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How To Boost AuM By Aligning Your Fund Distribution And Marketing Teams

Published: 2 December, 2022

When it comes to funds, alignment is good.

Everyone who works at a fund – whether they are talking to clients, analysing data, handling payroll, or making the lunchtime sandwiches – should understand and appreciate the role of each department. Because, when there is cooperation and alignment across a firm it leads to a consequent boost in AuM.

But this is easier said than done, as each department has its own responsibilities, priorities and aims, which often don’t align easily with that of other teams. And one area where this is particularly true – but where alignment is so desperately needed – is the relationship between the fund distribution and marketing teams.

These two teams, both with the same ultimate aim of raising and retaining assets, often operate as separate silos. Although they are both working to achieve the same thing, they have a different stake in the process, and can end up falling out and resenting the other.

How do you solve that?

That’s what this ProFundCom report is all about. But first, let me unpack the problem some more…

This effectively comes down to the different ways these two departments perceive things. Two people can look at the same bit of data and come up with two completely separate conclusions. Although the information is the same, separate things are taken from it simply because their brains are wired differently.

And this is the problem that crops up time and again between marketing and fund distribution teams.

On the one hand, you have a team of creatives – the marketers – who are in the business of gathering leads. But there are a multitude of processes lying behind this – content creation and distribution, social media interaction, data analysis, list creation and management, and much more – which frames how those in marketing look at things.

On the other, you have the fund distribution guys, who are solely focused on raising assets. They need good leads to do their job, but don’t necessarily care what lies behind them.

So, both teams want and need leads, but distribution often doesn’t see or understand the complexity of the marketing process, so doesn’t get why more aren’t being pushed their way. This annoys the marketing team, who want more respect and feel they are being ignored and undervalued.

If this misalignment is allowed to fester, then friction builds and the relationship between distribution and marketing breaks down, which makes it harder for them to do their respective jobs and work towards the ultimate aim of raising and retaining AuM.

The tiger on your tail

This situation shouldn’t be allowed to happen. But if it is happening in your firm, it needs to be fixed – particularly as the whole fund sector is facing a large and growing threat.

The background to this is the evolution of the fund distribution process. This used to follow a B2B2C model, which had five intermediaries between asset managers and investors. These were distributors, fund platforms, clearing and settlement houses, transfer agents and custodians. When this model held sway, many people invested for reasons of convenience and lack of knowledge. They would choose a fund simply because their bank had one, for instance. You sent your money, hoped it did well – and forgot about it.

But digitisation meant that fund platforms could be used to their full potential and bring together the clearing, settlement, and transfer agent/custodian roles within a single platform. This essentially moved the model to B2C by taking out the middle-man, as investors could do their homework and compare fees and performance themselves.

But the advent of low interest rates (remember those?) was also responsible for a shift, as it meant that retail customers were increasingly becoming possible fund customers. They wanted to move money out of savings accounts that were providing little or no return. So, asset managers began to look beyond pension funds etc, and started to go after Joe Public with a bit of money to invest.

And that’s where we’ve got to today, where firms like Hargreaves Lansdown and Fundsmith have digitised the whole process and are using this strategy to increase market share.

But things won’t end there, as these firms have shown the corporate world what a successful and profitable model it is to sell directly to consumers. As a result, the big boys are about to enter the building.

The fact is that behemoths like Google, Amazon, and Apple have been looking at the fund market like tigers eyeing up a herd of deer. In their view, it is ripe for the taking. It suits their business model nicely, as they don’t need to build an actual infrastructure – they just need a fund in a marketplace. And they have vast existing customer bases to tap into.

This isn’t just idle speculation on my part. I’ve spoken to senior executives at Amazon and they’ve told me that asset management is a target sector for them. So, it’s no secret.

And here is the question that should keep asset managers awake at night:

How are you going to hold your own when the largest and richest firms on the planet try to muscle in on your patch?

Big problem.

But there is a ray of light – it’s going to be easier for smaller firms to weather this coming storm, as many investors shy away from corporate behemoths, as they don’t trust them.

So, the big boys can be beaten – but only if everyone in your firm pulls together in the battle.

And that means that you must fix the discord between distribution and marketing and bring these two sides together.

As promised, here are the six ways you can achieve that:

Integrate Your Marketing Tech

There are lots of moving parts in fund marketing, so you need lots of tech to keep track of it all. Your tech stack has to cover SEO, content, delivery, CRM, and analytics, as well as all the channels you are using – web, email, social etc.

Each part of this needs its own management tools – Mailchimp, Excel, Salesforce, Power BI, Eloqua, Monkeylearn etc. These can all do a great individual job. But for this whole stack to be effective for your overall operation, you need to connect them together so they are integrated into your system. And that’s more of an engineering process than a marketing task.

The risk is that marketers have to spend so much time building out the necessary integrations that they lack the time to do the actual job of marketing, which can create discord and resentment, as distribution teams often see the role of marketing as just producing a few pretty PDFs.

It always has been way more than that, obviously, but these days it’s more complex than ever, as there are so many pieces of the jigsaw to look after. When distribution sees this and understands the pressure that is on marketing teams, then it’s easier to work together.

Integrating all the moving parts of tech stack can make the job of marketing much easier – and also improve the marketing/distribution relationship.

This is what we provide at ProFundCom. Our platform integrates all the necessary information from all channels, so you can view it in a single place – with only a light touch needed from the marketing team. Other platforms are available that can do the same thing, of course – but only ProFundCom is specific to the fund sector.

Identify Gaps In Your Reporting

One of the beauties of digital marketing technology is that it has the potential to provide vast amounts of data on prospective investors.

Yet, it’s still not being used properly by many firms – so not enough information is available at any one time. Thus, fund distribution teams are engaging with prospects without having a full picture of how that person has engaged with marketing content, so reps don’t know the best approach to take during a conversation.

These gaps in reporting can cause problems, as it makes the task of the distribution team tougher. It can also lead to resentment and communication problems, as distribution fails to understand what marketing is actually doing and blames the marketing team for giving an incomplete picture.

To fix this problem, and bring distribution and marketing closer together, you need to fill the gaps in your reporting. The first part of that, as already discussed, is to bring analytics from all your digital marketing channels into one place. You must have it all together for it to do a proper job of tracking engagement data from across all your marketing efforts.

Once that information is collected, you move onto the final step – spotting the signals that identify an opportunity to raise or retain AuM through the four sets of analytics that are the endgame of all efforts across the whole firm.

These are:

  • The ‘low-hanging fruit’ amongst your prospects – those who are highly engaged with pretty much everything you send to them, so are ripe for the picking by sales.
  • The existing clients who want more – customers who are invested in one fund but are engaging with content related to things they are not invested in, thus presenting a cross-selling opportunity.
  • The prospects that have suddenly perked up – and are re-engaging with your content after a dormant period, suggesting they may be thinking of investing once again
  • The customers who could be on their way out – they have stopped engaging with your content, suggesting they are a redemption risk and need a call from sales.

 

This is what all your marketing efforts are about – the ability to deliver this information to your fund distribution team. The best way to do that is through a lead deck format, where reps can see who these people are and what they are and are not interested in. They can see the emails they’ve read, the information they’ve downloaded, the social comments they’ve made, the videos they’ve watched, the events they’ve attended etc.

This is incredibly powerful information, as it informs and guides any sales conversation – whether that’s to seal an investment deal, or to stave off a redemption.

The beauty of this is that it aligns the marketing and fund distribution budgets. As it’s simple for anyone to see how the money spent on marketing is directly connected to either assets coming through the door in new investment, or assets staying put thanks to an averted redemption. This can be viewed right down to an individual level, where you can see a prospect entering the system through, say, newsletter sign-up, on to the content they’ve downloaded and read, all the way to a successful sales conversation. There is no room for ambiguity – the journey is there for anyone and everyone to see.

For marketers, this is incredibly powerful – as it avoids the guesswork that used to surround so much in regards to marketing efforts, where you may have been confident a campaign was working, but found it impossible to prove it, as there was no direct correlation between your efforts and AuM. Tracking and recording engagement in this way solves the problem, as all marketing activity can be linked to sales.

For fund distribution teams, this helps them see the true value of marketing and dispels the myth that marketers spend all their time making pretty pictures that show very little.

Improve Communication Between Distribution And Marketing

This may seem obvious, but so many firms overlook the importance of inter-departmental communication.

But the fact is that marketing teams speak a different language to distribution teams. Also, although both teams are working to achieve the same thing – raising assets – there are often different interpretations of how best to reach that goal.  Disputes arise over things like who gets credit for a sale, the quality of leads, how leads are distributed etc.

The crying shame is that any firm would do better were these two teams to work closely together. So, it’s vital to bridge the gap and improve the communication between your marketing and distribution departments.

We’ve already looked at two things you can help this to happen. But a big thing is for people from distribution to come on board with marketing for a period, and vice versa. When marketing sees and understands AuM and asset allocation at the sharp end, and when distribution sees things like branding, demand generation and content creation in action, it’s easier for both teams to communicate – as they have direct experience of what the other is up against.

The days when marketing was sitting above the funnel are gone. Both distribution and sales are in it together – so this type of mutual understanding is crucial to helping these two teams to work effectively together.

But it has to be an ongoing process. A few weeks of interdepartmental shadowing will work for a while, but then it’s likely that people will slip back into their bad old ways. So, you need to introduce regular meetings where the two teams come together to talk about issues, make plans and share best practice. This doesn’t have to be in-person necessarily – Zoom, Slack, Trello etc means this is easy to achieve remotely. Just ensure you have a regular meeting of minds, where problems can be raised and resolved as they arise and everyone can add comments and suggestions. And this process should be replicated all the way up the chain of command, so senior figures in both teams are in close contact and are monitoring the situation together.

This isn’t really an option – at least not if you want to prosper. Having two departments with a common aim working independently of each other is nonsensical and wasteful. You must put in the effort necessary to instil a collaborative culture that draws everyone together.

This can transform two independent silos into a cross-functional team that pools resources and knowledge. Because when sales and distribution communicate properly and regularly, more assets are raised and retained – as more leads are successfully closed and fewer opportunities are lost.

Review The Correct Metrics

There’s an old saying that goes something like ‘you become what you measure’.

For a fund distribution team, this isn’t a problem – as everything is related to assets raised and retained, which is how the team’s worth is measured. But for a marketing team, many different measurements are going on, across multiple channels.

But what should you be concentrating on as a marketing team? What are the most important metrics to be reviewing and how can you relate them to bringing assets in, and stopping them from leaving? The answer to this can be divided into four main channels – web, email, events, and social.

Perhaps the most important set of statistics will be derived from your website, as – if you’ve got a good site – it’s where you have a vast amount of content for prospects to access and ways to bring them into the fold. So, you should be reviewing web engagement metrics, by encouraging people to leave data behind on your website through gated content, newsletter sign-up, investor portals, and fund centres. Not only is this useful for analysis purposes, but it also tracks the effectiveness of your website. If engagement is low, then you know you need to make some changes and have content on your website that people want to interact with. An easy way to do that is through Google Analytics. You can ask it to show you what the top 100 pages on your site are, as this tells you what people are most interested in. Then you feed that information into a word cloud generator that does thematic analysis to display the keywords and phrases that resonate most with your audience from across your site. This immediately shows you what your site visitors want to see, so you can build on the most popular themes.

Metrics from your email campaigns are also extremely important. The most obvious is your open rate, but you need to go deeper than that to look at what people did after they opened – links clicked, attachments opened, emails forwarded etc. This gives you a crucial insight into the behaviour of the prospects on your marketing list and helps you see who are the most engaged, and thus the most likely to invest with you. It can also reveal existing clients who’ve stopped engaging, which signifies a possible threat of redemption.

Event metrics cover not just those who attend an event, but those who were invited but didn’t attend, as well as those who invite others to attend, and those who watched the replay. This is incredibly valuable as anyone who even shows an interest in an event is putting themselves forward as a highly engaged prospect who wants to know more about your fund.

You can boost the amount of event data available to you by going further than your initial invitation campaign and adding in automatic stages, so that the initial invite is re-sent to those who didn’t open it. You can also automatically follow up on those who opened an invite but didn’t click on the attendance link and those who clicked on the link, but didn’t register for the event. They are interested but for some reason didn’t register – most likely because they forgot. So, there’s a good chance that your automatically generated reminder will jog their memory and persuade them to attend.

Social engagement metrics cover the obvious views and likes. But most people who like a post don’t even read the whole thing, even less take it in. Actually, the most valuable social metrics are those who comment and share – as this shows a certain depth of familiarity and appreciation of your content and brand. Incidentally, LinkedIn is by far your most important social media channel. It avoids the dancing cats, extremist rants and celebrity gossip that fills other sites. This makes it a great place to post thought leadership articles that confirm you as a subject matter expert. Infographics, quotes, and informative content also perform well on this platform and are very shareable. You can also send out direct message campaigns, using LinkedIn Sales Navigator, to your target audience.

So, these are your four key metrics. But this isn’t just for the attention of marketing. Distribution has to get involved in this too, at least to the extent of seeing and appreciating what marketing has to do in this regard. This feeds into my point in the last section – when distribution has a better understanding of all the work involved in marketing, it’s better for everyone.

Develop A Lead Nurturing Strategy

Leads are everything. Lots of leads make marketing teams happy. And when these leads turn into sales, they make fund distribution teams happy. So, the more leads that come through, and the higher the quality of those leads, the better for all concerned.

You can speed up the lead qualification process – and improve lead quality – by developing a lead nurturing strategy that uses content to work on leads and bring them ever closer to a sale.

You can do this through a scoring and grading process to automatically track and record the behaviour of the clients and prospects on your marketing radar. You can do this across your marketing channels, but for the purposes of this report, let’s use email as an example, as it’s such an effective channel and – with the aid of a platform like ProFundCom – you can get an incredible level of insight into how your email campaigns are performing. At any point, you can see exactly what your prospects do with each email – whether they open it or not, but also the links they click on, the attachments they download, where they are based, and the device they use.

You can use this information to evaluate the behaviour of the people on your email list by attaching scores to certain activity. For example, opening an email could score one point, clicking on a link scores two points, downloading an attachment scores you three points etc. And you can go one step further by assigning points to each piece of content, according to importance and relevance. For example, a fact sheet on a particular fund would score more points than a document about your latest charity initiative.

You then use these scores to automatically push people into certain categories as their score mounts up. The higher the grade, the more information that person is looking at and thus the more receptive they are likely to be to a sales conversation. This could range from a lowest E grade – for prospects that should be on the sales radar but are not necessarily ready for a conversation – to an A grade for red-hot prospects who are accessing so much information that they need to be contacted immediately.

Perhaps the most logical nurture campaign is a sequence that you send to new prospects who have signed up for your newsletter. This can introduce them to your firm, lay out your attitude to risk, explain your investment strategy etc.

But it’s good to have lots of different nurture campaigns operating – new clients, clients with certain products, long-standing clients etc – to help you identify the prospects who may be looking to invest with you.

You can also use negative grading, so existing clients lose points by not looking at information, which would eventually push them into a ‘red’ section where they are flagged up as a possible redemption risk and your distribution team is automatically alerted.

In addition, you can have a nurture campaign for dormant prospects, those who haven’t looked at your content for some time, which has the aim of reigniting their interest in your fund. Should a dormant lead warm up further down the line, they will be pushed into the sales process. This type of lead nurturing can also work for a prospect who has entered the sales process but has never been in contact with your distribution team. This happens often, as reps are apt to put prospects aside if they are unable to get in touch – or even when they do speak, but the prospect doesn’t immediately appear to be promising.

Create A Go To Market Strategy 

This is probably the most important thing I can tell you. Both in respect to this report, but also fund marketing as a whole.

You must bring fund marketing and distribution together to develop a go to market strategy (GMS). This comprises the three key elements that will guide your whole marketing operation.

The first part of your GMS is a fund narrative based on the following:

  • What the fund stands for (whether you’re long, short, equity-driven, distressed debt etc + ESG information)
  • Attitude to risk
  • Investment strategy
  • Performance

The next component of your GMS is to create an ideal investor profile. And this is where cooperation between marketing and fund distribution is so vital. Your distribution team has lots of vital information that can enable marketing to better understand your clients – e.g. what jobs these people do, where they hang out online, what their investment goals are, what sort of problems they face, the events they go to etc.

Finally, you must identify your top 100 investors. Who are these people – where can you best connect with them? What interests them? Where do they live?

When your GMS is complete, you have the basis of all your fund marketing work. And this almost immediately improves your marketing efforts, as it tells you so much about the people who are most likely to invest with you. So, you quickly become aware of what you shouldn’t be doing – as it doesn’t fit in with what your GMS tells you about your target market. It also makes it clear what is working well, so you can double down on that.

But for this to be successful on an ongoing basis, you must develop content and analyse the resultant engagement data by creating a powerful five-step marketing process, which looks like this:

  1. Narrative – lay out what you do and why you do it
  2. Brand – use the narrative to create brand content that appeals to your ideal investor
  3. Demand – deploy your content across various channels where your ideal investors can access your brand narrative (outbound marketing)
  4. Engagement – encourage potential and existing investors to engage directly with you (inbound marketing)
  5. Analysis – measure engagement data, so you know the best way to contact prospects and investors and what to say to them

 

There you have it – this is your holy grail when it comes to fund marketing. I’ve saved this until the end of the report, as apparently people are most likely to remember the last thing they are told.

So, even if you ignore everything else in this report, please take note of this and do something about it. Because, believe me, it is essential to the success of your entire fund marketing operation.

 

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