What is the Highest and Best Use of Your Marketing Staff Right Now?

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Best strategic use of marketing for asset management

The current environment is forcing marketers to think strategically about how to retain assets and drive new business. Sales travel has seen major cuts and there’s a new nature of client meetings. In response, marketers are scrambling to understand the new normal and make strategic decisions about their firm’s messaging, market approach, and tools.

Before the global pandemic, marketers were already struggling to find time for strategic work such as:

  • Differentiating their firms by making materials more client-centric
  • Integrating content and messaging as a result of mergers and acquisitions
  • Improving time to market for sales materials
  • Reducing or controlling costs as they also scale operations

Now, we’re in the middle of a crisis. So, we could argue these strategic initiatives are even more important. Yet, there’s still the issue of not having enough time. However, the idea of planning strategic changes while still meeting production SLAs is, well, terrifying. How can marketers be strategic if they are barely keeping up with quarterly content production tasks? The answer is simple, yet not easy. Keep your talent focused on the highest and best use. So, how can this be accomplished?

Focus on Strategic and Meaningful Marketing

Investment management firms look to hire the best available talent across the organization, including the marketing and sales teams. In a highest and best use scenario, we’d focus these team members on strategic goals that can propel the firm’s growth in good economic times and stabilize the business in not-so-good times. In other words, the talent should be engaged in work that brings the most value to the firm.

Before the current crisis, nearly every asset manager we talked to was working on scaling their business. Yet, we find marketing departments full of talented people doing repetitive, mind-numbing work that should be automated or outsourced.

Marketers are under stress, absenteeism is higher, and some firms are even cutting staff. Thus, many operations groups are having trouble keeping the wheels in motion. This situation shines a bright light on the importance of using human capital thoughtfully. Ideally, most of your marketing organization will be focused on strategic and thoughtful work, not grinding out deliverables for quarter-end. Instead of cutting and pasting data and double-checking numbers, the team should be thinking, planning, and analyzing how to pivot marketing messaging. They should be working to support a new reality and pace of sales activities in order to position the firm for success.

Many firms recognize this and are working on automating these processes. But how they approach automation and budgeting can either enable or hinder that decision. Appropriate use of internal resources then becomes paired with choosing tools and vendors that complement the workload retained internally. In other words, technology should enable strategic distribution of responsibility.

Leadership is the Key

In addition to strategic and meaningful marketing, great leadership is paramount to success. If an asset manager is looking at DIY systems, they must recognize they are creating an internal staffing dependency. It would allocate people to operate the system as opposed to a process.

Ask several questions before considering this type of approach. Do you really want to hire more people to set up and operate a system? Do you understand the full scope of indirect costs associated? Is this the highest and best use of your human capital? What will happen to this initiative if there is a global event, such as one we’re currently experiencing. How about if there is a budget-driven layoff? Are you creating key person dependencies by embracing a complicated tool?

Effective management requires leadership commitment and cooperation at all levels of an organization. If senior management tells middle management to lead an effort, they must provide the staffing and technology budget. Otherwise, middle management has to do the work, not manage the work. But then, who’s managing the initiative? Senior management moves on to their next initiative, and now middle management is buried in the work. This leaves the question of who is really accountable for the success and effectiveness of these projects.

Leadership and management don’t just describe the big meeting where a decision on a direction is reached. They describe the ongoing and consistent follow-through, follow up, and accountability of that decision. Most plans or projects that have gone sideways generally lacked the executive-level leadership for that initiative.

Strategic Use of Human Capital Pays Off

The surest way to achieve scalability is to keep talent focused on their highest and best use.  It will show a return on your technology investments. We worked with a US-based TAMP who was spending 3,000 hours a year manually aggregating, calculating, and formatting data to produce factsheets. They made the strategic decision upfront to use a turnkey automation solution.  They outsource the implementation as opposed to using a DIY tool. As a result, the implementation took five months. Then, they saved thousands of hours annually. They now focus that time on strategic initiatives. These include managing and enhancing their services, researching new topics, and creating new investment solutions. By giving the work to a qualified vendor, they are left in a very strong position internally to handle the current situation. Now, this is the highest and best use scenario for asset management marketing!

I frequently check work assignments against criteria in my own organization.  It reminds me that we’re striving to be strategic, not tactical. Here are the criteria: Plan, Manage, Analyze, Organize, and Direct. Less than 20% of any person’s job function should fall outside of these five areas of effort. That’s my rule; though, it is a difficult benchmark to maintain. People gravitate to task work because it’s immediately rewarding. However, as leaders, it is crucial to keep our people thinking strategically. Wasting time with menial tasks that should be automated and/or outsourced, especially in challenging economic times, is not the best use of asset management marketing.

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John Toepfer is CEO and Co-founder of Synthesis Technology. He is a technology entrepreneur, investor and business owner with a 25-year background in building and supporting communication solutions for the financial services industry. He lives in Chicago with his wife and two sons.


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