A Clear Value Proposition Easier Said Than Done?

A poll of investment managers suggests “expertise,” “investment returns,” “thought leadership,” and “clearly articulated firm positioning” are each critical to a strong investment advisory brand.

A new survey report from BackBay Communications and Osney Buy-Side examines the investment management brand-building process from the inside out, finding a vast majority of marketing executives in the field are consistently focused on improving brand identity.

Nearly nine in 10 (89%) of respondents observed that “content marketing and thought leadership” are among the most effective means of communicating brand strength—along with personal meetings, and conference speaking. While service providers in the retirement space must take care not to run afoul of prohibited transactions under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), the report shows most money managers in the sample have plans to increase spending on some form of marketing—most often content marketing (78%).

Marketing managers see a primary goal of content marketing as “highlighting their competitive advantages.” According to the report, investment services providers see content marketing as one of the most effective ways to build and reinforce brand reputation—through a focus on unique tools or services the firm can bring to market, and by demonstrating investment expertise and market awareness to current and potential clients. All of these factors are key to sustainable sales success, the report notes.

Looking specifically at content marketing initiatives, among those polled, 92% identified “white papers” as the most effective medium, while 84% cited “market commentary” as their preferred content. Over half also cited webinars and video, while just over a quarter of those polled also incorporate blogs as part of their content strategy. In the year ahead, 79% anticipate producing more white papers and research. 

Bill Haynes, president & CEO of BackBay Communications, observes that firms in the investment services space continue to struggle with creating unique and distinct brand identities. Not only does differentiation depend on objective business factors like the strength of technology infrastructure and other value-adds—it depends on an ability to clearly communicate what it is that sets a firm apart from the competition.

As the researchers observe, end clients in the financial services space often cite difficulty in differentiating competing investment management brands—due in large part to things like similarity of language in marketing materials and elevator pitches.

“Building a strong, differentiated brand should be supported by solid research, shaped around a firm’s competitive strengths, and then carried forward through an integrated, content-driven marketing communications program that draws on an array of complementary communications tools,” Haynes prescribes. “These tools increasingly include traditional media relations as well as videos, mobile-friendly websites, social media, blogs, email marketing, webinars, events and bylined articles, which together can deliver greater consistency and efficiency of message dissemination than ever before, and provides a catalyst for client and prospect engagement.”

Concluding the report, researchers note investment management firms are still “not very active on social media, with only 8% of those polled saying they love it and use it regularly. Interestingly, nearly half, or 42%, have a social media presence but do not use it regularly.”