue generated from video-related interactions has jumped by 69% since April 2020.
What CEOs need to know about asset management marketing
We asked Fractional CMO, Martin McGovern, who has held marketing leadership roles with major global asset management firms for his view on how the role of marketing will evolve in the investment industry post-Covid.
“I think the first thing to acknowledge is that investment marketing and sales leaders are wrestling with a plethora of issues at the moment. For example, market volatility and the uncertainty it brings, cost pressures, remote team working and motivation, digital transformation, and a regulatory framework that often curtails innovation. Longer-term, the changes forced on us by the pandemic provide several opportunities for marketing teams to drive an increasingly strategic agenda.”
Martin identified four key areas that CEOs and their teams should focus on:
How you organise marketing and sales
As businesses around the world faced lockdowns and remote working, they scrambled to accelerate digital engagement with clients and prospects. More often than not, marketing teams, and sometimes the additional support of a marketing consultant, have stepped up and brought the necessary expertise to bear.
Going forward, we would expect to see separate sales and marketing functions, operating under a sales management-led hierarchy, work together even more. Increasingly, that would include seeing digital and remote engagement cemented as the norm, with members of the sales team providing the key contact point but informed by strategically developed processes, communications developed by marketing on a combination of analytical intel and the vital insights from the sales team themselves. Personal relationship managers will focus on senior/partner level relationships, with larger complex institutional clients and their consultants delivering on strategy and bespoke solutions.
There is an active discussion within the industry on the future that’s shaping up at the moment. Strategic Marketing Consultancy BlackMoss Partners, who focus on financial services, recently published a paper - "Is it time to merge Sales & Marketing?" - which stated: “This pivot to virtual selling has had a profound impact on the role of sales teams. No longer are salespeople a firm’s main point of contact with the client. Nor are they: the most effective way to convey messages to customers; the best repository of knowledge about customers; the only/best source of intelligence about what customers intend to buy.”
For marketing leaders, whether they be Fractional CMOs, a marketing consultant, marketing executive or full-time Chief Marketing Officers, it’s essential they are a guiding voice at the table as the new organisation emerges.
The marketing toolkit
The noise around digital transformation and future dominance are almost deafening, whilst marketing folk are notorious for chasing after the latest shiny thing emerging from the tech toy cupboard. CRM, Marketing Automation, Data Management, Content Management, Insight Generation, Customer Experience, Governance & Reporting, AI Questions are all increasingly on the CMO’s agenda. So, how do you ascertain what’s right for you?
For asset management firms, an increasingly important partnership will be between marketing and technology teams, as well as the recognition that procurement, adoption and use of mar-tech is now an enduring process rather than a project or an endpoint. For marketing leaders, the challenge is to deploy mar-tech as part of an overall marketing strategy to grow the brand and customer franchise on the basis of ROI. Innovation means that focused management of the mar-tech stack is a core responsibility and the right expertise is essential.
With the pace of technical innovation, for most firms, a plug-and-play model is more appropriate than developing proprietary tools. Investment in expertise is as significant as the right technology. Shared communities such as FSMarTech provide a forum for practitioners to share ideas and experiences, while for many, the temporary use of a marketing consultant can be extremely helpful in getting this up and running.
Marketing management and brand communications strategy
As firms focus less on personal selling and more on a broader engagement front, we should expect to see a greater emphasis on brand strategy as a central driver of business development for asset management firms.
Brand strategy that has buy-in from within the organisation, providing a layer of glue to unite the firm in common cause and provides a strong distinctive platform for customer marketing and communications. Too many asset management firms fail to shape marketing budgets to build their brand in tandem with short term campaign management. In particular, under cost pressure, many opt to focus only on the bottom of the sales funnel despite well-documented research that this generally results in a downward spiral in marketing effectiveness over time.
A recent study from Peregrine Communications “The Global 100 – 2020” examined the marketing performance of the world’s leading asset managers and makes for sobering reading. The majority of the 100 largest global investment firms saw static or declining brand awareness in 2020 which was in line with pre-Covid 2019 results.
Staggeringly, in an era of digital and remote engagement dominance, 46% of firms reported having no paid search strategy in place at all and 25% had done no paid media advertising in the last year.
While heritage and scale are undoubted bulwarks for investment brands, active brand marketing is essential. As the Peregrine study concludes: “There is a noticeable correlation between Share of Voice and brand awareness. Our analysis shows that this relationship is much stronger than between brand awareness and size judged by AUM.”
For marketing leaders, there is a real opportunity to look at other industries and consumer-led businesses, and develop brand programmes internally and externally at a strategic level and deploy resources at all stages of the funnel.
Do you have a sales or marketing culture?
As businesses have adapted to change and re-imagined business models, many Boards and CEOs have also been looking to define with greater clarity the purpose, values and behaviours of their firms for sound commercial reasons, as Peter Drucker famously said: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”.
Sales and marketing functions have often been seen to thrive in distinctive subcultures - ‘hunters vs farmers’ is an oft used analogy. As the hierarchy and separation between sales and marketing teams breaks down, and the client relationship is seen as being owned by the firm as a whole, instead of individuals, we believe a broader-based, inclusive firm-wide culture will prevail and these subcultures will fade. In particular, in a more digitally enabled age, new skills and experience will be required, leading to greater diversity in the workforce. In short, we will need to work together more, rather than to see our functions as separate and isolated. We may also draw upon fractional expertise more often thanks to the growing ecosystem of fractional and part-time and consultancy-based workers.
Again, the challenge for marketing leaders is to be a voice at the table in order to ensure the office culture helps attract and retain the best marketing talent.