So, 2020 – what just happened? And what does it tell us about the future?
Big questions – and far beyond the remit of this article to unpack completely. But where fund marketing is concerned, at least, I’m willing to give it a go.
I’m going to look at how this past year has shaped and impacted the sector, and look forward to examine the lessons it teaches us all and how we can successfully plan for 2021 and beyond.
A digital bombshell
2020 was, of course, the year of COVID-19. In the future it will be one of those years that always has an image attached. Just as 1914 brings to mind soldiers in trenches, and 1989 the Berlin Wall being smashed to bits, 2020 will be synonymous with empty streets and packed intensive care wards.
It has changed the world.
And in our corner of that world, it blasted everyone – whether they liked it or not – into the digital marketing sphere.
Anyone still labouring under the misapprehension that digital marketing was an option, or something they could put off, had a rude awakening last year. Things changed almost overnight and suddenly the fund marketing sector was governed by a different dynamic. The days of business lunches, face to face meetings, and deals being sealed in corporate boxes were gone.
Of course, the move to digital has been going on for years. But the pandemic turbocharged that process and now everybody is aware that digitisation is no longer an option, it’s a necessity. So, by 2022 pretty much all firms in this sector – and certainly all our clients – will have completed the move to digital marketing.
The lessons of 2020
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Before we look forward it’s useful to look back and contemplate on the lessons learnt from a year like no other.
One big thing it taught us is the need to work together as a team. This may sound a little clichéd, but suddenly having a whole firm working from home brought the need for inter-departmental cooperation into much sharper focus. Suddenly, you couldn’t rely on a colleague next to you to know what is going on in the sales department, for example – it was down to you. So, everybody discovered the need for contacts and cooperation across a firm. This has been positive because, instead of mutual distrust across the board, there has been greater cooperation between marketing, sales, operations, investing etc.
Secondly, it seems the firms that did particularly well during 2020 concentrated on four key aspects of their IT infrastructure – they leveraged the cloud, built flexibility, used collaborative software, and made it easy for all staff to gain access
This is basically about understanding the importance of good IT, and encouraging all your staff to come on board with a remote, digital way of working. All firms have done this to a certain extent – there’s been no choice. But if you are one of those companies that have done it well, you will have also seen a happy consequence:
The reach of your business will have increased (and I know this because our clients are telling us) as the end of face-to-face meetings has made everyone happy to meet remotely. If you are based in South-east Asia, for example, who cares if you have a Zoom call with someone in Singapore or London? Geography has suddenly become much less of a barrier
So, it seems to me that the big winners emerging from lockdown are those firms who have used digital communication most effectively and have reached out well to both prospects and clients.
It is particularly important for smaller firms – those with £5bn or less under management – to understand this, as they are facing a double whammy of challenges. The figures show that less money is coming into these companies, and more redemptions are flowing out, in comparison to larger firms. That’s probably because people are less willing to take risks during a period of major uncertainty, thus go with big names they know.
This means that you’re now going to have to work harder for less reward. But strong digital communication and marketing can help you face with this, as it’s a way of setting yourself apart and building trust. This is absolutely essential during these troubled times, when people are looking for solidity and reassurance.
So, you must do two things – embrace IT and combine that with a solid content marketing strategy that places thought leadership content at the forefront. And by this I mean content that offers thoughtful and incisive views on current investment topics. This positions your firm as an authority within the sector, which in turn helps persuade investors that you will look after their money and help it grow.
Create this, then distribute it properly and intelligently through email and other digital channels and it will have a positive effect on your ability to raise and retain assets.
A digital journey in fund marketing
The importance of this strategy has been boosted due to the fact that the investor journey is now totally digital. Again, this was something that was growing pre-pandemic, but during 2020 everything went online. How people interacted with your brand and firm was suddenly all digital.
And this has changed the nature of your investors, as well. They are all now faceless and invisible to you, so – for the time being at least – you can only reach them virtually.
You must connect with these people by using all the digital means at your disposal. Use email marketing, of course, but also concentrate on SEO, social media, webinars and anything else that gets you in front of your target market. You can’t pick and choose – you need to do it all. And you must invest in your team and systems to make this happen.
Predictions for the future for fund marketing
So, with all that 2020 has taught us, what does 2021 and beyond have in store?
Of course, if I could answer that question with any certainty I’d be a rich man. But here’s what I think is going to happen, in the shape of four trends that are likely to shape the next twelve months:
AuM will increase: There is so much pent-up demand – and capital that hasn’t yet been used – that this is inevitable. Also, some private equity money will start to flow into funds (and vice versa).
In-person meetings will resume in Q4 2021: The investment world has gone digital, but people will be missing face-to-face meetings. So, my crystal ball tells me that – providing vaccination continues as planned and rates come down – this will come back by autumn time (but never to the extent we knew before).
Digital events are here to stay: Equally, 2020 has shown the sheer ease of doing online events, so there will be no headlong rush back to in-person events. Although they will take place again at some point, the needle has swung towards digital as this saves both organisers and attendees a lot of time and hassle. And, apart from anything else, we are all used to them now.
There will be a greater focus on ESG and diversity: Although not everyone takes notice, there is a growing number of investors looking for commitment on these issues, so firms must be – and are – taking it seriously. There are also those that are faking it, but they will get found out.
So, if I’m right, what weapons do you need in your armoury to be able to face and overcome these challenges?
Preparing for the future as a fund marketer
Everything I’ve listed above boils down to communicating effectively with your prospects and clients. And that hinges on bringing all the data you collect through your digital marketing efforts together in a way that generates sales opportunities.
The first part of doing this is through integration, meaning that everything that pours in from your website, social channels, email marketing etc, is brought together in one place, so that you can see an overall view of performance.
Secondly, from this data you need to be able to see who are those prospects who are most engaged with you but have still not spoken to your sales team. These are the low hanging fruit, who are looking like they are ready to invest. You also need to be able to see existing clients who are looking at different funds or products – so could be a cross-selling opportunity – and those clients who have stopped looking at your content, so could be looking to redeem. Lastly, your data can show you who are the new kids on the block – those who have just started engaging with you in the last twelve months.
And when you have all this information you must get it where it counts – in front of your sales team. And that means you need a lead deck within your CRM, where a sales rep can immediately access a snapshot of any prospect or client and see a history of all engagement content, so they can quickly see what they like, what they don’t like, and even which digital touchpoint actually brought them into the fold in the first place.
Use analysis to keep improving your fund marketing
Data analysis also serves to hone and improve the effectiveness of your digital marketing, as you can quickly see the top trends and topics and how different channels are performing.
This lets you keep a constant eye on the quality of your marketing, so you always know what is working and what isn’t. This is important in terms of raising and retaining AuM, but is equally important for justifying the worth of the marketing department, as it gives you solid information to put in front of the C-suite that underlines the profit-raising ability of the department.
Automation is vital for fund marketing
I have one last point – to really make the most of your future digital marketing efforts, you need to introduce automation that can deal with the more mundane tasks that need doing, such as sending out fact sheets, or webinar and event promotion. When you find ways to automate these processes, you are able to do more with less, so your team can then concentrate on more complex and potentially profitable tasks.
However, there is one caveat to this – it only really applies if you have a marketing list of over a 1000. If it’s less than that, you should just rely on a more basic form of automation in the form of a drip campaign – so that you send any interested parties a series of pre-written emails at intervals that will, hopefully, encourage them to invest.
Get prepared now
I’ve made a few predictions in this article and I’m sure some will be proved wrong. But my big takeaway here is that digitising your marketing is not an option – it’s a necessity – and those that fail to do it quickly or thoroughly will soon get left behind by the competition.
If you want to find out how ProFundCom can help you use digital marketing to raise assets schedule a demo here