A few years ago, I sat in an airport with colleagues talking about our jobs. What do you say when someone asks you what you do? Fueled by beer and exhaustion, we threw out phrases highlighting the best business buzzwords—leverage, facilitate, organize, write. But nothing felt like it totally encompassed the incredible responsibility (and sometimes frustrating limits) of the position. As RFP professionals, we’re expected to demonstrate knowledge that runs both deep and broad, juggle competing priorities, and organize all parts of the firm to respond to a prospect’s request. The role touches everyone, but is ultimately unique in scope.
I’m not saying we’re a rare breed—or maybe we are? But it’s so great when the person/s on the other side of the conversation speaks the same language as you—at least “professionally”; when you’re all part of essentially the same “tribe.” Because chances are you all face exactly the same challenges, and you can all benefit from brainstorming solutions for your shared problems together. So where can you find a tribal gathering of RFP professionals? Well, the most immediate opportunity is at the PAICR RFP Symposium in NYC on Monday, May 7.
PAICR’s annual meeting—dedicated to those in the investment management RFP world—is a distinct forum where proposal professionals get to discuss a range of relevant and topical issues. Through interactive sessions, you have the opportunity to engage with your peers from other firms across the industry. So, come with stories of your challenges and successes … and be prepared to walk away armed with new, actionable ideas to improve your processes and re-engage afresh with your job.
Here are a few of the important topics we will be covering this year:
Who’s the Boss? Explore how a RFP Team’s reporting structure can influence its effectiveness within the organization. This panel discussion will lead you through an interesting review of how RFP teams have been positioned throughout the industry.
Rise of the Machines In today’s competitive environment, proposals that show an understanding of the prospect’s goals and objectives will have a clear edge. All too often, important information from the sales team doesn’t get funneled to the proposal team. This break-out session will offer case studies of firms that leverage their CRM tool within the proposal process to effectively disseminate information and improve outcomes.
I Want it Now! Teams can no longer choose between quality and quantity; both are demanded simultaneously. This session will focus on how to manage this recurring debate in order to meet deadlines and maintain your sanity.
In addition to these sessions, the symposium continues to offer great training for both new and seasoned professionals. A classic forum, RFP 101, will guide writers and managers through the nuts and bolts of a successful RFP process.
So, if your team is in need of an “information-shot in the arm” on new and leading industry trends, join us at the PAICR 2018 RFP Symposium on May 7. The Early Bird registration special is available only until April 20, so get a move on … and we’ll see you in New York!
The oldest Millennials are in their mid-thirties and this could seriously impact how asset managers communicate with clients.
Why it Matters:
Older Millennials are in decision-making positions at institutions, at consultancies, and at wealth management firms.
They are a larger age cohort than Baby-Boomers
They consume information differently than both Boomers and Generation X’ers
Be Smart: Asset management firms who can balance modern linguistic styles with their brand identity will be more likely to reach more potential clients in an era of peak content.
But, but, but: This doesn’t mean brands should forgo their traditional identity altogether. Instead they must fuse their brand with an emerging style.
The Times They Are a-Changin
Okay, so if you happen to read the daily briefs from Axios, the above format will look familiar. That format is a buttoned-up version of changes in how we receive and digest information.
Sure, any number of industry reports will tell you that advisors want more digital engagement, but few—if any—explain what that means or looks like beyond polling what percentage of advisors look to email, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, podcasts, etc.
To really see how our style is changing, here are a few examples pulled from various newsletters, most of which are retail-oriented. It’s no grand statement to observe that the asset management industry is notoriously slow to change. It took how long for FINRA to advise on Twitter or LinkedIn? The point is that if you want to see what’s coming or how to communicate, look towards direct retail communications.
A Brave New World (of Style)
$he $pends is a website and newsletter whose motto is: “giving you actionable tools to tackle the wage, investing and board seat gaps.” With such ambitious goals, they use punchy, bold, and humorous language to convey their message.
The title alone jumps out at you. Hardly something we advise sending to consultants, but important to consider that this level of informality resonates with their readers. Additionally, note how the headlines are both amusing and referential: “more experience, more problems,” clearly riffs off The Notorious B.I.G.’s “Mo money, Mo problems.”
Don’t doubt for a second the importance of millennial references from the ‘90s. Think of how many shows Millennials grew up with that are returning to TV: Rosanne, Will and Grace, Gilmore Girls, Twin Peaks, and Netflix added more episodes of Arrested Development and turned Wet Hot American Summer into a series. And of course, there’s this segment from Saturday Night Live. The reference to Biggie Smalls is more than just fun, it communicates identity and affirms that the sender of the content doesn’t just “get it,” but more importantly, they “get you.”
Let’s look at another newsletter. The Penny Hoarder is a personal financial website and was named the fastest-growing private media company in North America by INC 5000. Headline emails like the example below probably help. It’s filled with millennial laid-back tones and super-fun jargon.
Can you believe it? Two amazingly fun and casual references in the first three words? That’s 66.67% of fun words before getting into the meat of the headline! You can often find “Friyay” references on the web with beer or wine next to them, or the play on Friday with Bae, a fading but still prevalent term of affection for one’s “significant other.” The point remains, this casual and approachable language is more welcoming than most quarterly letters.
The fight for attention is a big fight, and readers want something informative and fun. Being fun matters in the world of attention getting. With everyone worrying about content saturation, standing out and being fun and approachable matters. Consider this article from The Penny Hoarder:
To capture the reader, The Penny Hoarder blatantly states their aim is to make it fun. As a reader, that’s far more appealing than not being fun.
No discussion of modern/millennial style would be complete without a discussion of theSkimm, a daily newsletter founded by two former news producers targeting female Millennials. There’s money behind building their audience. Google Ventures and others just raised $12 million in a recent round of funding. They deliver news in a compelling way to an eyewatering demographic. As they stated via ReCode:
“We have revolutionized the delivery of news and information to the most coveted demographic and, as we look to grow our membership by expanding our products and services, GV’s expertise and data-driven mindset makes them the ideal partner to aid in our expansion.”
What are they doing so differently that traditional outlets are not? Why are Google Ventures and others pouring so much into theSkimm? Because their style, their approach, and their delivery creates a lasting audience by speaking to their readers as humans.
So, what does a newsletter valued at $55 million dollars look like?
The news is serious, the tone is lighthearted.
Cool. But how does that affect asset management—at all?! Good questions, we’re getting there. Three, two, one, and, go.
Putting the Fun in Fund!
So, is any of this happening in the asset management space? Yes. Is it as loose and casual as retail? No, but that’s OK. Bill Gross did a fine job of keeping bond discussions approachable, and Warren Buffett is the master of sounding folksy. Smead Capital often uses movies in their missives, and I’ve seen references to Game of Thrones at some firms. Longboard recently went so far as to invoke Star Wars as a means to discuss alternative Investments. Here’s an example from one of their newsletters:
I particularly appreciate the use of imagery and the use of Star Wars lingo in their bullet points, not because of my love for Star Wars (which is large), but because of the consistency and commitment it brings to their approach. It’s a full commitment to rethink the discussion of dry topics into something far more interesting.
I recently came across another younger firm, Newfound Research. They write about traditionally dry items, but their relaxed and humorous tone provides the reader access to more obscure subjects.
This is a fine example of brand building using a more approachable tone. It’s definitely not institutional in tone, but that’s okay because as Millennials age we’re going to be less focused on proving we sound smart, and more focused on proving we’re relatable—the title alone suggests that the firm “gets you” and less focused on the fact that they can talk about Monte Carlo simulations. That resonates with readers.
As Millennials take over more senior positions at all levels across the industry, it will be more important than ever to think beyond millennial jargon and re-think your firm’s communications style. Certainly, social media will matter, but it remains to be seen how much. Not to mention the effect compliance plays in permitting its use.
The notion that a campaign, an ad, a missive, or an email should reflect something authentic or personal — something beyond just what the S&P did versus your benchmark — will be the difference between building an audience and directing traffic. The former provides value, the latter drives away.
Finally, since we’re about distilling information and communications down to digestible pieces these days, here are some key takeaways to bear in mind as you develop your firm’s communications.
Speak like a human—authenticity matters
Speak casually—no one wants to hear how smart you are; they want to hear what you think
Informal is the new formal—it’s obvious when you try too hard
By: Cathy McLagan PAICR President, PAICR Board of Directors member
“People talk about the death of the RFP because it’s gotten so complicated,” Christopher Faust (Qvidian) says. “They want to kill it but they can’t. It won’t die. There’s no way.”
Fundfire RFP Automation Tools Set to Alleviate Search Headaches, March 23, 2016
Zombies! Ever since Night of the Living Dead introduced us to these slow moving non- descript monsters, we’ve seen an explosion of types and characters that are all related to the genre.
RFPs remind me of zombies. For the last few years, we’ve been told that RFPs are dead. Big name plans announced they were abandoning the tradition model and instead shadow searches would be lurking behind the scenes. While the traditional RFP model is changing, it’s not dead; like the zombie story genre, RFPs are evolving to keep teams busy and on their toes.
Slow vs. Fast Zombies
Night of the Living Dead’s black and white zombies move slowly. You have plenty of time to run away, pause and scream and then lock yourself in the house to wait for them to show up several minutes later and break through windows. Similarly, the traditional RFP model allowed time for review, public notice, along with a period to ask questions (or perhaps stop and scream), followed by the longer (several months) cycle for Q&A submission, receipt of files, etc. We still see these types of RFPs and have time to stop and scream as we pull together the numerous pieces needed to complete and respond.
Technicolor zombies move fast. In features like World War Z, the slow-moving zombie is a thing of the past, replaced by zombies that overtake you before you reach the safety of home. Similarly, the timelines for new RFPs are shortening. You can submit clarification questions but might not get the answers until a few days before the deadline! These timelines force teams to choose between working on a RFP they may not submit OR producing one in a few days. Neither case is ideal and both are frustrating to all parties.
Permanent vs. Temporary–
There was a time when a zombie was a zombie and no amount of love could change them. Today, the zombie genres include people infected by diseases and we learn we can coexist with the living dead. As in Shawn of the Dead or Warm Bodies, medicine, or even love, can cure a zombie returning them to contributing members of society….
Online tools also take these two approaches. Databases such as eVestment and GIMD are permanent homes for your products and information. Data entered in these systems will live there for years to come (sometimes to your dismay). No amount of love or medicine will change that ill-fated profile you created and your firm will permanently be explaining why you don’t maintain that 120/20 product anymore.
Now we are also seeing temporary homes for data. Search facilitators use online portals to allow firms to submit information for a specific RFP or client. This direct connection to a search can cause confusion in-house – is it a database or a RFP? Which team maintains it and reviews it?
Still breathing …
Bottom line—if you’re waiting for the final nail to be put in the RFP’s coffin, I think you could be waiting quite a while. Clients and consultants are expanding the search methodologies they use but the industry hasn’t seen a mass abandonment of traditional RFPs. The evolving ways to gather information challenges RFP teams to be nimble and make friends with the Walking Dead.
By: Deb Well PAICR Board of Directors member PAICR Member since 2006
Until now, asset managers have been slow to adopt Social Media. But more are finally jumping into the “social” waters, primarily via LinkedIn and Twitter. But are they getting the most out of their efforts?
With more firms (and content) vying for eyeballs, making your social media presence relevant, meaningful, and impactful is more important than ever. If your firm is committing any of these “Twitter Sins”, making a few changes (some simple) can likely upgrade engagement activity with your content.
SIN #1: LACK OF VISUALS
Numerous studies support the fact that you are more likely to get engagement on Twitter if you include a picture, video, or even emoticons with your text. Yes, a few high-profile folks can get by on just their words – Bill Gross or Jeff Gundlach don’t need visuals. But most of the content being shared by firms does not carry that weight. So look at adding images – it could potentially boost your engagement by up to 200%!
SIN #2: NOT MOBILE OPTIMIZED
Over 50% of traffic on Twitter is mobile. If the link you are sharing is to your site and it is not Mobile optimized – this is a big fail.
SIN #3: NOT TAILORING FOR TWITTER
How often have you seen this – a Tweet that shares the first sentence or so of a blog post, but is cut off mid-thought with a link to the post? Likely, the person was using the automatic “share” function from their blogging platform, which generated the tweet when the post goes live. This can also lead to awkward cutoffs in the text shared.
Automation can dilute personalization. Whether it is that blog auto-poster, or a social media management platform that posts the same content across different channels, you need to put in the effort to optimize your content for Twitter – or any specific social platform – to get the most out of it.
SIN #4: BAD TIMING
Do your tweets that go out every Monday at 9 a.m. perform poorly? This is not a surprise. Everyone who does email marketing knows the importance of optimizing send time – and it is no different in the social realm.
There are plenty of studies about the best time to post for all the various social platforms. And don’t forget to review your own Twitter stats. Analyzing when your followers are engaging with your content should help you fine tune your tweet schedule to get the most out of it.
SIN #5: NOT TAGGING
So your portfolio manager is on CNBC today? Did you remember to tag @CNBC in your post? Or perhaps your analyst was quoted in a Wall Street Journal article. Did you tag @WSJ?
Tagging relevant parties in your posts increases the visibility of your content and the likelihood that it will get re-shared. Bottom line: strategic use of this function can be a big boost for your content.
SIN #6: NOT GETTING THE MOST OUT OF YOUR CONTENT
In following several asset managers’ Twitter feeds, I will often see that they use a couple of different versions of tweets to share their blog posts or other content. Which is great … BUT I see those shares on the same day…and then never again.
Given all the effort put into creating that content, one or two measly tweets on a given day is not getting the biggest bang for your buck! Yes, vary the visuals and blurbs, but tweet it today – and a couple of days from now – and maybe a week after that. Space it out and recycle that great content!
SIN #7: BAD HASHTAGS
Tweets with Bad Hashtags aren’t just the ones #with #too #many #hashtags #to #read. Bad hashtags are ones that are randomly placed and not well thought out.
Do your research. Go to sites like Hastagify or Keyhole to gain insights and get the most out of your hashtags. Or search your proposed hashtag to see if it is trending; if it isn’t it might be worth going back to the #drawingboard.
The takeaway: Twitter (and other social media platforms) can be a powerful tool to engage and expand your network and brand voice. To maximize your efforts, make sure you are avoiding these pitfalls, fine tuning your messages so that they achieve their greatest potential in reach and engagement.
By: Deb Well PAICR Board of Directors member and 2017 Annual Conference Co-chair PAICR Member since 2006
“I don’t want to scare you all, but….” Lee Kowarski, DST Systems – PAICR Annual Conference Opening Keynote Speaker
We are being disrupted. And we will continue to be disrupted at an increasingly faster pace. And we need to embrace change, or else risk getting swept away or being made redundant or irrelevant.
That was just one of the very important messages delivered to the attendees of the PAICR Annual Conference in New York on November 13-14th.
Opening keynote speaker Lee Kowarski discussed industry consolidation, new competitive and disruptive entrants, technology adaptation, regulatory pressure, and changing advisor business models as just some of the catalysts of change reshaping the competitive landscape for asset managers. And he laid out the dramatic changes we all need to be thinking about to meet these challenges.
The distributor landscape is shrinking, asset managers are rationalizing their product lineups, and the future belongs to managers at opposing ends of the spectrum: those with broad product suites or specialized/niche players.
However, for the room full of asset management marketing professionals, there was an important piece of upbeat news – marketing is more important than ever before, and distribution teams are relying on them and becoming better partners than in the past.
All About Agile
Along with disruption, many of our conference sessions zeroed in on the concept of agile marketing – with both a big “A” and a little “a”.
Keynote speaker Andrea Fryrear of Agile Sherpas took on the big “A” Agile Marketing. One of her key takeaways was about starting small – both in terms of implementing Agile once you return from the conference, but also in terms of creating an Agile marketing plan. Build. Measure. Learn. Repeat. Start small and build up to scale. Most firms now plan big, with the risk of failing big. Starting small allows for learning from small failures with less risk and building small successes to bigger successes based on the knowledge gained from what you have measured and learnt.
Keynote speaker Robert Rose introduced another disruptive concept – what if you killed marketing as it is practiced today? He told the audience stories of several firms who have changed things up to look at marketing as a business model, rather than a functional cost center. They’ve re-invented their marketing as the function that invests in building audiences. Robert is the Chief Content Adviser for the Content Marketing Institute. Content Marketing has been THE buzzword in asset management over the last few years, so Robert’s talk was very timely, as well as the article on content marketing he contributed to our PAICR Blog before the conference.
Learn. Connect. Succeed
PAICR’s Annual conference has always stood as a great place for all attendees to learn about best practices in our industry for marketing and communication professionals and what they need to keep/make their firm more efficient and stay competitive. It is also a great way to connect with old contacts and meet new people, all of whom make up our incredibly supportive PAICR network that we can call on as a resource when needed. In taking this time to come together at the PAICR Annual Conference, we all walk away with the keys to help our firms succeed, and to be ready for the many changes that face us as asset management marketers as we go forward into 2018.
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
Investor suitability and benefits
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.
Contact: Derek Napoli, Director of Business Development – (240) 452-5200
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.
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.
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.
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?