Many boutique asset managers have no problem spending huge amounts of money and effort to upgrade their portfolio management technologies, employ the latest trading techniques and implement the latest flavor of business improvement methodologies.
So why is it that so many of these firms are so resistant to changing their outdated and ineffective sales and marketing processes?
Senior management can see the results of these deficiencies. Thinning pipelines. Fewer wins. Shrinking inflows. But too often their solution is to keep on doing the same old things. I know this because sales and marketing pros ask similar questions. How many product-pushing emails should we send out every week? How do we get more gatekeepers to return our cold calls? Which key clients should we be taking out to lunch?
As gently as possible, I remind them that these kinds of questions reflect a focus on tactics, rather than an understanding of what drives purchasing consideration among today’s investors and intermediaries. The market is evolving, and asset managers need to keep pace with these changes if they want to increase AUM and revenue.
Investing in tactics can help, but your firm can generate far more significant positive results by encouraging greater flexibility and participation among those who can play a more effective role in delivering your message to the marketplace. Here are four suggestions to start this process.
Encourage portfolio managers to be the public face of your firm
People produce performance, not products. And increasingly skeptical investors want to understand the thinking behind the results. Portfolio managers need to take a more assertive role in becoming the ambassadors of success in their firms.
Yet, too many of them are unwilling to devote time away from the trading and research desk to become effective communicators. This needs to change, even if this means changing their job description (or bonus incentives) to require them to spend a certain percentage of their time conveying their thoughts, either in collaboration with their marketing teams to produce commentaries and other marketing materials, or in appearances in the news media, at conferences, or in face-to-face meetings with key intermediaries.
Push wholesalers out of their comfort zones
In many boutique asset management firms, wholesalers often spend more time within the institutional channel. There are fewer gatekeepers to cultivate. Investor expectations tend to standardized. The rules of engagement follow well-trodden rituals and expectations.
But by focusing on this channel alone, asset managers are missing the much larger AUM opportunity waiting to be tapped among independent intermediaries. Yes, it requires much more cold calling, networking and travel time to build a pipeline of prospects among independent brokers and advisers. And it requires wholesalers to change their sales approach from one that focuses mainly on performance to one that accentuates the expertise and skill of portfolio managers and the validity of their investment approach. But the potential payoff – a larger pipeline, more diversification of AUM, and greater brand visibility – justifies the effort.
Stop using compliance as an excuse for stifling marketing innovation
Many firms use the age-old excuse of “our compliance department won’t let us do it” to avoid using social media, creating timely content such as articles, podcasts and videos, and other digital marketing strategies that helps attract and qualify leads. The problem is many of your competitors are successfully using these techniques.
Often, this resistance is rooted in the chief compliance officer’s unwillingness to get up to speed on the many regulations governing digital communications. But considering that digital marketing offers a cost-effective platform for increasing site visits, building greater awareness for your firm, and filling your sales pipeline, it’s essential to find ways for your compliance department to become more nimble and flexible.
This transformation has to start at the top, with senior management incentivizing or cajoling your Compliance Officer to change with the times. If your compliance department is resource-strapped, you may want to either hire or assign a younger technically savvy individual to be the firm’s designated digital marketing reviewer. They might appreciate the opportunity to do something more interesting than adding disclosures and editing marketing materials.
Harness your marketing department’s full potential
If you’re only using your marketing team to churn out pitchbooks, fact sheets and prospectuses, you’re only harnessing a tiny percentage of their creative and strategic potential.
They know what your competitors are doing. And they want to be empowered with the opportunity (and the budget) to improve the breadth, quality and relevancy of your print materials, web site, and digital marketing efforts. But they can only do this if they are treated as valued partners.
Transforming your sales and marketing processes can be challenging, because, unlike upgrading technologies, the results aren’t always immediately apparent. Those who will be responsible for implementing these changes may be resistant at first. To earn their voluntary buy-in and reduce attrition risk, you’ll need to provide them with the training they need to modify their work routines. And you’ll need to clearly communicate how both the firm and their careers will benefit from the results, both in terms of compensation and professional development. That’s why it’s critical for everyone on your leadership team, starting with the CEO, to be fully engaged as agents of change.
Dan Sondhelm is CEO of Sondhelm Partners, a firm that helps asset managers, mutual funds, ETFs, wealth managers and fintech companies grow through marketing, public relations and sales programs. Click to read Dan’s latest Insight articles and to schedule a complimentary consultation.