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Every firm is aware of the importance to add or transform their marketing platform, but when it comes to developing video packages and expanding social media outreach, asset managers are finding challenges in their execution.

There has been a proliferation of digital tools to help with these efforts, and managers have focused on content marketing and the development of articles, podcasts and even video packages to showcase their expertise. Nearly 40% of managers say the strategy has produced results, while the use of e-mail marketing ranked as the second most popular marketing platform in a recent Kurtosys survey on the matter.

BlackRock, for instance, has fully embraced content marketing to promote what it sees as the future in investment technology.

Although the popularity of ETFs continues to draw investors away from mutual funds, BlackRock recently rolled out an animated video series to not only educate about the mechanics of its iShares investment products, but to further connect with clients and advisors.

"The ability to use data is paramount," explains Jennifer Grancio, managing director of iShares global business development at BlackRock.

The videos, with topics like "Bond ETFs in Stressed Markets," are featured on a dedicated subsect of iShares.com and are just one part of a continued digital education effort, which Grancio says the firm plans to embrace in the years ahead.

"The understanding of the client and their decision journey helps us create the right content, with the right message and then make it available to our clients in the right place at the right time," she explains.

SIGNING ON

Whether it's a lack of staff expertise or a fear of impending regulatory scrutiny, there are a number of reasons why experts say asset managers have been slow to adopting digital marketing techniques.

As nearly 60% of an managers' marketing programs are dedicated to, "providing high-quality client experiences," less than 40% plan to invest in a document automation platform, the industry's top-ranked technology investment for 2016, according to the Kurtosys survey on marketing trends among asset managers.

"Digital marketing is becoming the driving factor of the marketing efforts for fund and wealth management firms," says Luke Hinchliffe, head of digital marketing at Kurtosys, a digital marketing and client reporting tool provider for asset management firms. "Investors rely on digital devices to manage their day-to-day lives and investing is no different."

Grancio says that the biggest marketing challenge at BlackRock is its ability to not only embrace new technology, but to become agile in its implementation.

"In our technology enabled and connected world, our clients are moving fast at responding to and meeting their clients' needs in real time and in a dynamic market environment," Grancio says. "We have to be able to create marketing platforms and content at the same speed so we are being a good partner and supporting our clients."

John Michel, the CEO at the finance technology firm CircleBlack, agrees that educating clients is one of the biggest hurdles managers face in the year ahead.

"More and more firms are adapting technology to help manage and deliver competitive advantage to their marketing efforts," Michel says, adding that the a focus on, "delivering personalized content to clients and prospects is a big part of many advisors' ongoing efforts."

He adds that although regulatory pressure is a big deterrent for adopting new technology, it should not prevent managers from embracing an interactive marketing platform.

"The key from a digital perspective is to work with technology vendors that know the industry and the rules as they can make staying in compliance much easier," he says.

Nearly 50% of managers still see regulatory restrictions as their greatest hurdle when it comes to developing a digital marketing plan, according to Kurtosys. On the other hand, just 24% of survey respondents say that data security and privacy issues are also areas of concern.

SunStar Strategic Senior Vice President Dan Sondhelm agrees that third party content developers are a good option to develop a better relationship with clients while sidestepping some of the compliance burden.

"Content can be distributed in a firm's own channel, such as a website or email lists," Sondhelm notes. "It can also be distributed via third-party channel, like niche news outlets, or firms can work with the media in a public relations program."

KEY INVESTMENTS

Almost 90% of managers say an updated website is the most important part of their marketing strategy, according to Kurtosys. Meanwhile, more than half of the nearly 200 fund and wealth management professionals that took part in the survey cite email marketing as their most important mechanism for outreach.

"Well-designed, responsive websites that are mobile-friendly with interactive fund data will be what many asset managers will be focusing on for some time," Hinchliffe explains. "Additionally… the email newsletter is back in vogue and many digital marketers in financial services will be working on email strategies for 2016 and beyond."

While less than 40% of Kurtosys respondents said social media, blogs and mobile apps are important parts of their marketing platform; Michel says this segment will become more prominent in the years ahead.

"We will see a surge in advertising used within mobile platforms: tablets, smart phones and smart watches," Michel forecasts. "Digital campaigns and ad management will need to be more versatile in aiding multi-platforms and multi-channels."

Aside from their interest in making investments to enhance document automation technology – fund factsheets and client reports, for example – a little more than 30% of Kurtosys survey respondents say they plan to make customer relationship management system upgrades, while roughly 25% were focused on content management system advancements.

"It's more important now more than ever to break through the clutter of information that data investors are bombarded with on a daily basis," Hinchliffe notes. "Digital marketers at asset management firms can do this by providing a tailored approach to clients and prospects through excellent user experience, informative content and transparent reports."

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