Creating Value or “Pushing Stuff Out”: How a Content Strategy Can Make a Difference

Content Development StrategyWith the COVID-19 crisis curtailing on-site sales meetings and networking at conferences, asset managers of all sizes have been scrambling to produce more digital content for consumption at home by their clients and prospects.

In Sondhelm Partners’ recent research report, Weathering the Storm: How Asset Managers are Adjusting to the New Reality, 56% of boutique asset managers who responded to our survey said they believe that their content development strategy is effective.

When you look at many of their comments, many define effectiveness in terms of tactics, rather than strategies. They’ll say how well their investment commentaries are received by clients, or admit that the COVID-19 crisis is compelling them to produce more content more often.

While nearly all boutique firms are producing value-added content, most aren’t taking a high-level view of its purpose or desired results. Even fewer are assessing the most appropriate methods and channels for the dissemination of their content. They’re more concerned with keeping up with their competitors than in figuring out what they’re trying to achieve.

Given the costs of creating content and the challenges of maximizing engagement, asset managers can’t afford to approach content development in a haphazard way. That’s where the value of a content strategy comes in.

What should a content strategy do?

A content strategy needs to be more than a simple list of “things to create.” Instead, it should:

  • Establish the business objectives for different kinds of content.
  • Define a content development priority list that helps you determine how much time and effort should be allocated to produce each category of content.
  • Determine when content will be developed and where it will be published or posted.
  • Specify the different means you will use to promote and measure engagement.

Let’s examine each of these points separately.

Establishing Business Objectives

It’s important to specify the specific purpose for each piece of content. Otherwise, you’re just producing “stuff.” These objectives can include:

  • Your target audience (advisors, institutional investors, consultants, retail investors).
    Its purpose (generate leads, close deals, bolster client retention, generate greater awareness of your firm’s thought leadership and subject matter expertise).
    How you will measure its effectiveness (the number of downloads and/or inquiries, website traffic, higher click rates for your marketing emails and social media posts, follow-up meeting requests).

Prioritizing Your Content

While all content is important, not all of it requires extensive ongoing expenditures of time and labor. For boutique asset managers that are committed to producing top-notch content within a limited budget, the typical priority list should look something like this.

Highest PriorityWebinars, videos and podcasts. Interactive content platforms have become a critical way for portfolio managers to have “face time” with clients and prospects.
Very High PriorityCommentaries and whitepapers. More than generic market reviews and outlooks, these value-added pieces need to convey your portfolio managers’ unique insights on their portfolios and asset classes.
High PriorityWebsite content. Beyond product information, your website needs to employ today’s best practices in design, navigation and wording. Your home page should be frequently updated to feature new content and highlight news media coverage of your firm. Static content, such as explanations of your firm’s investment philosophy, should be short, concise, and focus on how investors will benefit from your approach. Product information should be easy to find. Outdated pages should either be refreshed or removed.
Moderately High PriorityEvergreen sales and marketing materials. Pitchbooks, fund brochures, fact sheets, online product descriptions and standardized RFP responses require a significant amount of creative time and effort to position the competitive strengths of your firm and its products’ effectively. But once you create these materials, they don’t need to be revised all that often beyond updating performance and holdings data or changes in management.
Lower PriorityBusiness as usual communications. These include prospectuses and shareholder reports and letters. Since very few people actually read these from cover to cover, they require the least amount of time and creative effort.

Creating a Content Development and Deployment Schedule

Once you’ve defined the general kinds of new content you intend to produce, a content calendar can give you a head start on prioritizing your deliverables. Ideally, the calendar should:

  • Schedule publication or distribution dates for content deliverables, including topics, authors, and internal stakeholders. 
  • For online content, list the specific channel or channels where the content ideally will be published or posted (websites, blogs, trade publications).
  • List the methods that will be used to promote the content (marketing emails, social media, webinar invitations, print or online advertising).

Optimizing Promotion and Engagement

Your content doesn’t exist if no one is consuming it. You need to let clients and prospects know that it’s available, and find out how many are truly interested.

  • If you’re promoting the content via email, review open rates and the number of “clicks” to download or request it. Compare these figures to past campaigns or industry averages. 
  • For webinars, measure the number of registrants and actual live event and replay attendees. Also review engagement metrics such as the amount of the time they stayed on the sessions, participated in polls and Q&A, and gave it their undivided attention (the best webinar platforms can tell if attendees are multitasking). 
  • For website content measure page-view data, including average time spent on each page.  
  • For portfolio manager videos and podcasts, measure the number of views (or listens) and the amount of time people spent watching or listening to the content. 
  • Most importantly, use technology to help you understand specifically WHO is engaging with your content across channels. These are your warmest leads.

Getting Outside Help

Most boutique firms don’t have the resources to employ large teams of in-house writers, designers, video producers and digital marketing specialists to produce their high-priority content. Outsourcing these tasks not only can be more cost effective over the long run but will result in better content and analytics. 

  • Experienced financial writers and designers can work with your investment and business development team to create commentaries and whitepapers and refresh your marketing materials, pitch books and website content.
  • Virtual video producers can remotely be part of the video capture session with your portfolio managers to make their videos, podcasts and webinars look and sound more professional.  
  • Marketing strategists can recommend the most cost-effective ways to promote your content via email, social media, or placements in trade publications, and can deliver detailed analysis of engagement metrics. 

With advisors and institutional investors and consultants facing a glut of offers for commentaries, videos and webinars every time they fire up their email box, asset managers can’t afford their content to be viewed as second-rate. An effective content strategy that is executed by top-notch creative and strategic talent can help your firm stand out in a crowded field. 

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How are other boutique firms adjusting to this post-COVID reality? Find out by downloading our complimentary report , which is sponsored by Discovery DataSalesPage and Cohen & Co

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.