Thoughts from Our Recent Webinar on Investment Data Automation

On May 14, I sat down with my colleague, Emilie Totten at Synthesis Technologies to discuss data marketing automation. It was a peppy 30-minute overview of many of the important issues we’ve been covering on this blog for the past 18 months.

That said, when you bring an informed, highly successful pro into any conversation, you’re likely to learn something new, or at least think about an issue from a different perspective.

Here are three takeaways from our discussion that were impactful to my thinking about investment data marketing distribution and automation.

1) Today, there are more than 8,000 marketing technology providers.

What really hits home about that statistic is the context: there has been a 5,000%+ increase in providers over the past 10 years (and we all thought investment management was growing ever-more competitive…).

I think there are two important things here that bear mentioning. First, it really hits home the importance of conducting adequate due diligence on the part of the investment manager. Anytime one sees explosive growth in such a relatively short period of time, what’s likely is that there are lots of companies slopping around out there looking to be acquired.

Often, these aren’t solutions providers – they are entrepreneurs looking to sign contracts and partnerships and then cash out to a larger player. In other words, these are not partners for the long term.

2) "It's hard to be strategic when you're buried in tactical execution."

This was a quote form one of Emilie’s clients. But I’d go even one further and say, “It’s hard to be a marketer when it feels like you’re unable to focus squarely on marketing.” For larger firms, this might not necessarily resonate, but small- to mid-size firms, I’d imagine it does.

For example, there’s always been a rickety wall dividing sales and marketing in the investment management industry - it’s why so many firms have a Director of Sales and Marketing/Business Development. It’s expensive to maintain two separate divisions, so many firms merge the two in the belief that their similarities justify a bundling of the responsibilities under one executive.

Unfortunately, as our CEO is fond of saying, “If your salespeople are marketing, then they aren’t selling. And if your marketing people are selling, then they aren’t marketing.”

And when folks on these teams are also involved with manual data management & distribution (i.e.: cutting and pasting datapoints into the databases, updating pitch books and fact sheets, etc.), as well as elements of operations, and/or compliance, it makes this essential focus even more difficult.

Then on top of everything else, even if a firm has crafted a strategy that is carefully-considered and highly detailed, it can be tough to find the time to execute it successfully. This is especially true for content creation, social media marketing, and other aspects of digital marketing, as these are “soft,” long-term efforts designed to build brand awareness over quarters and years, and are always prone to being subordinated to whatever “crisis” is ruling that particular day or week.

3) 95% of asset managers automate some part of their content strategy, but only 25% are satisfied with the data management systems fueling that content, with 43% who think that manually managing data is an impediment to maintaining consistency.

What this tells me is that the concept of automation has been fully embraced by the industry, but too many firms are using cookie-cutter, out-of-the-box solutions that are not designed for the specific nuances of the investment management industry.

For example, there are more than a few RFP automation software solutions on the market, but few have products tailored specifically to the investment management industry. Often, the software is generic enough to be used across dozens of industries, and that’s by design. These are software firms more interested in gaining market share in “RPF Automation” rather than creating specific solutions for specific customers in specific industries.

In the end...

To quote our CEO again, “If we were free, everyone would use us.” In other words, a targeted, well-designed solution that solves problems and enables managers to run their businesses more efficiently is a no-brainer.

Deep down, most managers would gladly invest in technology and services that legitimately help them run a more professional enterprise. But when managers spend tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars on software and support that ultimately does not solve problems, create efficiencies, or just make their lives easier, it’s deflating.

That’s why we’ve written in that past about vendor selection and why it is so important.

Like so much in business (and in life), it comes down to costs at the end of the day. But effective due diligence and a dedicated effort to identify the solutions that will most appropriately help is well-worth the effort.