I believe we're in the early stages of a growth cycle with the economy gaining momentum. It's time then for investment management firms to capitalize on new opportunities.

Making this transition, however, will be difficult for many firms. The reason is that the business landscape has changed dramatically over the past several years.

Some of the biggest changes have been in client behaviors, preferences and expectations. Old ways of engaging with prospects and clients fall flat in this new world. That's why reinventing their client engagement models - and the supporting business processes - must be a high priority for asset management and wealth advisory firms.

Mobile computing has created hyper-connected prospects and clients. Technology also enables them to exercise a great degree of control over what information they see. From their experiences with consumer apps, these clients now expect highly personalized interactions whenever they do business. They're impatient and move quickly.

To grow business with existing customers and win new ones, firms need to get more agile and responsive. They have to be spot on with message, content, offer, timing and delivery mode. Doing so requires that firms re-invent their client engagement models.

IMPROVE ENGAGEMENT

To meet this growing need, firms need to improve the quality, relevance and timeliness of their materials. They also need to give their salespeople easier and more efficient ways to find, assemble and deliver materials that are tailored to specific clients and prospects.

That brings us to new approaches to customer engagement that are now gaining market traction.

One such strategy that is proving successful for many investment management firms is a "three-pillar" solution. This model leverages the capabilities of three related but distinct solution types to drive significant increases in marketing efficiency and sales effectiveness. The technologies involved are customer relationship management, content management systems and enterprise content management.

This model lets companies take a holistic approach to customer engagement. CRM systems help reps plan and track their daily activities and make it easier to manage their sales pipelines; CMS systems serve as content delivery conduits that make it easy for firms to manage client-facing content, while ECM systems help companies manage both online and offline materials throughout the content lifecycle.

CONTENT INNOVATION

In addition to their three-pillar systems, leading financial services firms are taking their marketing efficiency and sales effectiveness to the next level with a new generation of content-focused solutions.

These products are quickly gaining market traction with their dynamic content generation, and intelligent tailoring and distribution capabilities.

These systems give marketing and sales teams 'on-the-fly' capabilities for creating, selecting, assembling and delivering:

* The right content items (in updated, relevant, and compliant forms).

* To the right person (industry-, company- and role-appropriate).

* At the right time (attuned to that client's specific situation, where the prospect is in the sales cycle).

* In the right ways (depending on preferred delivery mode - laptop, tablet, phablet or other mobile device).

Automated content generation systems are especially valuable in financial services. One reason for their growing popularity is that they solve an age-old marketing and sales problem: the time it takes to update all their materials after the end of every fiscal quarter.

Instead of manually and repetitively cutting and pasting new data (regarding investment performance, AUM, etc.) marketing teams can use these systems to change data items just once and then publish them everywhere.

With new materials ready in a few days versus the several weeks it used to take, these systems are creating real competitive advantages for salespeople and their firms.

GROW BIG

To seize the opportunities presented by an improving economy, firms need to shake off the doldrums of the past several years. One of the most critical actions they need to take is to bring their organizations up to par with their customers' new demands and preferences.

The only way to do that successfully is to re-engineer their client engagement models. Better sales enablement needs to be the goal, and one of the best paths to get there is the three-pillar approach - integrating the business processes and technologies they use to provision content.

When sales enablement is working, marketing, sales and other customer-facing staff have the systematic ability to leverage their company's best content and other information assets to engage the right customers and prospects at just the right time with precisely the right material. It creates easier, faster, less costly and more effective client engagements that provide top- and bottom line results.

Sales and marketing success in financial services requires a very different approach today than it did in 2007. Customers and prospects have changed, and it's important that every firms's marketing and sales approaches change with them.

Doug Winter is CEO of Seismic Software.

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