I attended the Mutual Fund Growth Strategy Summit in Boston over the past few days. Senior leadership from the sales and marketing teams of large and small mutual fund wholesalers were in attendance to try to figure out one thing: how can they work together better to get their products in the hands of advisors.
I came away with four major takeaways from the event:
1. The importance of the face-to-face
Frank Coates of Wheelhouse Analytics led off the event with a fascinating stat: the organizational cost of the face-to-face interaction when a wholesaler is meeting with an advisor is $300-800 per visit. Marketing-led touch points, whether through site visits, email campaigns or targeted content, are several pennies by comparison.
The takeaway isn’t that wholesalers should eliminate reps in the field—it’s quite the contrary. The value of that in-person meeting, which is when the “sale” actually happens, needs to be properly supported by marketing. When you get that coveted 30 minutes with an advisor, what content will you deliver that helps you tell the most tailored, personalized message that gives you the best chance of getting your products picked up by the advisor? Every wholesaler should be listening to the advisor about what types of products they are interested in and then deliver a presentation tailored to them in that same interaction.
2. Build or buy
The topic of enabling the team in the field with a mobile app to access compliant content came up in several conversations. Kerry Ryan, head of Global Web Services at Legg Mason, shared that they recently built a custom app for reps to use their iPads in the field rather than “lugging around a box of approved materials.”
Kevin Morris, CMO at Principal Funds, explained that early on they make some mistakes trying to build technology to support the field and eventually make sure that the infrastructure was in place but then used third party services to “pipe into the data and get it out into the hands of the field.”
There are two considerations when thinking about the “Buy or build” question, Frank Coates noted. The first is whether the people you have in place on the technical side will be remaining with the company for the long term rather than only a few years. Turnover by the individuals who built the system can render it obsolete if that person leaves.
The other consideration is around urgency: how quickly do you want to the benefit of the technology? Building on your own rather than buying is a 12 to 18-month process rather than the 1-3 months that third party applications can be deployed.
3. Cultural Shift
Many of the panelists and participants agreed that in order to closely align the sales and marketing function, there needs to be a top-down embrace of using data to get closer to customers and improve the advisor interaction.
The first step is to not just have data in a digestible form, but to have someone with a position solely dedicated to bringing data more fully into use in the field.
“It can’t just be a project that someone is doing on the side—it needs to be a dedicated, full-time effort,” said Morris.
But it’s more than just one job—sales needs to understand how to let information about a prospect that is already housed in CRM to improve that advisor touch point. What was discussed previously? What pages were they viewing on the website?
4. Digital marketing is about content delivery
The importance of developing thought-leadership pieces to improve the quality of the advisor experience is being observed by many firms. It’s a prototypical use of content marketing: use content that improves your prospect’s success at his or her job to bring him or her into your lead funnel. Only after building that trust can you offer your mutual fund products.
Terrence Freeman, the VP of Digital Marketing at Blackrock, launched an event app strategy so that there is an app specific to each event that gives advisors pre-event information, analytics of sessions and helps facilitate follow up afterward. In addition, Freeman and his team have created interactive product tools so advisors can see the data behind the funds and created talk tracks based on impactful wholesaler conversations.
Freeman found inspiration for the project in P&G Business Sphere Rooms—a perfect example of looking outside of your industry to push the innovation envelope.
Perhaps most poignantly, Blackrock is beginning to implement rigorous tracking of its digital marketing efforts, using an Adobe product to create unique dashboards for individuals on the team to track progress toward goals.
The importance of not only coordinating the effort between sales and marketing teams but providing marketing with the feedback on performance—“closing the loop”—is the last step in the process of running marketing with the efficiency needed to deliver maximum value to the organization. Let’s all take a page out of the Blackrock playbook!