Constructing the Messages at the Heart of Your Marketing

By: Kyle Purcell
President of Purcell Communications
PAICR Gold Sponsor
www.purcellcom.com/

Marketing is often built around factors that are hard to control – technology, shifting tastes, competition. Many of those factors are topics at this week’s PAICR Annual Conference. But there’s one aspect of marketing that firms can control – their message. How effectively – and consistently – does your firm communicate its most important messages?

When we say messages, we mean the information and ideas that are central to how your company invests, or otherwise tries to meet investor goals. They typically include:

  • Product and service information
  • Investment strategies
  • Investor suitability and benefits
  • Performance perspectives
  • Market point of view and outlook

In our experience, there are two areas of this “core” content that investment firms struggle with most.

The first is maintaining and refreshing it. Perspectives and points of view will evolve with the market environment, and engaging with investment staff or other time-pressed senior executives on a regular basis can be frustrating on both ends.

The second challenge is incorporating these messages consistently across all investor touchpoints. If you pull together every communication about a particular investment product – including RFPs and call center scripts – they sometimes don’t sound like the same product.

Building the Messages on Which Everything Else Is Built

There are 3 steps you can take to enhance your control over your firm’s messages.

  • Document ­— Core messages often exist only in materials that have since been produced and archived, such as annual reports, marketing collateral, or RFPs. We advise clients to gather and document core messages separately from the production of any one collateral piece. That way, your interactions with investment staff are focused on getting the most important input in the most efficient way.
  • Update — Re-engage with your company’s subject matter experts on a regular basis by asking for updated input in a structured way. That way the process remains the same for your SMEs even when marketing strategies change.
  • Distribute Make your core content an input to any communication process you have.

Constructing your messages around this core content builds consistency and credibility in your communications, while also making your communication processes simpler and more efficient.

Purcell logo

Contact:  Derek Napoli, Director of Business Development – (240) 452-5200

Why Are Asset Managers Expanding Beyond Thought Leadership Video?

By: Stu Siegal
Executive Producer/Creative Director, VLCreative
PAICR Gold Sponsor – Videolink
www.vlcreativegroup.com

Video has become an essential marketing tool for asset managers of all sizes.  Its power to forge a personal connection with portfolio managers who have been entrusted with great responsibility is now widely accepted and utilized. The good news for financial services marketers is that many asset management firms now regularly create Thought Leadership video, and that’s being well received by its target audience.

It’s also the bad news.  Sort of.

Because the bar has been raised, asset management firms now find it challenging to cut through the rapidly growing clutter of thought leadership video. Static videos of portfolio managers (PMs) in conference rooms discussing their philosophies, strategies, and perspectives are still an effective tool in the video marketer’s toolkit, but they are no longer enough on their own. As more and more of these types of videos are published, they can very quickly start to look too similar to each other.

So, what are smart marketers in asset management starting to do?

They’re thinking visually. They’re utilizing story and character. And they’re focusing on presentation delivery and tone in ways that can help differentiate their brand and their talent.

We recently completed a series of asset management profile videos that are a great illustration of how to get creative, tell a story, and establish your brand as a thought leader. Here are the three steps we took to help the brand and its sub-advisors stand out.

  1. Find a Story – Stories have a unique power to move people emotionally and intellectually. The end-goal of thought leadership is to make your PM’s relatable and trustable. What stories can you tell that will accomplish this goal? To find them, we held conversations with the brands in this series to discover who they were as people, and what their interests were outside of work.  In addition to meeting some very interesting people, we followed a creative path that led to a series of thought leadership videos featuring PMs connecting their professional philosophies to their hobbies. These included surfing, archery, and enjoying fine wines.
  2. Think Visually – Surfing, archery, and wine each made for distinct visual metaphors for the abstract topics involved in asset management. They instantly made their brands stand out amongst their peers. And because they were all tied to the stories of the portfolio managers, they brought an added layer of authenticity to each video. They were also a refreshing break from the traditional talking head approach to video.
  3. Focus on Character – Successful asset management is built upon performance, but performance is driven by portfolio managers, analysts, and management teams.  By focusing on those individuals as real people, we were able to maximize the ability of the video to help investors connect to them.  That connection builds trust and confidence in the investment team, both key drivers of ROI.

Thought leadership video is and will continue to be a staple of video marketing in the asset management space. The forms that it takes, however, will continue to grow and evolve in step with the changes in the video marketing landscape. The brands that take a fresh look at the format and tell great stories about interesting people are the brands that will cut through the growing clutter and earn the visibility and interest that all content marketers seek. So, what’s your brand’s story?

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Trust: The Foundational Metric of Content Marketing

By: Robert Rose
Chief Strategy Officer -The Content Advisory
Keynote Speaker – PAICR Annual Conference 2017
Contentadvisory.net

When I work with financial services companies and discuss their content marketing strategy, almost inevitably the topic turns to “attention.” Basically, the program is being measured as an alternative to the advertising the firm is running. And the question that is asked is, “are we getting more of our audience’s attention?”

Every day you see new strategies to increase the attention we receive from our audiences and buyers. You have “attention marketing,” a term describing a business model built around the hyper growth of social media. There is the “attention economy,” which elevates the ability to gather attention as “one of the most important currencies of the 21st century.”

Interestingly, in our latest research at The Content Marketing Institute, we’re finding that there is an interesting correlation between the companies that are succeeding with content marketing and those that are building audiences. In our latest survey, 90% of those that are succeeding are focusing on building a loyal and subscribed audience. And that subscription comes down to something more than just attention. It’s a

If attention is gold, trust is bitcoin

As the saying goes, “Trust is the hardest thing to find and the easiest thing to lose.” And today, trust is in crisis. The annual Edelman Trust Barometer found this year:

“(The) general population’s trust in all four key institutions – business, government, NGO’s, and media – has declined broadly, a phenomenon not reported since Edelman began tracking trust among this segment in 2012.”

But you don’t need a research study to know that. You can feel it. It is an era of “fake news,” ineffective and corrupt institutions, cynical politics, duplicitous businesses, and even distrust of each other. Astonishingly, less than half of us think most people can be trusted.

As a marketer, you can personally lament the decline in trust in our culture, but you can’t ignore it. Developing a trusted relationship with your consumers is one of, if not the, most important things you must do.

Now, the development of trust is nothing new. Marketers have been talking about how to build more trust into our approach for decades. But becoming more transparent or dependable in the sales process no longer cuts it. Put simply: It is no longer adequate to begin developing a trusted relationship after the customer determines your product or service may be the answer.

Our world no longer starts trusting and occasionally becomes disappointed. As the 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer concludes:

“Two-thirds of the countries we survey are now ‘distrusters’ (less than 50% trust in the mainstream institutions of business, government, media, and non-government organizations to do what is right).”

That’s right. We as consumers have become actively distrustful of every institution and brand. We have successfully democratized distrust in everything we do. But, would you like the good news?

As content marketing practitioners, this new era of distrust is our opportunity.

Be the trusted source

In my books, I talk at great length about how a subscribed audience gives you more efficient and effective access to your customers. And when we talk of Content Marketing, we almost exclusively talk about its benefits as a:

  • More efficient means of developing engaged leads
  • Method of being discovered in a noisy marketplace
  • Differentiator from the competition
  • Way to increase customer value

But what if one of your primary benefits of content marketing was developing “most trusted” status with your consumers more broadly? What if your brand could not only be the most trusted on a topic among the competition, but the most trusted brand full stop?

Historically, we looked at publishers of trustworthy media in our space and proclaimed, “Well, there’s no way we’re going to compete with that magazine, or that nonprofit, or that association, or that government institution.”

Except, now you can.

Trust as a metric

A few years ago, we worked with a B2B financial services institution targeting investors and advisers. We asked a sample of its target audience to rank the institution and its competition on a level of trust — both content and brand. We also asked them to rank a sampling of the top media companies in the space.

Our client company was middle of the pack when it came to trust among competitors. But, interestingly, its trust ranking was above — and in some cases well above – some of the media companies where the institution had been putting a good deal of its advertising.

Now, comparing trust in the financial services brand to trust in media brands was like comparing apples and oranges. But to help it reach its “increase brand trust” goal, we set a goal for its new content marketing property: become one of the most trusted content brands in thought leadership for advisers and investors.

Recently, we found some wonderful results when we looked at benchmarking research. The brand had, indeed, risen in general trust among both its competitors and media companies. Though the owned media property and its team certainly created some of that trust, the institution’s other brand and marketing efforts have assisted here as well.

Even more interesting were the results from the content brand’s subscribers. When we queried them in terms of trust of the content brand (using the blog name) among competitors and media companies, a large number trusted the brand more than any other competitor and most of the media companies.

These results provide a huge business case for continuing a content marketing initiative: Develop a more trusted relationship with audiences than the content platforms where you are placing paid media.

So, I ask this: will there come-a-day when this institution’s ad buyer goes to a media company, shows the subscriber research and asks, “We have a more trusted audience than you do. Perhaps you’d like to advertise with us?” Perhaps. But until then, it’s an extraordinarily important business metric to show success with its content marketing program.

Value is a trusting audience

As you can see from this example, success all comes down to the audience. All value is derived when an audience trusts the brand. The company may use this trust to leverage the trusting audience:

  • To provide data to inform other advertising and marketing efforts (Example: See how Kraft uses its platform.)
  • To be used as a pre-customer database to draw in more optimized leads (Example: See how Schneider Electric uses its Energy University platform.)
  • To provide cash or cost-savings value by bringing in partners (Example: Learn how companies like Zappos are making money with content marketing.)
  • To ensure that the brand’s TAM (total addressable market) expands (Example: Discover how Arrow Electronics is driving marketing as a business model.)

Media companies are going to double down on regaining trusted status. They must. Trust and the relationship with an addressable audience will be the only value left as advertising transforms and formats such as subscription, native advertising, and even sponsorship replace traditional banner and skyscraper ads.

Getting attention simply doesn’t cut it any more. And holding attention doesn’t really work any longer either. And even if you hold someone’s attention, you haven’t necessarily made them care.

Your opportunity is here. If you choose to act, the democratization of distrust can be the foundation of a transformation of what’s possible for your brand. Your brand’s trust no longer has to sit below media, nonprofit, or governmental institutions. You can develop the most trusted status with your consumers.

It’s up to you to be worthy of both the trust and the opportunity.

 

Be sure to see Robert at the PAICR Annual Conference November 13-14th in New York City.  Register Now!

Lead, like a boss!

By: Steven King
PAICR Board of Directors member
Speaker at the 2017 PAICR Annual Conference

I’ve had a lot of managers through the years, but only a few I would consider leaders. However, I’ve tried to take the best from all of them. It is with that experience and knowledge that I’ve built a leadership framework of success that you can use to establish yourself as more than just a manager.

From Rookie to All-Star – Every Team Member Matters

EVERY member of the team is important. The opinions, efforts, and contributions from your most junior employee to your most senior veteran matter. Every member should feel valued and know how their efforts contribute to the success of the team. We all have an all-star employee, but you need every member playing their part to win the game.

One Playbook – Everyone Should Know the Game Winning Strategy

You absolutely need to be clear about where the team is headed. What are you trying to accomplish this year? How does this align with the corporate goals? I’ve found that most people are problem solvers. As such, if they know at a high level what the team needs to accomplish for the year – and how this aligns with the firm’s goals – they’ll figure out a way to do it.  Your team wants to show you, and the firm, the value they provide. Your job is to point them in the right direction.

Once a Player, Now a Coach – Share Your Knowledge and Experience

There are two parts of this statement. The first is sharing the knowledge and experience that you’ve accumulated through the years. I know some managers are afraid to share what they know. They believe that keeping information to themselves makes them more valuable and indispensable to the firm. However, sharing this knowledge is not only respected, but it will only make your team stronger. And leading a strong team, with a foundation of knowledge and experience, often produces remarkable work.

The second part of this statement is the importance of transparency. You must be transparent with your agenda, inner conversations, conflicts, and concerns. There are some topics that require discretion, but overall your team is far more effective if they have all the information.  Plus, if you model transparency you are on the fast track to building trust.

Create Chemistry – Every Great Team Revolves Around Trust

Believe it or not, you don’t know it all.  Remember why you hired each person on the team. Your team members have talents, knowledge, and opinions that are different from yours. Embrace it! This is part of what makes a great team. Spend time listening to them. Learn from them. Often you will find that where trust is earned it is also given. Having a foundation of trust will foster an environment of open communication which is invaluable. If you can’t trust your team or they don’t feel like they can trust you, you’ve got some work to do.

Game Time – Now It’s Time to Let Them Shine

Now it’s game time and your job is to let your team shine. I cannot say this strongly enough, do NOT skip this step. If you skip this step, you will find that all your previous hard work was in vain. Why? Because I personally don’t know many people that like to do all the work and never get the credit. As a leader, you must get comfortable letting your team take center stage. And I believe that a team built on transparency, trust, and respect will be a team that wants to celebrate their leader.

This approach has served me well over the years. I don’t have to manage the day-to-day activities of my team as they know what they need to do.  I trust them to work toward the vision of the team and the firm. They trust me to set them up for success. So how do I know that this makes me a manager and a leader? Because I know my team would tackle any problem we face without hesitation –not because I told them to, but simply because it needed to be done.

Registration is now open for the PAICR Annual Conference November 13-14th in New York City.  Register Now.

So Many Channels – So Little Time

By: Deb Well
PAICR Board of Directors member
PAICR Member since 2006

In the beginning, there were three: Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. You had to decide which of these channels made sense for your firm, work with Compliance to form a process everyone was comfortable with, and then move forward. All was good.

But now we also have Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, YouTube, and different permutations of the existing platforms: Facebook Live, Instagram Stories … and the list continues to expand! That’s made the decision of where and how to distribute your content more complex – in addition to the burden of maintaining active feeds in all of these channels.

Maybe you think you don’t need to consider going beyond the basics. But if you don’t consider it now, you risk being left behind. Video and visual assets are dominating online marketing. You need to have a visual content strategy and consider distributing your content via the channels where visual plays best.

Here are three quick tips to effectively expand your social reach and help you successfully expand beyond the basics:

Every Picture Tells a Story

If you have been involved in marketing on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn, I am sure you are familiar with the stats on how posts that include visuals – pictures, video, or even emoji – get higher engagement stats. One such stat shows that Tweets with images earned up to 18% more clicks, 89 % more favorites, and 150% more retweets.

If you are already using visuals on these main platforms, is it such a stretch to think of how you could leverage them on Instagram or Pinterest? Or that video content on YouTube or Vimeo? As stated in a previous post, you have 8 seconds to get the average person’s attention. Today’s fastest-growing channels are visual based. Estimates are that 84% of communication will be visual by 2018. So you need to act now!

One Size Doesn’t Fit All

How annoyed do you get when you see a text-only tweet that is just a link to an Instagram post? Plenty of sites allow you to post to other sites at the same time. So, when I post the cute pic of my cat, Buttons, to Instagram, I have the option to post it to Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr. However, just because you can doesn’t mean you should. Messages should be customized to take advantage of what works and resonates on a platform. It is fine that your posts in all these different places may ultimately lead to the same source content. After all, these platforms, and those who you reach on them, often represent widely different audiences. That’s why your message should be tweaked to fit the specific audience you are addressing.

Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail

While some of your content is going to be more “spontaneous” – something big happens and you need to respond in the moment – most of your content strategy should be planned out. That doesn’t mean a plan that’s “set in stone.” Your strategy needs to evolve to reflect data and analytics on which content is succeeding and where. That’s why you really should be using a social media management tool or a social media aggregator. Whether that is Hootsuite, Buffer, or any of the numerous others out there, these tools can help you:

  • Queue up content ahead of time
  • Provide analytics on what is succeeding (and what isn’t),
  • View interactions
  • Find relevant related content to share, and
  • Adjust your sharing and strategy based on insights you’ve gleaned

The Tenets of Success

Build. Measure. Learn. Repeat.

Start small. Test concepts. Don’t be afraid to fail, and don’t be complacent.

These are the keys to an effective and efficient plan to improve your social media reach. The ways in which you effectively communicate with your audience is rapidly changing. You don’t want to be left behind.

The Agile Marketing (R)Evolution

By: Andrea Fryrear
Founder and Chief Content Officer – Fox Content Ltd.
Keynote Speaker – PAICR Annual Conference 2017
www.foxcontentltd.com/

What happens to a marketing department when it undergoes an Agile transformation? It turns out it doesn’t just get a fancy piece of software or a faster pace of work. A survey of CMOs and marketing leaders reveals that:

  • 93% improved speed to market.
  • 87% had more productive teams.
  • 80% were better able to prioritize the work that matters.

But these kinds of Agile success stories don’t happen by accident. They require detailed planning, careful execution, and ongoing commitment. Marketers can’t just throw their annual plans in the shredder, start pivoting every other week, and expect to reap the benefits of agility.

We need to fully understand what it means to practice Agile in a marketing context if we want the chance to sprint ahead of our competition.

What is Agile Marketing?

Living from crisis to crisis, never being able to think strategically, and constantly missing deadlines have long been the reality for many marketing teams. But now our audiences expect personalized, relevant messaging and our bosses expect us to document our bottom line impact. Old school processes just can’t deliver those outcomes. Faced with this untenable situation, more and more teams are searching for a better way to manage their work.

 As this Google Trends graph shows, many of them are turning to Agile marketing as a possible solution:

Agile post Google graph

But what does it really mean to practice Agile marketing?

Agile vs. agile

I once had a boss who would swoop in, cancel all the work marketing had in progress, and declare a totally new priority for us to pursue. His justification: he was being agile. True, he was making frequent changes, but that’s not the same as practicing Agile marketing.

Don’t be fooled: changing your mind all the time does not make you Agile.

Agile marketing, with a capital “A”, involves the deliberate application of a specific Agile methodology to the way marketing executes its work. And, like all great marketing, it’s founded on a well-researched, audience-centered marketing strategy. Planning and strategy should — and must — be part of an Agile approach. Without them, Agile teams just end up doing the wrong work more efficiently.

Three Agile Methodologies

If you’ve heard much about Agile in the past, chances are it was closely associated with the Scrum methodology. While Scrum is the most popular approach in the world of software and IT (where Agile practices originated), it’s not the only way to put Agile ideals into practice.

Lightweight, flexible options like Kanban and Scrumban offer marketing teams more leeway, and typically align more closely with the way we already do our work.

So when the time comes for your team to take its first steps on an Agile marketing journey, investigate all three methodologies first.

Agile Principles and Values

Agile marketing isn’t just about speed, efficiency, or methodologies. It’s founded a set of principles and values known as the Agile Manifesto (there’s also a marketing-specific one) that influences every aspect of how we approach our work.

For instance, Agile teams value:

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • Responding to change over following a plan
  • Many small experiments over a few large bets
  • Testing and data over opinions and conventions
  • Intimate customer tribes over impersonal mass markets
  • Engagement and transparency over official posturing

Notice the emphasis on audience value and data-driven decisions. Remember, Agile isn’t just about getting faster, it’s about doing better work. Incorporating Agile values into your team’s DNA will not only increase its agility, it will help it start delivering marketing that actually matters.

What’s in it for Finserv Marketing

We’ve already covered some of the big picture benefits of taking a more Agile approach to marketing: faster speed to market, higher levels of productivity, and better prioritization. But Agile marketing offers a vast array of benefits for financial services marketing.

The list is long, but here’s a short sample.

The Power of Iteration

First, Agile marketing teams are empowered to respond quickly to emerging opportunities in their space. Typically a traditional team creates long term plans, sometimes quarterly or annually , designed to reach a goal or opportunity. They’ve invested time, resources, and budget into those plans, so once they’re in motion deviating from them is costly.

This is known as a waterfall approach, and it’s represented by the gray line on the chart below.

Agile post Waterfall Graph

Image source: Forbes

 Agile teams, on the other hand, follow the blue line. They release small pieces of marketing work often, evaluate their performance, and then iterate based on the data. Sometimes this means expanding on a successful experiment, other times it means abandoning a failed idea.

In both cases there’s little risk, because the release was small. Over time they might build up to a larger, more expensive campaign, but only once they’ve validated the concept through iterative releases.

Either way, they can nimbly pivot over time to hit their target.

More Marketing, Less Drama

One of my favorite outcomes, when marketers switch to an Agile approach, is the sense of calm that descends on the team. There’s less stress, more creativity, and a much stronger sense of unity.

A 2016 survey of hundreds of marketers offers a more quantitative look at the benefits of working on an Agile marketing team:

  • Improved teamwork and morale (13.7%)
  • Better division of work between team members (9.7%)
  • Better team alignment on priorities (16.2%)

When we compare this is a 2015 study on marketers’ overall stress levels, the difference becomes even clearer:

Agile Post Circle Graph

Agile alleviates stress to create space for teams to do outstanding work, which, let’s face it, is the only way for brands to differentiate themselves anymore.

Better, Faster, Smarter Campaigns

It’s not just individual marketers who benefit from an Agile transformation. When we make marketing teams more effective, we produce more impactful marketing that helps our organizations grow.

  • Better: 80% of Agile teams can deliver a better, more relevant end product
  • Faster: 87% of Agile teams are more productive
  • Smarter: 93% of Agile teams can switch gears more quickly and effectively

Agile practices were designed to deliver these kinds of results because they originated in software in the 1990s, when large projects would routinely run years late and millions of dollars over budget.

Most of us haven’t gotten anywhere near that level of disaster, but who doesn’t want quantifiably better market campaigns that actually get finished faster?

Agile is the Answer

Modern marketing exists in a state of constant disruption, and it shows no signs of getting simpler anytime soon. Agile marketing represents our best, and maybe our only, chance of dealing with this new reality.

Be sure to see Andrea at the PAICR Annual Conference November 13-14th in New York City.  Register Now!

Fish food for thought: Your target audience has the attention span of a goldfish

By: Megan Schreck
PAICR Communications Committee member
PAICR Member since 2016

Welcome to 2017, a year when the power of social media and digital marketing has never been more pronounced. Not convinced? Just ask United Airlines, President Trump, or the young man who received a year’s worth of Wendy’s chicken nuggets for beating a retweet record. I bet they would be able to tell you a story or two about the ugly, the bad, and the good of a society that is constantly connected. The point is we live in an age when information is constantly flooding our newsfeeds, home screens, and inboxes. And the ability to obtain information has never been greater or more instantaneous.

In a recent Microsoft study, which focused on analyzing our attention spans as a result of the increasingly prevalent digital lifestyle, the research revealed that as end users we are adapting to a culture of connectivity. This should be good news for marketers, right? Well, yes and no.

The good news: As an increasingly tech-savvy end user base, we are able to process and encode information to memory more efficiently. (Whew, dodged a bullet there.)

The bad news: We are competing in an information war zone alongside every other marketer. (Alright, game faces on, marketing staff.)

The ugly news: End user attention spans have decreased to 8 seconds. 8. Seconds. According to the study, that’s less than the attention span of a goldfish. (Pause for a collective and incredulous jaw drop).

But Microsoft’s study shouldn’t frighten any modern day marketing professional. And if we’re honest, the research merely solidified what we intuitively knew. But what the research does is reinforce that the need for marketing resources, and talent capable of cutting through the constant noise, is no longer a nice to have, it is table stakes.

So how do we as marketers engage a user base that is more connected than ever, better equipped than before to process our message, but with an attention span that is less than that of a goldfish? I thought you might ask that.

Here’s some marketing fish food for thought:

  • Tighten up your target audience: Don’t waste valuable marketing resources by casting too wide a net.
  • Keep your call to actions clear, concise, and clutter free: You have eight seconds, make them count. Keep the goal of your marketing simple, actionable, and prominently placed.
  • Develop a healthy dependence on data: Similar to the movie Finding Nemo, develop the mantra that fish are friends, not food. Invest in the ability to research and understand the demographic and behavioral patterns of your target audience with the goal of creating user-focused content.
  • Use the creative collective to curate content: We as marketing professionals all want to believe that our idea is the next best thing since sliced bread. But the really good marketing teams know that the best ideas and innovative solutions come when everyone is at the table. Keep your eyes and ears open for innovative ideas – they can come from anywhere or anyone.
  • Don’t tighten the noose with typos: Remember, eight seconds. Don’t ruin your chances with a typo. Develop an editorial process within your marketing team that requires multiple sets of eyes to ensure all your hard work doesn’t go to waist (please note: pun intended).

Oh, and a final note, mainly on a personal pet peeve level, but absolutely spell check first names when doing personalized messages. Because candidly speaking, nothing causes me to delete an email faster than one that begins “Dear Meghan.” And I venture to guess that I’m not alone.

Now, what about you? What marketing “fish food for thought” would you add to this list?