Big brands vs granular communications: Schroders' Scott McKay

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Scott McKay, Head of UK Marketing at Schroders

Kurtosys spoke to Schroders’ head of UK marketing Scott McKay about how integrity, focus and mutual respect are factors in achieving success, the complementary roles of big brand work through to the most granular communications and offers some smart advice for marketers without the deepest of pockets.

We’re forever talking about evolution, and the use of data and new technologies when it comes to today’s marketing techniques, but what has remained constant, in the time you’ve been in the industry?

The importance of focusing on the client need and being relentless that you are really speaking to the person that is actually going to buy the product you are promoting.
By really having a deep understanding of that person, that profile, that client segment, what it is they are struggling with and how your product can assist and help, is something that’s never, ever going to change.

And then in terms of what’s changing, is it just about the fanciest new tech?

We are obviously going digital. There is still a need for billboard advertising but very few of us are doing that and when we do, it’s to fill a very specific need. Whereas digital technology today has enabled us to really target and learn in a way that we haven’t been able to before; we’re now much more able to get just the right message in front of just the right eyeballs at just the right time.
So we can use digital to be almost very laser-focused in our communications when we need it, and then use things like billboard advertising to disseminate a broad message for a lot of people.

The big brand job versus the specifics?

Absolutely. I think that there is a place for advertising, and when you have one message for thousands, or even millions, of people it has to be quite high level. New technology, on the other hand, enables you to get really granular. You can be very specific; delivering a message to a few hundred people, or even a few dozen people if those are the right dozen people to move your business.

Do you think enough people are actually using their data well, actually answering those specific needs rather than just pushing out product?

I definitely see a lot of product advertising but I think the asset management industry as a whole is becoming much more focused on solutions and education. We are becoming closer to our clients and prospects because of new technologies, because we have greater understanding and greater learnings about them.

We have more information than we ever have, which will hopefully help us develop things that will resonate, and what resonates is usually something that make somebody’s life easier.

And do you find different things resonate with different types of clients?

For the most part they all ask the same question: how do you make my life easier? I think that’s a universal truth when it comes to marketing.
We’re in a market where it’s difficult to find returns and to protect your money and people are looking for solutions that enable them to hit both of those objectives.
I also think breadth and depth of offering is really important, particularly when it comes to intermediaries. They have such a broad range of clients so need to be able to give them a number of different solutions – it’s not one-size-fits-all. You need to have enough product to be able to help them, whether they’ve got a client they’re just starting working with who’s got £20,000 to invest up to somebody who’s got over £1 million to invest. Being able to really speak to those needs can be really quite powerful.

There is something of a perceived ‘battle’ that can sometimes take place between sales and marketing functions at asset management groups. What’s the key to that relationship working well?

Respect, first and foremost. And respect at all levels, from the heads of department down at every layer of both departments. But I’ve always believed that marketing is a sales function.

You have to be able to think in those terms; we’re not just putting up pretty pictures, which is a classic criticism of marketing. We are forming conversations, gathering intel, having different conversations with clients and prospects to those the sales people are having.

At Schroders I think both understand that we are two sides of the same coin, and by presenting a unified front – understanding what the function is of a sales person, what the function is of a marketing person and how those two groups work together to actually achieve a goal, which is probably to drive a unified message, that’s really important.
Finally, marketers have to really understand their product and their audience, otherwise very few will have any kind of credibility with the sales process.

Does one drive the other?

Sales and marketing drive sales, it really is a joint effort. We are constantly having conversations around where we think the opportunities are, where are the products we can sell, where is the need?
We’re analysing a lot of research together to come up with a strategy, because if it can’t work for marketing then that’s quite a difficult task.  If the product is so complex that we really can’t articulate it, that’s a bit of a dead end. But conversely if we are marketing something that the sales guys just can’t sell, or they are at capacity, then that doesn’t work.

What’s your starting point? When you have a new idea or want to do something quite innovative, what’s the process for making sure it’s going to fly before you waste time and money on it?

I think understanding the culture of where you work is critical. Do you work in an environment and a culture that is frightened of taking a punt? Or is that desire for risk-taking built into the culture?
But then it’s about doing your research and analysis, so when you think there’s an opportunity you can say, ‘here’s how we should go about tackling that opportunity, because of this, this and this’. You have to really build up your argument and be clear that it’s a new idea; it’s a risk, but a calculated risk.
Then if you have a culture where people are innovative and are open, then give it a go. You can’t be afraid to fail. But you have to make sure that you’ve done your analysis so that the risk of fail is relatively small.

And getting the right people, such as compliance, involved at the right time must be essential?

Bring those key stakeholders along with you, get your ducks in a row early so you can get the support behind it, especially when it’s something new.
It’s also important to really think about timing; is the environment supportive, do you have the budget? Sometimes a good idea doesn’t necessarily have to be implemented right away. If you can have a good idea and keep it in your back pocket until the timing is right.

What about content? We’re seeing more and more asset managers hiring journalists and such. Where does it sit in the overall mix?

Content is another arrow in our quiver. It allows you to have a conversation with the marketplace in a way that an ad doesn’t give you enough time to do.
When you’re trying to inform an opinion or to generate some interest, content can help because it affords you the time to actually to make some statements and to have some opinions.
So what differentiates one company from another? How did they achieve that performance? You can delve deeper.
Also, if you don’t have the benefit of sales people or are doing your research at 10pm at night, content can really speak to a client when a sales person can’t.

And what advice would you give to someone who doesn’t have the budgets of a group the size of Schroders, in terms of priority?

You have to think very clearly about the objective. Who am I trying to talk to and what am I trying to talk to them about?
And once you identify that it becomes easier; you can develop a content calendar around the topic using targeted native content and social media, those are relatively inexpensive ways of getting your content in front of the eyeballs that you want to see it.
It’s all about focus.

What is one campaign or idea you’re particularly proud of?

MoneyLens is something new we launched last summer. It’s a site written by millennials for millennials about investing and money matters. It’s not about selling, so we don’t have it branded Schroders, it’s purely about education.
We’re trying to build the next generation of investors and demystify and lot of investing for younger people.

Finally, what’s the one thing in the industry you think needs a complete overhaul?

We tend to look at each other for ideas and very rarely look outside of the industry. There’s some incredible marketing going on outside of this industry that we should look into and learn from.

sam shaw

sam shaw