The twin slams of the spread of the Coronavirus and the first bear market in a decade have created the most challenging environment for asset managers since the Great Recession.
With yields plummeting in tandem with stock prices, there are few compelling performance stories for firms to tell right now. And with travel curtailed and many advisors and institutional consultants working remotely, salespeople are dramatically reducing their selling and focusing more on stemming outflows from key clients.
But just because wholesalers aren’t on the road doesn’t mean that asset managers should be keeping a low profile in the hopes of weathering the storm. On the contrary, it’s more important than ever for firms to be communicating with their clients and prospects. But the message itself has changed.
It’s no longer the typical product and performance story, since right now there’s no good story to tell. Instead, it’s a time to turn off the sales spigot and instead ask your investment team to step up to the plate to deliver objective, honest and detailed perspectives on the market and their portfolios.
This means shifting money from travel and conference sponsorships to marketing. It means boosting your output of commentaries, whitepapers, videos and podcasts and rebooting your email marketing strategy to one that delivers the subject matter expertise your target audiences are clamoring for.
Read the Fund Intelligence article “Forced to do business online, fund groups adapt digital marketing strategies during pandemic” that included Dan Sondhelm’s thoughts.
And it means going beyond the limited scope of email and time-consuming phone calls to embrace advertising and news media placement opportunities that can deliver your thought leadership to a geometrically larger pool of potential prospects.
How are asset managers making this adjustment? I asked this question to heads of sales and marketing at boutique firms. I received a number of interesting responses.
One sales head who is also in the field, now desk-bound, spoke with his institutional consultant clients by phone to find out what their biggest client communication challenges were. He’s learned that spooked pension fund and endowment committees are demanding detailed explanations of how the market meltdown is affecting every asset class and fund in their portfolios, causing heightened stress and turning investment managers into crisis management counselors. His firm has responded by ramping up the frequency of portfolio managers’ participation in videos and conference calls to deliver detailed and candid insights on the market and their portfolios to help consultants explain what’s going on.
Another sales pro, whose mid cap firm works mainly with independent investment advisers, discovered that many advisers are struggling to convince their clients to stick with their plans and resist the urge to abandon stocks for cash. In response, his firm has created a client-ready whitepaper and infographic that uses hypothetical examples from the 2008-2009 market crash to show that investors who didn’t cash out their stocks when the bottom fell saw the value of their portfolios grow much larger in the ensuing decade than those who sold out of stocks at its trough in March 2009 and didn’t re-enter the market until 2010.
A marketing guru is expanding her relationship with financial news publications to deliver their insights to a wider audience of institutional investors and financial advisors. They’re placing banner ads for branding and lead generation purposes and using sponsored content placement to prominently feature their latest commentaries on the home pages of these sites. They’re also working with one well known advisor publication to present webinars featuring their chief investment officer. The publication will aggressively promote the webinars via email and social media to its publication’s audience of 200,000 RIAs and brokers. She also enhanced her internal digital strategy so her firm could nurture those additional leads.
Given the unprecedented nature of this current environment, many financial publications and national and local TV shows and podcasts are clamoring for access to investment experts who have something new and useful to add to the national dialogue on these issues. That makes it a good time for firms to increase their attention to public relations strategies to connect with journalists who may be willing to give print and air time to your firm’s subject matter experts.
But just because your salespeople aren’t pounding the pavement right now doesn’t mean they should remain on the sidelines. They now have the opportunity to reposition themselves as value-added client service professionals by delivering and promoting your crisis-focused marketing content to their clients and prospects. For example, instead of using a bulk emailer like Constant Contact or Mailchimp to send emails promoting your latest market commentary, give your salespeople the opportunity to personally send the offer to their contacts using their own email accounts.
Sales and marketing teams don’t always play nicely together. But the current stay-at-home environment now offers an opportunity for asset managers to temporarily step away from the pressures of business development and use the combined resources of their investment team, marketing department and wholesalers to help struggling intermediaries gain a deeper understanding of what’s going on in the market – and help them walk investors back from the abyss.
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.