Andrew Scott, Managing Director at White Marble Marketing, discusses how marketing departments are reacting to the COVID-19 pandemic. He shares his thoughts on how firms can build their brands and leverage channels in these unprecedented times.  An insightful read that sees digital marketing being accelerated in an uncertain world.  

We saw a short-term pause in marketing campaigns as firms came to grips with the operational impact of moving a workforce to working from home – with all the ramifications that brings to technology, meetings and client interactions. Over the last couple of weeks, though, there has been increased marketing activity as businesses seemingly start to embrace the new normal and get back to marketing.

The brave will embrace the opportunity to try new approaches. These firms will take advantage of audiences that are open to trying new channels and tools, and also forgiving of teething problems as we become familiar with new channels. Emily Askham at AXA Investors shares this view, by referencing marketing week and claiming that the best marketers will be increasing – not cutting – their budgets.

Leveraging the power of digital

As firms appreciate a new environment where the only interface with clients and prospects is digital, there is an obvious focus on leveraging these channels through webinars, email, social and website content. The good news is that most business would already be familiar with the majority of these channels. This means that, as remote working takes a hold of the global workforce, investment managers can focus on delivery through these channels, providing a real opportunity for firms to deliver long overdue campaigns of content and engagement.

Many firms are making the shift to virtual delivery; Gabe Altbach, our head of North America, references a global multi-boutique manager as an example, who have moved their investor conference online. Everyone from portfolio managers and analysts to guest and keynote speakers delivered their insights on video. The same can be seen with T. Rowe Price, who cancelled their conferences in the US and instead instigated a weekly series of expert speakers (e.g. investment heads and portfolio managers) engaging with clients by video or webcast.

Renewed focus

Over the past few years, digital channels have had to fight hard to justify their role alongside their more traditional counterparts. COVID-19 has changed all that, with firms now realising that the digital channel needs to be as effective as possible to maintain communication and sales funnels.

This allows the industry to focus on concepts that may not be new, but are definitely front and centre these days, including:

  • Articulating your brand through your website and across your properties and channels - Consistency of brand messaging and the clear articulation of the benefits you bring are vital elements across all digital client touchpoints. Companies that act and respond well in these times, maintaining their focus on client needs and relationships, will be well rewarded. It is a time when the values that companies have been extolling internally and externally will really be tested.  Do they live by them? Does their behaviour right now embody these brand values? If their brand messaging is found to be inauthentic – a mere superficial exercise – this will be evident to their audience.
  • Delivering your brand experience through journeys that are user centric and rich in functionality
  • Focusing on engagement - In a world where attention is everything, clients and prospects will invest their attention on the firms that deliver online. Given the speed with which this has happened and its impact on the markets, many managers are pumping out reactive content almost for its own sake, without any real consideration of what value it is adding to advisers or clients. For content to engage clients, it needs the “so what” factor. Advisers and investors are inundated with content. However, those firms that can give them actionable insights and help advisers bring impactful suggestions to their client conversations, will see much better engagement.
  • Embracing tools that empower marketers and sales teams - Firms are recognising the need for measurement, analysis and benchmarking – knowing whether their activities are leading or trailing their peer groups. We have seen an upswing in the appetite for our Metrologis benchmarking service, which measures the effectiveness of digital marketing activities across firms’ websites, email, social, and search visibility.

Investment managers clearly also view this as an opportunity to upskill their marketers whilst working from home. Our Association of Investment Marketers has switched the delivery of learning and collaboration from face-to-face events to virtual programmes – and we have seen higher engagement rates during courses through these channels.

It is fantastic to see many businesses bravely adapting to doing business in a socially distant environment. This represents an opportunity for marketing teams to prove their value in helping investment managers engage with their audience – let’s hope more firms embrace the realities of our new world and leverage the power of digital.