Marketing Directors – Are you making responsible technology choices?

We’ve shared many posts on the Kurtosys blog about how marketing has changed within the asset management industry.  Whether we’re writing about Digital Darwinism, suggesting the 5 things that Marketing Directors of Asset Management firms need to focus on for 2013 or simply sharing investor preferences as revealed by Kurtosys research, we like to think we’ve got something to say about the changing role of Marketing Directors within asset management.

After all, we spend much of our time talking to Marketing Directors and providing them with technology to help them address key needs within their organizations, especially when it comes to document automation and leveraging digital tools.

It’s been an interesting journey to watch, and the evolution of the Marketing Director continues to unfold along some central themes:

  1. Management of “digital” channels
  2. Client retention and cross selling
  3. Nurturing existing clients
  4. New distribution channels
  5. Marketing within regulatory frameworks
  6. Using emerging technologies to grow and retain AUM.

I guess all of these themes are pretty close to the top of most Marketing Directors’ minds but it’s that last point, about emerging technology that often occupies my thoughts.

You see, I think Marketing Directors need to seriously rethink how they interact with technology providers.  I think it’s time to take proper responsibility for making decisions about which technology partners to choose and how to work with those firms on an ongoing basis.

Before you wonder why I seem to be on my high horse, here’s an (arbitrary & imagined) example to set the scene:

A Marketing Director wants to modernize their online fund tools and perhaps make them available via a branded mobile app.
So, what do they do?
Typically, they turn to Google and pick out a few names.
Then they pick up the phone to call a few friends in the industry.   After all, it’s good to catch up and “share” ideas… just so long as no trade secrets get revealed – after all, every single asset manager has its own “special” marketing strategy.
Once they’ve selected a few contenders, they invite some in to give demonstrations.
They gather some colleagues and make a shortlist.  95% of the time, the Marketing Director has already made his or her choice… but they won’t tell you – or us – that.
Next comes the second, third… and probably fourth round of meetings and then finally, if luck is behind you, a decision is made.
So, what next?  Well, it’s time to make that dreaded call it IT / Operations to let them in on the plan.  Of course, the “final decision” hasn’t been made without utilizing all that internal expertise!  The Marketing Director asks for some help to upgrade the firm’s digital tools for a new project and then the “project” begins.
A year later, not much has changed.  Plenty of meetings have happened, but progress is slow and a launch date remains far off on the horizon.
OK, by now you’ve probably written me off as a hopeless cynic, but don’t you recognize at least some of this from within your own business?
A modern, progressive Marketing Director needs to move beyond frustration and cynicism and learn from it.  Here are five things that will help you make better technology decisions.

The decision

First things first, remember that selecting a technology solution really is your decision, it’s your head on the block… but you will fail monumentally unless you bring your IT and Ops people onboard.  Tap them for advice before you tap into Google, after all, they’re know your business and they know the market.  Trust their knowledge and recommendations above that which a search engine throws out.

The brief

Create a one page – that’s one, not 50 pages – brief.  Don’t produce a RFP, or even a RFI.  One page works to get, umm… everyone on the same page.  Take the lead and write this from the perspective of the end goals your want your marketing campaigns to achieve.  Yes, IT and Ops need a section.  Data, Security and Hosting Approach all need to feature too, but these need short sentences rather than essays.


Now it’s time to let rip on Google.  Pick up the phone.  Do some research.  Think really hard about who to send your brief to.  Don’t waste time sending it to firms who won’t qualify or clearly aren’t suitable.  If you want internal hosting, don’t send it to a cloud vendor… and if you can’t tell the difference from the vendors’ websites, steer clear completely.

Invitations to demo

Invite no more than five firms.  If that’s a struggle, go back and repeat stage four until you have better insight to work with.  Realistically, you can find out everything you need to know about a vendor, the management, their clients and their reputation after a few hours of desk research.

Fact finding

Set up a 30 minute Webex to understand their mission, their product and their strengths and weaknesses.

And then…

Then it comes down to your organization’s velocity, internal procedures and how much impetus and priority you can inject into the project.

There’s nothing wrong with a RFP if that’s what protocol requires.  I’m not asking anyone to circumvent procedures, but fundamentally, whatever you do needs to be about finding good technology partners with whom you share a mutual understanding and a mutual enthusiasm to get things done.

Stay tuned, we’ll follow up soon with some “warning signs” to watch out for when choosing technology partners.