What do board members want from their marketing teams? It’s perhaps not surprising that there can sometimes be a disconnect between investment trust boards and the marketing teams employed by asset managers.
After all, asset managers are incentivised to gather assets: bigger trusts mean bigger pay cheques. Boards, on the other hand, are simply there to protect the best interests of existing shareholders, which may not mean bigger is necessarily better.
So, views on whether marketing a trust is a good idea, or not, may also differ. However, it’s my experience that most investment trusts are in it for the long haul and given the onslaught of marketing from OEICs, ETFs and alternatives like Cryptos some level of awareness raising is a good idea if we want to be around in another 100 years. Subscale, expensive and illiquid trusts are in no one’s interest.
So what do board members really want from investment trust marketers?
Here’s my top three:
1. The right kind of accountability
The bottom line is that, unless you run one of the few remaining ‘Savings Schemes’, proving that £1 spent on marketing provided £1.50’s worth of value is pretty much impossible as share purchases happen invisibly on investment platforms.
Even if you do run a scheme, measuring value is tricky – for every buyer there must be a seller unless you’re tapping out shares, but even if you are, you can’t connect a given marketing activity with a given purchase. Even if you could, the financial value would only be accruing to the fund manager in terms of increased fee revenue.
So what’s the point? Well, I would contend that given the ultra-competitive world in which we live, where our competition is not just the other trusts in our sector, but almost any other investment vehicle going, having some eyeballs on your investment proposition has got to be better than not.
So, when your marketing team can’t connect the dots between that webinar and that retail investor’s share purchase, worry not. Just worry that the webinar itself was a quality piece of content, that went in front of the right audience, who were of the right scale and that the whole thing was done for a reasonable ‘cost per watch’.
‘Build it and they will come’ does not apply; we have to get out there and tell our story. But holding marketers’ feet to the fire for not being able to say with 100% certainty what drove each individual purchase of shares is a fool’s errand. Much better to hold them accountable for the activities they chose, the audiences they engaged with, and relative costs of doing so.
2. Never use a big word when a diminutive alternative would suffice
Marketers, much like fund managers actually, love a bit of long-winded jargon.
“Let’s discuss our bought, earned, owned media optimisation, engagement and empowerment strategy?”
Let’s not. Let’s talk in plain English, using words that everyone can understand, about what marketing you’ve been doing, how successful it was, and what you plan to do in the future. Period.
As a former marketer I know just how hard this can be, so I speak with experience of being at 300+ board meetings and more than once being asked to communicate ‘just a little bit clearer’.
Playing it safe is probably the safe thing to do most of the time. If last year you did nothing else but take out page ads in The Telegraph and people flocked to your website and then also flocked to Hargreaves Lansdown, then not doing some more of that would probably be a bad idea.
But playing it safe all the time is definitely the wrong thing to do. Dusting off last year’s media plan and just adding a new date to it is lazy and worse than that it’s a dereliction of duty. Marketers need to be in touch not only with what is happening in the niche world of investment trusts, but also what’s happening out there in the big wide world of popular culture.
Sometimes you have to take a chance, go out on a limb, and try something new. It might not work. In fact, there’s a good chance it won’t work, especially if it’s something brand new that no one has ever done before.
But having ambition for a part of your marketing budget is a good thing. Say 10-20% depending on how conservative the firm or the board are. Use that to test out new media you’ve not used before. Use it to do something bold that takes a risk. Use it to challenge the status quo.
It might not succeed, but so what? No one died in the process. You took a chance and you learned something. But it might just be the next best thing sliced bread and investors might love it. So will your board.
For help in developing your own investment marketing strategy get in touch with us here at Hub to arrange a call As a leading force in the creative marketing agency world, allow us to help tansform and develop your business.
Author, Simon Longfellow, is an expert in investment marketing with over 25 years of experience working within the financial services industry. He is the Independent Director of Electric & General Investment Fund, and a non-executive Director of Columbia Threadneedle Global Managed Portfolio Trust – an investment trust investing in other investment trusts to provide shareholders with either growth or a regular income.