Q&A with Financial Times Ignites Europe on Mutual Fund Digital Marketing

Q&A with Financial Times Ignites Europe on Mutual Fund Digital Marketing

David Ricketts a journalist at the FT recently interviewed me for an article on Ignites Europe (a subscription only site that describes itself as looking at all that’s hot in the mutual fund industry). As David’s article was very pertinent to digital marketing from a mutual fund perspective, I thought it relevant to also share some of my comments with you here:

Question: As former Head of Internet for Investec Asset Management and now a Media Planner and Buyer for Ptarmigan Media how have you noticed asset management firms changing their approach to online advertising/marketing campaigns? What opportunities can it bring these firms, and what challenges do they sometimes have to overcome if they are to implement an effective online strategy? Is current technology an issue for some firms?

Answer: The approach taken often varies from asset manager to asset manager. Some asset managers are more switched on than others and those who recognise the rich rewards digital marketing can bring often fail to correctly prioritise. A common mistake I often see are firms wanting to get their websites in shape before driving traffic to them (an approach I have termed “field of dreams marketing” – build it and they will come). I just regard this as a significant lost opportunity. It is important, particularly in this harsh business environment for firms to engage with consumers and financial advisers now, not next year. I therefore recommend firms follow a multi-track approach to their digital marketing activity. I suggest that they:

  • (Shorter term ) Look at their distribution and retention strategies. What can they do to support these NOW. Run online display campaigns targeting financial advisers and consumers with key messages. Drive the resultant traffic through to bespoke product or service microsites. This approach need not entail having a vast site with a complex Content Management Solution (CMS) in place already. A simple microsite can be put together very cost effectively. Focused sites such as these are often best from a relevancy and Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) perspective.
  • (Shorter term) Support the display campaigns with active communication strategies, particularly email marketing to financial advisers. There are a number of obstacles here. These usually revolve around, a) getting lists of financial advisers and b) using them effectively in an intelligent way. As far as point a) is concerned, email addresses can often be sourced from a number of locations with the asset manager’ itself. The best source is usually the Sales Team. Other options include sponsoring various trade organisations or by running competitions to get advisers to opt in to receiving ongoing communications. These approaches can be highly effective at helping the asset manager build a quality list. It is important to remember however that this needs to be an ongoing process – you can’t build a list and then rest on your laurels. Lists are only so good as the data they hold and this will ‘degrade’ over time as people move organisations, retire etc.As far as point b) is concerned, its important for asset managers to show humility. They may be superb fund managers but it does not follow that they will have a similarly advanced understanding of digital marketing. It is often best to get third party help to guide you through the process.
  • (Longer term) Look at developing their site in parallel with the above activities.

If an asset manager is able to execute this three pronged strategy successfully, they will not only be able to get their message out into the market now, but also build a highly responsive email database for follow up by members of the Sales Team.

This latter point allows smaller asset managers to compete with larger companies by following up what I describe as ‘semi-warm’ email leads over random cold calling – something a lot of Sales Teams often have a tendency to do – just talk to people that they already know.

I’ve used this ‘email’ approach with smaller asset managers and hedge funds. Use the email to get your message into the market. Then see who interacts with the communications. Have Sales then follow these leads up. When sufficient interest is shown capitalise on this by running an online event for advisers so they can call in and discuss the product directly with the fund manager. This approach has proved extremely effective in raising and retaining assets in all market conditions.

Question: What do you think is the secret behind a successful online marketing campaign? (I read your blog entry about an email campaign you were in charge of at Investec, and how the number of clicks should not necessarily be taken for how successful it is). How can asset managers measure the success (or gain evidence) of a successful online marketing campaign?

Ultimately at the end of the day its all about getting cash either through the door or keeping hold of it if its at risk of being redeemed. Clicks or visits to a microsite mean nothing if product is not being sold. Key here of course is having a close relationship with the Sales Team. You provide them with the leads that are generated digitally for them to then follow up. Because digital marketers often rely on the Sales Team to ‘close the deal’ I always avoided targets for the digital team. If the Sales Team thought I would be taking money from their sales, cooperation would have dried up overnight. Digital marketing in this example is therefore an extension of the sales process. Measurement therefore needs to be both qualitative (who is registering, what are they registering for, how valuable do sales consider the digital marketing efforts are) and quantitative (how many people are registering, clicking, etc). In summary therefore its important that an integrated team wide approach be taken.

Question: I also read your blog entry about the Old Mutual email sent to customers and how doing things ‘on the cheap’ inevitably backfires. How important is branding in online campaigns?

Another common mistake I often see is that because it is ‘easy’ and ‘cheap’ to run digital display and email campaigns asset managers assume anyone can do it. This often leads to disaster – the Old Mutual email is a fantastic example. It is poorly executed and potentially damaging to the brand. On paper it is easy to do. To do well however is more difficult.

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