It’s time to revamp your digital marketing

Asset managers are looking to grow distribution, but many of the old ways of reaching new markets aren’t working anymore, or simply don’t generate sufficient return on investment.

Growing third-party distribution is the No. 1 objective for asset managers currently, with a recent Cerulli survey reporting that more than four in five firms (85%) place top priority on expanding their reach, particularly in the independent and hybrid RIA market. Fund managers aren’t limiting their efforts to RIAs, however. They’re seeking growth across channels from public funds, endowments and foundations to family offices.

They are missing the biggest opportunity — selling direct to high-net-worth individuals — and advisors may be missing out as well using the same techniques to grow their practices.

This process includes the people most aggressively targeted by advisors: accredited and mass affluent investors. It has only recently become possible to target these categories effectively because of advances in technology, data science and data analytics.

Yet as asset managers furiously pursue distribution, the tools for finding and communicating with potential investors are changing. Third-party ad tags known as “cookies,” the essential element in gathering information necessary for targeted online advertising, are on their way out. Google will stop supporting them by the end of 2023, while Safari and Firefox already block them by default. Similar restrictions are in the works for mobile platforms. Already firms are finding it harder to target their ads effectively — and this will likely intensify over time. 

After all, it’s about getting your ads in front of the right people.

How can both fund managers and wealth managers expand investor acquisition through digital marketing without access to data from cookies? The keys are highly focused data, targeted media and streamlined compliance, which are all well within reach with today’s technology.

Astute data-driven firms are building proprietary databases. My firm started the process immediately once we saw the impact that new privacy laws would likely have on the soon-to-be “old” digital advertising. Millions of accredited and near-accredited individuals are sorted into targeted lists by behavioral categories, including C-suite executives at small and midsize companies, Ph.D. holders, MBAs, doctors, dentists, attorneys and accountants, and some with really intriguing attributes. including recent retirees.

These data have been tested side-by-side against cookie-driven data in campaigns for real estate, yield products and raising capital for emerging growth companies. We’ve learned that different categories may participate across mundane and innovative investment strategies — and that first-party data always outperform cookie-based data.

Finding the right audience is only the beginning. It’s not enough to direct people to a website; you need to deliver relevant content via a broad array of mechanisms, measure engagement and customize your information to individual customers’ levels of interest. Throwing up a fact sheet and historic performance, plus a few videos, is not an optimal way to cultivate investors, whether they’re professional or individual.

Wealth managers and asset management firms also have an opportunity to collaborate. This can work particularly well for fee-based advisors whose product selections aren’t influenced by transactions. This is an emerging trend that we see intensifying in the U.S. market. It’s already launching in other jurisdictions, such as Canada.

Firms seeking to acquire new investors need to understand they can do so customized to specific segments, including individuals, wealth managers, single family offices, endowments and foundations, public funds and more.

All three major market segments — institutional, advisor and retail — have distinct compliance requirements. Technology tools can ensure each audience sees only materials that meet compliance standards for their segment.

Since internet privacy laws began eroding the value of conventional ad tags, savvy firms have formed new departments to uncover the next generation of targeting. So far, it has worked for all types of investment vehicles, including funds, exchange-traded funds and private REITs.

Now it’s time for financial advisors to join the party. Part of the challenge is size and focus. Asset managers tend to have deeper resources and dedicated marketing people. Some advisors may have the resources and expertise to sell directly on their own. For others, new partnerships with asset managers may be the answer. Regardless, the distribution landscape is changing rapidly and to stay ahead, advisors and asset managers will be forced to innovate. 

Andrew Corn heads E5A Integrated Marketing, a systematic, data-driven investor acquisition agency, and is a former CIO and ETF designer.

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