To better connect with advisors, fund providers must think more carefully about aligning their sales and marketing efforts to create a better "customer experience," a new report from research firm kasina shows.

For providers, selling products and promoting products at asset management firms would appear to be complementary efforts. Yet according to a new study of sales and marketing departments at asset management firms, nearly three quarters of organizations are at odds with each other, often not even sharing revenue growth goals.

"Marketers and salespeople have very different views on the world. If their lenses aren't the same and their goals aren't the same, then how then are they going to reach the same end?" says Tracy Needham, senior research analyst and author of the report for the New York-based consulting firm.

It's an observation that Vanguard noted three years ago when it reorganized and added ranks to its sales teams, says Mike Lucci, head of strategic sales at Vanguard.

Prior to that time, sales executives worked either out of Vanguard's offices in Pennsylvania or Arizona, and now they are located in the territories where they can work directly with advisors, Lucci says.

"Because we were all over the country we had to become better at coordination," he says. "We had this turning point in our business model. We wanted to anchor our sales to something that still ties back to the home office. To keep sales connecting to Vanguard culture, marketing is one of the best ways to do that."

AREAS OF CONCERN

Needham's research involved over 40 fund firms, examining the structure and interaction of the sales and marketing teams at each institution. Among the key issues of concern she discovered:

* Marked differences in perception, as surveyed marketing heads said it was "very important" for their teams to help set key account strategy, while a majority of sales heads claimed the involvement of marketing in account strategy was "not important" at all.

* Different aims, as only half of survey respondents strongly agreed that marketing and sales teams have a shared responsibility when it comes to a firm's revenue growth goals.

* A wide performance measurement gap, as nearly every sales team is tracked according to revenue growth, but only 38% of marketing teams are held to the same measure.

* Uneven access to customer data, as four in 10 executives surveyed said the biggest hurdle for marketing to contribute more to sales is in¬adequate customer systems.

Internal disarray is the wellspring for these issues, Needham says, and much of it can be traced to a lack of communication between departments. For instance, she says, at many of the asset managers she studied, sales and marketing teams kept customer information apart that would be more useful if it was combined.

"Marketing can look into their systems and see what e-mails advisors have responded to and their activities online, while sales can see what interactions their colleagues have had with wholesalers and what they eventually dropped a ticket for," Needham says.

COMMUNICATION

Communication issues at many firms were also as basic as just not even being aware of what the other team was working on, Needham adds. "Information doesn't fullycirculate to everyone who plays an important role," she says. "When it comes to knowing what the other team is planning and learning, there is a lot of disconnect."

Needham notes that marketers were more likely to send a representative to sales meetings than vice versa. One reason, she says, is that marketing teams want to know how their material is being consumed and how to make it more relevant. "Marketers often struggle to get feedback on materials and find out what customers are thinking about right-wholesalers are busy seeing advisors and traveling-so it's a very common issue."

Another hurdle is a traditional office bugbear - territorialism. "You have situations where sales doesn't want marketing to have complete access to customer data, fearing they will go renegade and contact them directly. Or marketing doesn't want sales to know that a campaign did poorly."

To tackle communication issues between departments, firms have organized meetings along different schedules, some on a quarterly or monthly basis, others meeting weekly, she says. One firm's teams huddle briefly on a bi-weekly basis. Email bulletins can also help with communication too, she says.

Vanguard's Lucci says every other Friday, teams from thought leadership, sales and marketing get together to discuss strategy at the firm. "We talk about what are ideas and concepts that we want to be bringing to the marketplace," he says. "We have some great thought leaders and they want to be aligned with what advisors need, and they need to be connected with sales to best serve our advisor clients. Now with marketing, they are concerned with how will we bring it to the top of the marketplace, and they need to know what's in the pipeline."

The approach at Vanguard is to keep sales and marketing efforts intertwined, Lucci says. "Outside my office and two doors down is the head of marketing. We haven't put sales and marketing into silos - I'm attending three meetings, and my counterpart in marketing will be there."

NO JARGON

To accomplish clearer communication between sales and marketing departments, Needham advises teams to keep clear of using practice-specific jargon.

"They need to create a common language," Needham says. "Only 15% of firms even define a lead in the same way. For marketing, a lead may be somebody who downloaded a white paper two weeks ago, whereas sales thinks it is someone who downloaded that white paper yesterday, along with several other activities. That discrepancy leads to disagreements about leads that are passed on.

More marketing departments are starting to share metrics with sales, Needham notes. Traditionally marketing teams haven't been pressed by asset managers to be revenue-oriented, she says, but digital marketing and new technology are giving them the tools to more effectively measure campaigns through to the sale.

"Pressures to be more revenue-driven are everywhere now," she says. "Being more web-oriented helps marketing with that, but most firms still need the technology to see how marketing's efforts translate into the ultimate sale."

"Marketing is air support for sales," Lucci says.

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