Blog Our 2017 Digital Summit: The Tide Has Turned for Digital Marketers

Posted April 24, 2017 by Mike Cogburn

On April 18, we hosted our Spring Digital Summit roundtable event in New York City – bringing together marketing, digital, and analytics executives from across the asset management industry. I kicked the morning off with a keynote address that asked attendees to challenge themselves to take a step away from the norm and to think about the next 5+ years, specifically focusing on the expectations involved in client experience, how their teams need to evolve, and the importance of data in virtually everything that they are responsible for.

It seemed to spur valuable discussion within the group, bringing light to clear trends (and progress in most cases) for our industry. tide has turned for digital marketers illustration

Firms are Asking More of Digital Teams

It is clear that the importance of digital is being recognized throughout the firm (for most asset managers) – far more today than it was even a year ago. This is refreshing but equally demanding. Expectations are sharply rising in both what and how they contribute to the bottom line. One executive mentioned that the “tide has recently turned significantly,” in how sales teams think about digital at his firm. He gave the example of how younger sales professionals coming off of the internal desk going into the field were quickly becoming top producers due to their use of technology (including the firm’s app) and their comfort in, and reliance on, data being supplied from digital teams. While marketing and digital marketing see heavier dependency on their efforts, we didn’t get the sense that translated to deserved equal authority…yet. But it will, especially as marketers build out attribution capabilities.

Teams are developing skills in the areas of data analysis and marketing technology, which was not a surprise. It was revealing, however, to hear the vast majority of firms say that they were not adding staff in the near term. They are being asked to do a lot more, with less. Because of this, where executives “place their bets” becomes more important than ever. Identifying efficiencies, maximizing effectiveness, and aligning with a unique brand value will be critical.

The Role of Data is (Still) Rapidly Increasing

The importance of data and analytics was recognized by everyone in attendance, though there was a wide spectrum of maturity in how firms were using the intelligence that each possessed. Each seemed to agree that they possessed enough data to provide relevant experiences and content to its customers. But challenges existed in accessing, combining, and translating customer data. This is not to say that firms weren’t targeting and personalizing to an extent, but they acknowledged they needed to work towards a more “horizontal” or centralized view rather and way from the existing silos.

Since more modern, deeply personalized experiences inevitably require significant budgets to design and build, we had a candid discussion on the inability of most firms to run attribution analysis on customer journeys and touchpoints that they manage. The good news is that it is on the radar for most firms. DST is releasing a research report in early May on this very subject, including where firms in our industry are in the process, and how to approach it from various levels. Great timing!

Tactical Investments in Content and Search

Two more tactical items seemed to repeat throughout our sessions: content strategy/execution and search engines. The group acknowledged content as being king, next to a product, for our industry – with most operating editorial boards who meet regularly to plan topics and corresponding pieces for the marketplace. Some firms struggle with agreement on a grounded strategy on topics, writing somewhat randomly. Others operate under rules in which writers don’t pitch an idea internally without doing homework on what customers what to hear.

SEO and SEM were also hot topics, as search engines are driving more traffic than ever to asset manager websites. More than 1 in 3 attendees said that they had paid search strategies, where last year it was closer to 1 in 6 when we asked the same question. Digital teams are cognizant of their spend on search and are making very strategic decisions on where budget is being allocated – think new product launches and specific topics where a brand has a powerful expertise and the content to pay it off.

An Exciting Time

This is a challenging and exciting time for our industry, with disruption pushing marketers to think and operate differently – and to embrace the importance in what they do. They are taking on the challenge, with deeply personalized experiences, powered by detailed data and artificial intelligence on the horizon.

Mike Cogburn
Managing Consultant
Research, Analytics, and Consulting

categories: roundtable/events, cmo, marketing strategy, advisor engagement/client engagement

The views expressed in this publication are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of DST Systems, Inc. or its affiliates, subsidiaries, joint ventures, officers, directors, or management.

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