Study: Good marketing goes a long way

By Mark Noble | December 23, 2009 | Last updated on December 23, 2009
4 min read

Being proactive in client communication was a winning strategy during the recent financial crisis, a U.S. study finds — not just for the advisors but also for the asset managers that serve them.

Boston-based Financial Research Corporation recently completed a survey of approximately 1300 U.S. financial advisors and 130 U.S. branch managers as part of it’s ongoing ADVISOR INSIGHT series. The survey found asset managers that reduced cuts to their wholesaler and marketing services went a long way in achieving brand loyalty from their advisor clients.

“Asset managers significantly cut their [advisor support] resources internally. We started to hear this question, Where has my asset manager gone? That was a fairly compelling quote that came out of the some of the qualitative responses.” says Christopher Yeomans, a research analyst at FRC and co-author of the study. “We evaluated what advisors found to be the most important attributes of “leading marketers” and found that the most important elements were the quality and relevance of marketing materials (25%), followed by simplicity (20%), and frequency of contact (12%).”

Yeomans points out that there was a direct correlation between the firms that had stronger sales inflows and those that advisors in the survey identified as effective marketers.

“We didn’t get into that depth of analysis but certainly if you look at the list of the top ten firms, a number of them did see very strong inflows. We do have net flows in the study for the top firms. There is some overlap between the top leading marketers and the firms that saw the most inflows,” Yeomans told

Some of the top ten firms have a Canadian presence, including Franklin Templeton Investments (ranked 2), Fidelity (ranked 3), iShares (ranked 4) and The Hartford (ranked 8).

Yeomans says the top firms tended to orchestrate a “pro-active” marketing strategy where their client communication teams and wholesalers were addressing pressing issues as they were happening. If necessary these firms would do a lot of face-to-face meeting with advisors and were accessible to help advisors with their end-client support.

“For advisors, their asset allocation models were not necessarily behaving as they expected. Advisors were very much looking for support from their asset management firms. Those that did step up to provide assistance fared well in our results,” Yeomans says. “The most successful firms use a number of different mediums to contact their advisors. The most effective is face-to-face contact through a wholesaler or a conversation with a wholesaler and that continues to be a case. We also find that advisors want regular contact through email or through regular phone conversations, just so that they know the wholesaler or firm will support them if they need it.”

Some of the largest asset managers were amongst the most effective marketers. The study’s other co-author, Amy Strong, singled out Fidelity as doing an exceptional job of personalizing advisor relations.

“Fidelity, although they still rank as the most well known firm by advisors, they have not taken this for granted. They continue to provide strong support directly to clients including the Fidelity Advisor side of the business. They also call advisors who place business with the firm regularly and generate client-friendly (and approved) marketing pieces which the majority of advisors noted as the number one feature firms should add to their advisor-oriented web sites going forward,” Strong says.

As for specific content, advisors have a preference for articles or communications that highlight the effectiveness of long-term investing. Advisors also appreciated firms that were transparent about their underlying investment holdings, Yeomans says.

“Any information on providing transparency on what type of exposure a certain firm had, such as positions in Lehman Brothers or Fannie and Freddie Mac, were appreciated. Quite often firms were being proactive in these types of disclosure and that was certainly welcomed by advisors as well,” Yeomans says. “We saw a number of Chief Investment Officers communicating more frequently than the standard economic outlook they might do. Some firms almost came out with something on a weekly basis concerning the strategies the manager was taking to address the current environment. I think that was certainly something that advisors were looking for and some firms delivered on that.”

Strong points out that a leveling effect tends to occur in asset manager marketing. Differentiation can be short-lived.

“While firms do look to differentiate themselves in terms of business strategy, reputation, and other criteria, for the most part, successful firms have adopted a relatively similar marketing strategy,” Strong says. “This may be in large part due to the fact that firms have tried many different marketing strategies and it is also in part because firms are quick to adopt the successful strategies of their peers.”


Mark Noble