Zombies & RFPs – The Problem with the Undead

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.

 

Are you committing these Seven Deadly Twitter Sins?

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.

 

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?

VideoLink-Logo-AVI-SPL-Vert_PMS

 

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.

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.

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?