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Monday, January 24, 2022

The Current State of Martech Stacks at Asset Managers
Guest Column by: Emilie Totten

At this point, who even remembers what business was like before COVID-19?

Emilie (McClughen) Totten
Synthesis Technology
Chief Marketing Officer
Two years have flown by, and many things have changed in the way asset managers market and sell their products.

Before the pandemic, many asset managers were still reluctant to make major investments in digital marketing and sales efforts. At a minimum, most firms used a CRM, website, email marketing platform, and some basic analytics. But when the world locked down, it was clear that these tools weren't going to be enough.

Dan Sondhelm
Sondhelm Partners
Firms pivoted quickly to hosting virtual meetings and events, automating the production and distribution of content, and figuring out better ways to measure the impact of their efforts.

What a difference two years makes.

Once COVID-19 emptied offices and grounded travel, many asset management firms had to take a crash course in digital marketing and distribution. Wholesalers had to master Zoom and other teleconferencing applications. Portfolio managers had to learn how to communicate via podcasts and videos. Marketing teams working at home had to find better ways to generate product and value-added content and get it in the hands of advisors, consultants, and investors faster.

Firms with appropriate resources and visions chose this time to shift money from their travel budgets to invest in a new generation of marketing and sales technologies. Firms that didn't have the budget or the will to modernize their Martech stack often found themselves being acquired at bargain prices by firms that did.

Our 2021 research study, Asset Management Martech Stack Insights and Trends (conducted by Synthesis Technology in partnership with Sondhelm Partners and the Growth Strategy Group), reveals that one of the reasons why asset managers have survived the pandemic is because they've understood the importance of keeping their marketing lights on during the crisis.

These same firms are reaping the benefits of marketing tools that make them more efficient and deliver touches that keep clients engaged and improve prospect conversion rates.

Operational efficiency is the top priority

According to our research, 94 percent of all asset managers use some kind of CRM system. This isn't a significant change from pre-pandemic levels. But what has changed is the increasing use of other Martech tools that enable firms to simplify the production, management, and distribution of content and track users' engagement with their digital communications campaigns.

When asked what's driving changes in the Martech stack over the next two years, asset managers reported using their Martech spend to increase operational efficiencies (82 percent), deliver better and more relevant experiences for prospects and existing clients (76 percent) and generate better business insights (64 percent).

And, given that the adoption of many of these technologies is a relatively recent phenomenon, only six percent reported that there was a high level of redundancy in their Martech stack, and only 29 percent said that reducing overlapping functionality was a key priority.

Among asset managers, the core of their Martech stacks revolves around creating, updating and deploying content.

According to our research, 70 percent of respondents now use a document management tool, 52 percent use a website content management platform, and 46 percent use a content automation application that can draw on various data sources to instantly create pitchbook pages and fact sheets and update product performance pages on their web sites.

Marketing automation is gradually replacing email blasting

Before COVID, most asset managers relied mainly on email hosts like Constant Contact and Mailchimp to blast email messages to clients and prospects.

But these applications' limited ability to provide meaningful insights about recipientsí interactions beyond opens and clicks has motivated 70 percent of asset managers to add marketing automation platforms like HubSpot and Pardot to their Martech stacks.

Boutique firms are trailing behind larger firms in terms of Martech spend

While it's encouraging to see that asset managers in general are investing more on marketing technology, it's important to point out that larger firms are adopting key distribution-focused applications, such as marketing automation and sales enablement, more readily than boutique firms are.

In the past, boutique asset managers might have gotten away with having limited digital marketing capabilities. But with the pandemic elevating the importance of delivering relevant, high-quality virtual touches and content to investors and intermediaries working remotely, smaller, lesser-known firms that want to raise their profile and increase AUM will need to devote more resources and budget toward modernizing their Martech stack.

Many Martech stacks don't stack up

It's encouraging to learn so many of these firms have been investing in marketing technologies since the pandemic started. However, our interviews with marketing and sales executives reveals that among many firms their Martech stacks are more akin to a Swiss Army knife of standalone tools rather than a Microsoft Office-style suite of integrated applications. And many firms are barely scratching the surface of these tools' full potential.

To maximize ROI from their past Martech spend and justify future investments, we've identified a number of critical issues that many asset managers will need to address.

Fully exploiting their business intelligence gathering potential

One of the biggest benefits of using today's Martech applications is that they can help identify which kinds of value-added content a particular channel, market segment, or even individual clients and prospects are interested in based on past engagements with email, social media posts, and web site visits. Understanding these preferences is critical since every relevant contact helps to move a prospect through the sales pipeline or deepens existing relationships.

Yet, many firms aren't doing a great job of gathering this digital intelligence. For example, some of the asset managers we surveyed who are now using a marketing automation tool admit that they're mainly using it as a blast email platform. They aren't fully taking advantage of its ability to track and analyze individual users' engagements with their email and social media campaigns and other digital touches.

Streamlining the content production and distribution process

Likewise, while it's encouraging that nearly half of respondents are using content automation to quickly generate pages for pitchbooks, fact sheets, and other marketing and client communication content, only 29 percent are leveraging the full potential of content automation by investing in a sales enablement application.

These tools enable wholesalers and marketing professional to instantly draw pre-populated content from their content automation platform to generate highly customized, client-ready, digital pitchbooks and sales collateral in minutes.

Many of these tools also enable wholesalers to create branded microsites with their photos and contact information and client-specific links to customized marketing materials. Some also can track how clients and prospects engage with these materials down to knowing which specific fact sheets or pages within a pitchbook they're reading.

Easing compliance bottlenecks

While today's new generation of content automation and sales enablement tools can greatly accelerate the creation and updating of critical client-ready content, speed-to-market may be slowed by outdated and inefficient compliance review workflows. For example, our research indicated that seven percent of firms that use content automation have integrated their platform with their compliance review system, although 60 percent of respondents admitted that there should be better integration between these systems.

Removing Martech silos

Investing in a variety of marketing applications doesn't add up to a true Martech stack if each tool and its analytics are used in isolation. While inefficiency and errors can occur when applications don' t talk to each other or have integrated workflows, our interviews with marketing executives have found that more critical issues occur when only one or two people use a particular tool solely to carry out their specific responsibilities.

Operations specialists manually create and upload performance data instead of drawing it from a centralized database. Inbound and outbound marketers send out emails or social media posts from a marketing automation platform without reporting results to the sales team or importing engagement data into the firm's CRM system. Production personnel use content automation systems to update the firm's library of prepopulated pitchbook and fact sheet templates and then manually notify and make them available to wholesalers.

How can firms move away from this siloed approach? Many firms are changing their mentality to that of a RevOps model, which looks across sales, marketing, and client servicing teams to optimize the entire buyer journey. For instance, by transforming the way data is aggregated from various sources and distributed across various applications that use it or by creating integrated connections and workflows that ensure that various Martech applications talk with each other, that data is centralized to give a single view of the buyer journey.

Firms will also need to prioritize internal training to make sure that every member of the firm's marketing and sales teams understands the purpose of every tool in the stack and their role in making sure that it's fulfilling its potential.

Investing in Martech expertise

As the feature sets and sophistication of Martech stacks increase, many asset managers are finding that their marketing and business development teams lack the technical expertise to exploit more than a small percentage of their tools' capabilities or analyze the flood of engagement data produced by these applications.

With thousands of marketing applications currently available, and hundreds more likely to be released in the coming years, many asset managers will need to add talent to their marketing teams to help evaluate these tools, make the most of their functionality, and fully integrate them into their Martech stacks.

These are costly hires that may require firms to make painful decisions about restructuring their marketing teams. Traditional creative and production roles may need to be eliminated or outsourced to accommodate the six-figure salary requirements of these hard-to-find technology specialists.

Ironically, this task may be easier for boutique asset managers who don't have robust digital marketing capabilities. Many of these firms have minimal in-house marketing headcount and therefore may have greater budgetary flexibility to build a more diversified team of tech-savvy creative, production, and technology specialists to work together to develop a fully integrated Martech stack.

Those asset managers that can't solve their Martech issues on their own may soon be getting help from the industry itself. Through ongoing mergers and strategic partnerships, we should be seeing many Martech firms moving away from offering standalone apps to become one-stop shops for comprehensive suites of fully integrated applications and consulting services that will enable asset managers to build a better Martech stack without having to break the bank.

Emilie Totten is the chief marketing officer for Synthesis Technology, a†data and content automation provider to the investment management industry. Emilie brings more than 15 years of integrated sales and marketing experience working with financial services, SaaS, and health and wellness companies. She focuses on architecting holistic market strategies that align with each business function to achieve client experience, employee advocacy, and revenue goals.

Dan Sondhelm, the CEO of Sondhelm Partners, co-authored this article with Totten. Sondhelm Partners helps institutional asset managers, mutual fund and ETF firms, alternative investment managers, wealth managers, and fintech firms attract investors and build brands through marketing, public relations, and sales strategies. With more than 25 years of financial services marketing experience, Dan has helped boutique firms develop growth programs and has helped larger firms support and energize their sales teams.

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