My first encounter years ago with John Toepfer of Chicago-based Synthesis Technology triggered some conflicting emotions.
Naturally, I welcomed him and his technology that promised to free marketing communications from the shackles of the mutual fund performance data quarterly updating process.
“With this, we’ll have time to do what marketers should be doing,” I remember saying and, as far as I remember, all nodded in agreement. Yep, none of us fully grasped what we were in for.
Things got uncomfortable when it became clear that Synthesis wasn’t just going to help Fund Accounting, Investment and Compliance get their acts together—Toepfer and team intended to impose standardization and processes on Marketing.
Well, it all turned out just fine in the end. A 45-day all-hands-on-deck updating process (!) was whittled down to 10-ish days. The work helped form my conviction that Marketing benefits from exposure to the structured thinking that technology requires.
My path has crossed with Toepfer’s a few times since that first gig. The automation of fund performance communications is standard practice at fund companies now. But Synthesis and other vendors continue to find new ways to improve upon the efficiency and accuracy (“wouldn’t it be nice to review that data just once?”) of what can be soul-crushing work for marketers.
Here’s a quick catch-up with Toepfer. It's difficult to ask any tech provider what's going on without getting the answer framed in the company's latest solutions. I expect that, I appreciate the free peek at what firms are doing, and hope you do, too. Know, though, that I have no business relationship with Synthesis.
For Synthesis’ ongoing views about investment management and technology, by the way, read the firm’s excellent blog.
Q. So, John, what’s new? What are the smartest mutual fund and exchange-traded fund (ETF) marketers working on lately?
Marketing for investment management firms these days is all about two things: personalization—making sure that you’re communicating with the client in a highly personalized and relevant manner, and content—showing those clients that both the sales team and the firm are thought leaders in the industry. Any technologies that support these goals are hot.
Q. Such as…?
For example, we are developing a solution for a client that enables sales teams to construct highly personalized emails to their clients. The benefit of this tool is that it blends the branding, promotion and compliance aspects of a marketing email program with the advanced personalization aspects of a sales email.
Email marketing trends point to this idea of advanced personalization that goes beyond just first name merge tags and list segmentation. Marketing teams have the tools and expertise to create compelling email campaigns, run tests, analyze and optimize. What they’re lacking is the familiarity that comes with face-to-face exposure to the client. Wholesalers have more qualitative information about their clients’ unique interests, needs and goals.
This solution is a perfect opportunity to combine the qualitative and quantitative expertise of both the marketing and sales teams to deliver valuable content to the recipient. Advanced personalization that leverages the unique talents of the sales team will no doubt increase the effectiveness of these email campaigns.
Q. John, it sounds as if you’re branching out—from enabling Marketing to enabling Sales.
That’s right, and there is a lot of buzz about sales enablement right now.
As another example, smart firms are making room in their budgets for sales enablement technologies like pitchbook automation, if they haven’t already.
A centralized presentation management system that allows marketing teams to develop a library of presentation slides that automatically update and refresh with the receipt of new data or disclosures can take the chaos out of updating slides. Ideally, this system should be flexible enough to incorporate a firm’s unique business rules and processes for quality control.
Sales teams should be able to access this system from any geographic location and device to very quickly and easily build presentations that are highly targeted to their audience, while also compliant and on-brand. A system like this saves the marketing team a lot of time and empowers the sales organization to create highly personalized presentations that drive more sales.
Over the past few months, we’ve seen a surge in pitchbook automation inquiries. I think there are a few reasons for this:
- First, there is heightened awareness that this technology exists. More than a handful of technology companies are popping up that focus solely on sales enablement tools. This has brought a lot of healthy competition as well as validity to this business.
- Second, the industry expects a mobile aspect to the solution at this point. Although many salespeople (and clients for that matter) still prefer the tangibility of printed documents, the trend is clearly going paperless with the ability to push presentations to a wholesaler’s mobile device.
- The third trend is that software providers are realizing the value of providing data management services in addition to the content management and publishing solution. Many clients still struggle with getting the data into one clean, consistent form and location.
Q. Are there any other examples you can talk about?
One of our pitchbook clients is a private banking group of a major New York-based asset management firm. A three-person marketing team is efficiently managing a very large catalog of sales materials to meet the content needs of 900 users in 20 branch offices.
With a few clicks of the mouse, financial advisors can access a constantly updated catalog of sales materials and any account-specific data, personalize their presentations, and be assured that the material is compliant from branding, disclosure and data perspectives.
One of the largest factors in the success of the system is its single sign-on connection with the firm's CRM. The two primary measures of success for systems like this are system adoption rate and efficacy of materials. Both of these are improved when the solution is well connected and aligned with the CRM.
These screenshots show the capability within SalesForce but similar integrations with other CRMs are possible as long as the platform has a good API and can support single sign-on.
Once the presentation has been created and finalized, it is stored and recorded at the account record level. This is advantageous to the sales professional because it allows him or her to associate a specific presentation with a specific pitch to go back and refer to later without having to access two different systems. (For more on the pitchbook strategy, check out Synthesis' whitepaper.)
Q. So, what would you identify as the obstacles for marketers eager to deliver both personalization and content?
No industry is immune to the challenge of aligning Sales and Marketing. In the investment management industry, you add in the compliance aspect, which makes it even more difficult for firms to align their strategies.
In our experience, the big issue for marketing teams is managing and producing all of their content in a way that satisfies the needs of both Sales and Compliance. Marketing communications need to be highly effective and accurate. Salespeople want the right materials right when they need it and they also want customization.
Typically, it is a major challenge for marketing teams to provide a high level of customization on sales materials due to time and resource constraints. Thus, we see companies either limiting customization by size of opportunity (only the big deals get custom slide decks) or turning a blind eye to how the sales force might be customizing things in the field.
The first solution is a bad idea from a sales efficacy standpoint. The second solution is a compliance nightmare. Compliance departments are very conservative, which makes it difficult for Marketing to even mutter the words, “customized” or “automated.”
The trick to getting these three groups into alignment is to find a way to effectively manage their content (and product data) in a centralized location that allows for controlled, shared, and reusable content.