Content Automation: The Strategic Value of a Turnkey Implementation

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By Emilie Totten

A killer performance depends on the setup

In a recent blog post by our CEOhe draws an interesting comparison between setting up a rock concert and setting up a content marketing automation solution for an investment management company. The point he makes in the post is that the critical behind-the-scenes logistics of an operation are often not fully realized or appreciated, even though they’re absolutely vital to the outcome.

Think back to a concert you attended where you arrived a bit early. The roadies can be seen methodically working to get all the equipment set up perfectly so that the band can just get up on stage, grab their instruments, and put on a great show. The roadies and logistics teams don’t get the attention from all the screaming, raging fans but they deserve some serious recognition (and pay) for the role they play.

So, how does this relate to automating investment marketing collateral?

The real “magic” of a content automation solution lies in the setup and implementation. If the setup is done right, the automation system will run smoothly and provide tremendous value to the business. If the implementation is not done thoroughly and professionally, the organization will never fully realize their goals for accuracy and efficiency.

Picture Bill, the roadie, handing Slash a slightly out of tune guitar, or Neal Peart being sent on stage without spare drum sticks!  Picture the act going on late because someone forgot where the plug that matches the synthesizer is!  Picture the guy on the tracking spot-light, who’s the only one who knows how to run it, calling in sick! In all of these cases the show goes on, but it’s just not the event it was supposed to be.

Putting aside the rock-n-roll analogies, there are many critical aspects to setting up automation for data-driven content like fact sheets, pitchbooks, or commentaries that deserve professional attention:

  • Creating accurate and shared document templates
  • Creating shareable content (design and copy) components like charts, graphs and disclosures
  • Integrating data accurately and reliably (Check out our free guide)
  • Applying business rules (data display rules)
  • Meeting commercial-quality publishing specs
  • Integrating other technologies in your workflow (robo-writing, CRM, compliance systems, etc)
  • QA & Testing
  • Planning for ongoing support and maintenance

These aspects of an implementation require the right mix of experience and skills to implement accurately, on time, and within budget.

Let’s examine two different implementation approaches – DIY and Turnkey:

DIY vs. Turnkey Implementation

Obviously, roadies from our rock-n-roll example are the turnkey solution experts that setup and test the equipment, while the musicians are the sales and marketing experts that go out and engage their audience. Each group has a distinct function, based on their skills and experience. Because the setup is done by a professional, it is done efficiently and effectively, allowing the business teams to pull off a great performance.

Investment management companies who decide to go the route of a do-it-yourself (DIY) solution usually find that it takes much longer and requires more resources than anticipated, especially when the automation setup involves many data sources, audiences, products, and compliance scenarios. Hence, the ROI and total cost of ownership don’t add-up as expected. Because of this, asset managers often decide to work with an automation partner who provides a turnkey implementation. Here are a few of the key reasons for this decision:

Turnkey implementations are often completed more quickly and thoroughly than DIY (3 months vs. 1-2 years)

Turnkey implementations are completed by a professional team that specializes in their field and are experts with their tools. In our interviews with industry experts, our findings were that similar turnkey implementations require between 14 and 19 weeks to complete.  Meanwhile, DIY implementations are taking somewhere between 1-2 years. More importantly, when measuring the accomplishments by the number of document types automated and number of users being served, the turnkey implementations roughly double the accomplishments of the DIY solutions.

So, why do DIY solutions take so much longer?  Despite what a DIY vendor may tell you, your team will have to learn to master new technology and learn to apply it to their production workflow. This almost always involves a challenging and complicated set of data-and-rules-driven publishing requirements.  When your team has to learn new skills and take-on new projects for the first time, there’s simply no way they can be fast and efficient. There is also considerable organizational overhead involved every step of the way as people are figuring out things for the first time. As a result, the “low cost” DIY solution actually costs more and produces less.

In addition, when an implementation takes a year or more to complete, you risk losing strategic advantage. In our competitive and fast-paced marketplace, the fast fish eats the slow fish. In other words, firms who get their marketing and sales automation solutions off the ground quickly have a better chance of getting ahead of the competition.

Turnkey implementations can cost much less (TCO)

In our research into the success of DIY data-publishing projects, we found a number of asset managers who are more than a year into implementing their chosen tool and are still struggling. Meanwhile, in addition to paying licensing fees for the DIY solution, they are still paying for their status quo approach plus the effort required to convert their existing content to the required format supported by the DIY solution. For example, one firm is paying $300 per hour for their agency to redesign and convert their high-quality inDesign factsheet templates into lower-quality PowerPoint output.

Another point to consider are the hidden costs inherent in a DIY automation solution deployment. According to a Total Economic Impact study conducted by Forrester in 2016, one DIY  provider’s annual average license costs per client were reported at $1.02 million.  Additionally, the representative firm in this study required an average of “six internal FTEs from specialists, marketers, project manager, developers, and sales teams to fully integrate and launch the solution in its environment.” These costs capture the internal labor spend on the transition as well as the rollout of the DIY platform. Once the implementation was over, firms who participated in the study also reported needing one dedicated FTE annually for ongoing administration, training, maintenance, and support of the DIY system. These additional resources added another almost $700,000 to the project. These additional costs shouldn’t be overlooked, as all of these factors together drive-up TCO considerably. It’s worth doing a thorough analysis, paying special attention to the setup and ongoing maintenance required for the systems you’re evaluating.

Turnkey implementations can get you to ROI faster

Because of the shorter duration and lower total cost of ownership, turnkey solutions generally yield a much quicker ROI (usually in year 2). In our whitepaper, How to Illustrate ROI on Content Automation, we walk you through how to calculate your direct as well as indirect (hidden) costs to arrive at your total enterprise costs for your current process. In most cases, firms greatly underestimate the true cost of their status quo, which makes it difficult to prove ROI. In addition, a thorough analysis should be done to evaluate the TCO of each automation solution, with special attention given to the true cost of implementation. If you’d like us to help you put together an ROI calculator for your evaluation, just shoot me an email at

In sum, DIY implementations are risky

If you’re making a business case for an automation solution, consider the risk involved in taking on a DIY implementation. The success of a content automation project lies heavily in the setup. Many asset managers who have gone the DIY route have completely blown their business case, as they’ve missed their implementation, ROI, and TCO targets. The more risk averse decision is to go the route of a professional turnkey implementation. Turnkey deployments can be completed sooner, more thoroughly, and will cost less over time. This is especially true if your firm has complex data, documents, and distribution scenarios. If that is the case, you should consider the turnkey model closely, as you may be better-served by an experienced vendor with experience implementing and servicing complex solutions.

Think of the Turnkey model as the solution with the professional roadies, setting you up for success. With the right tools in place, tuned perfectly for your needs, you’re in a great position to put on your best performance.

Good luck, and rock on!

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Here are some related resources that might interest you:
From the Blog:
Why Pitch Decks Should be Created by Sales, Not Marketing
Investment Marketing - Is your approach investment or client-centric?
From the Blog:
Client-Centric vs. Investment-Centric Marketing at Asset Management Firms
From the Blog:
For Asset Managers, The Profit Is In The Relationship

Emilie is Head of Marketing at Synthesis. Emilie earned her B.S. in Advertising from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She has 15 years of integrated marketing experience in the financial services, technology, and healthcare industries. She lives in Chicagoland with her husband, two kids and two cats. When she isn't marketing or parenting, she can be found practicing yoga or reading a good book.

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