Mutual fund flows are predictable. Fund flows tend to be largest in the beginning of the year when investors rebalance portfolios, invest bonuses and contribute to IRA’s after the holidays. If you have a good story to tell and have not yet developed your game plan to grow in 2018, you may miss some of your best opportunities for the year.According to Strategic Insight, the strongest fund flows took place in the first quarter in nine out of the last 11 years.
The second quarter ranked first or second nine times. The fourth quarter has not led fund flows—and has seen the vast majority of quarters with net outflows over this period.
|Strongest fund flows ranked|
by quarter since 2007
|Third or fourth||1||2||8||11|
|Table 1: Strategic Insight|
Access Doesn’t Mean Sales
Many asset managers want to generate growth through third parties such as Schwab, LPL, or UBS. Although obtaining selling agreements with these firms can be expensive and time-consuming, eventually most firms gain access.
Access, however, doesn’t mean sales. Competition with the largest name brands is fierce. The big firms have ample resources, including experienced executives with strong gatekeeper access, and teams of wholesalers supporting advisors, and spend millions on advertising. These firms also leverage data to find out who their customers are and to target and serve them efficiently.
Despite the “big firm” dominance, many financial advisors prefer to work with boutique fund managers with niche strategies, a brand based on their founders, and portfolio managers accessible by telephone.
Your Checklist for Growth
Do you have a great story to tell, but find that investors aren’t paying as much attention as you’d like? Or perhaps you’ve been building your growth strategy and want additional ways to amplify your results?
The end of the year is the perfect time to think about your current results and how you can do even better over the next twelve months. The checklist below, organized by strategic, marketing, and sales categories, will help ensure you’ve thought through the major considerations for your growth strategy in 2018.
Review: Understandyour current results and process before you think about the year ahead. Consider industry trends, your competitive situation, overall brand and ROI for your current growth strategy and individual components. Think about specific tactics that worked and didn’t work as a starting point for improvement.
Goals: Set a specific goal of increasing assets under management. Your sales goal should be the difference between your assets under management goal and expected market fluctuation. Then you can develop a strategy to help get you there.
Story: Survey your existing clients or advisors who don’t know your firm yet. Their responses will help you determine answers to questions such as what makes your firm unique or different from other firms or how your fund can be used in a client’s investment portfolio. Don’t be surprised if there are gaps between your thinking and theirs. Then be sure to tell your story consistently across all your communications channels.
Target Market and Accessibility: Understand who your existing clients are and why they chose to give business to your firm. This will help you find new prospects that are likely to buy. Data tools such as sales aggregators and RIA databases can help you develop an understanding of your existing advisors and those in the marketplace faster than you would without the information.
Pricing and Share Class: Most fund flows are coming into no-load, load-waived and I shares. Be sure your share classes match what your ideal clients would buy. Also, align your fees with your competition. Focus on the expense ratio of competing funds that are selling, not on category averages.
BUILD YOUR BRAND (AND LEADS)
Website: Websites have moved far beyond the “brochure on the Internet” from the past. Now, your firm’s web space can be a portal for timely information designed to engage your audiences. Media coverage, commentaries and videos, among other things, can be posted on your website to keep advisors coming back. Through technology, you can also track which advisors are returning to pages on your website, and convert them to leads.
Media Coverage: Work with reporters that influence your target audiences to create stories that feature your people, products and brand. Be proactive with journalists. Don’t just wait for them to find you. Good coverage can attract leads and add credibility to your other sales and marketing efforts. Opportunities include talking to reporters to be in their stories and submitting stories for publication. Be sure to repurpose your coverage on your website and in your other sales and marketing efforts for credibility.
Content Creation: Develop commentaries, proprietary research, white papers, and shorter insight posts that will interest your audiences. Videos, webinars, and infographics are also becoming more popular. Post the content on your own channels such as your website and distribute through your own digital marketing efforts like email. You can also increase your reach by submitting to news publications and websites where financial advisors spend their time.
Digital Marketing: Marketing automation software can keep your message in front of thousands of advisors at the same time. Using social media like LinkedIn and Twitter are becoming effective ways for advisors to engage with fund firms. While these strategies take a commitment of time and resources, you will be amazed at the analytics over time. You’ll be able to track who is engaging with your content across your website, email marketing, and social media—specific names, not just aggregate numbers. These top leads or clients can then be called on by your sales team.
STRENGTHEN YOUR PERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS
Key Accounts: Many boutique firms lack team members who are dedicated to working with platform gatekeepers. As a result, no one is in charge of building relationships with decision makers and understanding the process to be considered for model portfolios or select lists. In addition, you may not know who your major competitors are for each platform, or the best ways to navigate each platform to seek opportunities to gain visibility. Some opportunities to tell your story are no cost or low cost once your funds are available on the platform. Others have high price tags, so it’s important to develop a strategy based on sales priorities.
Sales Teams: There are many models of sales teams—internals who set up meetings and provide support, externals who travel to meet with advisors and hybrids who perform both internal and external roles. Experienced wholesalers come with strong relationships and a large Rolodex of advisors to call on. Younger ones bring energy to the process.
Sales Management: Sometimes in boutique firms, the sales team is “managed” by the CEO and/or portfolio manager who would rather be picking stocks. As a result, the sales team may not have set goals, direction, and accountability to drive sales and new advisors. A manager or coach can help work through issues such as levels of production, compensation, territories, and budgets. A manager or coach can also play the role of a buffer between CEO and the sales team.
Customer Relationship Management: The best way to turn contacts into relationships is by using a CRM database. In addition to keeping track of day-to-day contacts with financial advisors and other audiences, your CRM can also house your sales aggregation and digital marketing data to provide a fuller picture of clients and leads all in one place. It can be used to turn data into knowledge that your sales and marketing teams can use.
Time to Get Going for Growth
The most sophisticated distribution strategy won’t help a firm with a lousy story. But a firm with a good story to tell can grow by thinking through goals and developing a strategy to get there. Then be sure to monitor and adjust throughout the year. And well before the end of the year is prime time to plan for the year to come.
For a free consultation to help you prioritize immediate improvements for growth, contact Dan Sondhelm at 703-597-3863.