For years, wholesalers at boutique firms have been complaining that fewer advisors and consultants are returning their calls or opening their emails. Many pointed out that their competitors were offering webinars, whitepapers and podcasts, and weren’t burdened with websites that looked like they were leftovers from the Y2K era.
But in many of these firms, senior managers couldn’t or wouldn’t invest more on digital marketing. And this neglect has come back to haunt them.
Since the COVID-19 crisis began, many boutique asset managers have scrambled to “catch up” to their tech-savvy competitors who were already using interactive marketing to enhance their traditional inbound marketing approaches.
In Sondhelm Partners’ recent research report, Weathering the Storm: How Asset Managers are Adjusting to the New Reality, only 37% of respondents said their firm has an effective digital marketing strategy.
While several said that they have made piecemeal efforts to improve their website, email marketing and social media presence, most admit that they don’t have an overall digital strategy to prioritize and guide their online initiatives.
The Difference Between Digital Strategy and Tactics
Many asset managers make the mistake of thinking that a digital strategy is their web site, email marketing campaigns and social media presence. But it’s not. These are simply tactics.
The actual strategy is the overall set of guiding principles that drives your firm’s use of digital marketing channels. It should define:
- The business objectives your firm’s digital communications should achieve. These could include generating leads, increasing brand awareness, establishing your firm’s thought leadership credentials, promoting your winning funds and strategies or any combination of the above.
- The specific audiences you’re trying to reach. Most boutique firms focus on cultivating institutional investors, consultants, brokers and independent investment advisers.
- The key messages your digital strategy needs to deliver to the market. It’s not just about products and performance. Savvy firms use digital marketing to communicate their unique investment story, competitive differentiators and specialized subject matter expertise in ways that educate and illuminate, rather than simply “sell.”
- The best online channels to use to achieve these objectives. These days, marketing budgets are tight. Most boutique firms can’t afford to break the bank trying to master every form of digital communications. That’s why it’s important to figure out which channels offer the best bang for the buck.
It All Starts With Your Web Site
Whether prospects find you through a Google search, a news story or respond to one of your emails or social media posts, all of these virtual paths lead to your website. Which is why it’s critical to make sure yours is the best it can be.
If your website looks like a text-heavy, glorified brochure, it’s time for a major overhaul. It should be visually attractive and relatively copy light. Your home page should quickly and simply tell your story, with distinct call-out areas that highlight media coverage and promote your latest commentaries and whitepapers.
Navigation should be intuitive, and all of your products should be easy to find. Ideally, performance information should be updated as soon as possible after quarter end, and it should all be on one page, with links to audience-specific fact sheets, prospectuses, commentaries and shareholder communications readily accessible. Contact information should appear on every page, ideally at the top.
And since more than 30% of all web views come from mobile devices these days, it’s important for your website to incorporate responsive design techniques that automatically optimize it for viewing on desktop PCs, laptops, tablets and smartphones.
Smartphones have shortened our attention spans and made us highly susceptible to distractions, making it difficult for written articles to hold our attention. Try to vary your content by producing videos or podcasts featuring your portfolio managers delivering insights about their asset classes. Or create infographics to simply illustrate ideas that normally require pages to convey.
You’ve probably noticed that open and click rates for your product-focused marketing emails have dropped significantly over the past few years. If you want to reverse this trend, you need to offer value, rather than pitches. Use email mainly to promote your firm’s thought leadership offerings, whether it’s your latest commentaries and market outlooks, your new videos, or invitations to online Q&A sessions with your portfolio managers.
And don’t settle for “one-size-fits-all messaging.” Today’s email platforms make it easy to divide your contacts into targeted segments. Advisors and consultants respond to different kinds of offers and “hooks,” so try to make sure the messages you’re sending reflect their interests.
Drawing visits to your site
Email may help draw your known contacts to your website, but you also want clients and prospects you don’t know to visit as well. But rather than spend a fortune on expensive print ads, or waste money on banner ads that are ignored, consider devoting some of your budget to these more cost-effective options.
- Search engine optimization (SEO). Sure, you want your website to look pretty. But you also want it to perform well. And that needs to be taken care of “under the hood.” Your website should include descriptions of your pages in ways Google understands. It should be free of errors that slow it down. And create and post timely content that includes words investors would use during searches. You can take our free website audit to learn how your website is performing – or holding you back.
- Google ads. Place winning bids for specific relevant search terms related to your firm or its key products. When someone enters one of these search terms, your Google ad will appear at the top of the results. Generally, you only pay when someone clicks on your ads.
- Use social media intelligently. A strong LinkedIn and Twitter corporate presence offers a cost-effective way for your firm to attract followers and promote your latest news and thought leadership content.
- Sponsored content. Consider working with online financial publications to publish commentaries or articles created by your investment team. These “sponsored content” articles are usually included in the list of articles on the site’s home page, giving them greater visibility and credibility.
Measuring the Results
The only way to know if your digital marketing strategies are working is to see the results.
The most simple and low-cost ways to track results are to view open and click rates for your emails and use Google Analytics to track increases in web site visits and page views.
But these programs only offer limited information. If you really want to learn which of your clients and prospects are most “digitally engaged,” you need to invest in a marketing automation platform. Programs like Pardot, Hubspot and Sharpspring can track the activities of all your online subscribers. These applications can provide a historical record of which email messages each client and prospect opened and clicked, the pages of your web site they visited (and re-visited), which whitepapers and commentaries they downloaded, the videos and webinars they viewed, and how often they liked or shared your social media posts. They can assign “lead scores” for each person that reflect their level of digital engagement. Some of these programs can be fully integrated with Salesforce and other CRM systems.
Prioritizing your Digital Deliverables
If you’re like many boutique firms, executing your digital “wish list” may be limited by your marketing budget and resources. But since your wholesalers and portfolio managers are probably not traveling far away from home this year, consider shifting some of their travel budget to improve your digital presence. If you can’t do everything at once, focus on modernizing your website first, since strong first online impressions count.
Once that’s done, focus your attention on increasing the frequency, quality and variety of the value-added content that differentiates your firm in a crowded marketplace. Only when you’re satisfied that your web presence and content put you firm on par with your competitors should you move on to reinvigorating the inbound marketing strategies that will help you increase your pipeline and improve your sales team’s closing rates.
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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.