Guest columnist Robert Carr is a senior VP and head of account management at Wechsler Ross & Partners, a marketing firm that serves the mutual fund and investment management industries. Before joining Wechsler Ross & Partners, Carr worked for Citigroup where he focused on third-party distribution.
A favorite gift of mine from a former colleague is The Buzzword Bingo Book. For those of you who haven't played, game players attend larger meetings with a (hopefully, carefully hidden) one-page bingo card that has catchphrases like "win-win," "24/7" and "best practice" instead of "A4" and "B23." As speakers at the meeting utter any of these phrases, players check them off until someone has bingo.
The reason I bring it up is that many financial services marketers have found themselves scrambling to provide marketing campaigns and programs labeled "value-added" Bingo Book definition: "Taken directly from the fast-food world of cheap, quick meals, value added' is a wonderful catchphrase that helps convince feeble-minded consumers that you're giving them more than they'd get anywhere else."
Financial services marketers have long faced the challenge of building brand and establishing market share in an overcrowded marketplace. Now we are surrounded by mantra chants of "value add" and told that money management firms will lose their competitive edge without one of these marketing programs.
And, that's probably true. A recent FRC Monitor published by Financial Research Corp. ("Marketing Will Determine the Winners," April 2001) pointed out: "With so many mutual fund providers vying for their attention, intermediaries have become choosy about which providers they will allow access to their representatives. [They] no longer want to hear about the benefits of a particular product, now they want useful tips on how to gain new clients or how to win more assets from existing clients."
So the question isn't really if you should build a value-added marketing program, it's how can you make it effective? The first step is to remember that the core goal of any asset management marketing campaign is to ultimately bring in and retain a greater share of assets. Value-added efforts may be more subtle-focusing on building more successful relationships rather than pushing product-but at the end of the day, they still need to increase distribution and asset-gathering efforts.
To make sure your campaign transcends buzzword status, ask yourself:
Is the campaign
A successful program needs to grow a financial consultant's business. Are you providing them with something that is crucial for their own success? Van Kampen's Nine Lives of the Affluent is one example of a value-added campaign that brings the very relevant topic of targeting the high-net-worth market to a tactical level, educating reps on the different personality types of wealthy clients and how to effectively market to them.
Does it build a sales opportunity?
By defining "value-added" as "non-product," it's easy to forget that creating a sales opportunity (no matter how indirect) needs to be the campaign's primary goal, even if the sales opportunity focuses solely on building relationships and distribution. MFS' Heritage campaign never loses site of this goal. By building an extensive marketing program-from white papers to seminars-on such non-product topics as "Choosing a Nursing Home" and "Retiring to a Different State," the company has solidified its sales relationship with reps by focusing on how the reps can solidify their client relationships through education. The system offers reps concrete reasons, and tools, to keep in contact with clients, and effectively changes the relationship focus from individual product performance to delivering on goals and aspirations.
Does it deliver interesting
Whether it focuses on business building or investment concepts, an effective value-added campaign must deliver interesting information-either because it's new or because it looks at old information in an interesting way. Franklin Templeton took several of the industry's oldest themes and effectively updated and repackaged them with two campaigns. Emotions, Expectations and Economics (or 3 E's) put a new spin on asset allocation and managing client expectations. The Loyalty Ladder updated the prospecting letter/direct-mail standard that brokers have been using for years. Both delivered interesting, tactical sales tools that effectively differentiated the firm from their competition, despite using core-marketing themes that are common throughout the industry.
Does it have straightforward goals?
Value-added campaigns can be quite complex or extensive in the materials they deliver, but at their core, they must be simple and clear-cut on what they set out to do. They must also be easy to access and implement. OppenheimerFund's Women and Investing, one of the first mutual fund value-added campaigns, is brilliant in its pure simplicity, delivering a wide scope of materials all targeted to helping reps capture a very specific market segment.
Are you following the pack?
Me Too Marketing--doing what other firms have already done--isn't going to win you distribution or build your brand. You must establish and own your category. Bigger firms can naturally use their larger resources to own bigger categories; smaller players are better served by carving out smaller spaces. For example, several years ago, PIMCO made a major play in the IRA rollover market, but they focused solely on helping reps capture jumbo rollovers (more than $100,000 in assets), not the entire market. In a similar vein, Conseco Funds actually chose not to even compete in the marketing collateral world, instead developing their Speaker's Bureau, a list of accomplished motivational speakers that key distribution partners could access for conferences and various other speaking engagements.
Does it include an e-marketing component?
The true power of e-marketing tools is in their capacity for customization and delivery of timely information. PIMCO's customized proposal system fully realizes both opportunities by allowing reps to create client presentations that examine entire portfolios-not just PIMCO funds-from a variety of angles, including standard and risk/reward performance, to cross-fund sector, country and industry holdings' analysis. This powerful system arms investment professionals with sophisticated and completely customized materials, for either initial sales presentations or client reviews, and quite powerfully illustrates that value-added programs do not necessarily exclude product.
Is it backed by a good product?
Which brings us to the last test. Ultimately, no matter how great the information or delivery, a value-added campaign won't drive sales alone; it must be backed by competitive product. But a good value-added program will expand opportunities to get your product in front of customers, and effectively differentiate your firm in the minds of clients and prospects.
By successfully encompassing these points, BINGO!, your value-added marketing efforts can be much more than a buzzword. They can significantly help gain access to new distribution channels and solidify existing relationships, ultimately leading to greater asset gathering and retention.
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