CONTENT DEVELOPMENT IN FOCUS: No Longer Just a ‘Nice to Have’ for Asset Managers

July 24, 2017

Proprietary research conducted by BackBay Communications quantifies that nearly 90% of the top 200 money managers produce and publish thought leadership regularly.

- Ken MacFadyen

It’s hard to describe content marketing as a new idea when it’s been around for literally hundreds of years. What has changed, at least among the world’s largest asset managers, is that the demand for content marketing is hitting critical mass against the backdrop of a hyper-competitive market in which firms are battling on multiple fronts (price, performance, strategy and style). For many firms, this dash to differentiate is creating a parallel race to develop content -- In the process, many corporate websites are becoming difficult to distinguish from the traditional trade publications.

95% of the top global asset managers now operate at least one social media channel

BlackRock’s homepage, for instance, currently features the firm’s mid-year investment report above the fold; includes weekly commentary offering the firm’s perspective on risk assets; offers a separate outlook on market volatility; and includes a profiled tweet linking to thought leadership on income-oriented investments. As visitors scroll down, they’ll find a featured chart exploring the economic effects of the student loan crisis. And then, sandwiched between these visuals and alternating executive-interview videos, are the more-conventional tools, such as links to retirement calculators and report generators. And this is only the homepage; each product category typically has its own rabbit hole to explore for content seekers.

BlackRock, of course, is not alone. As asset managers around the world have built out their own content-development capabilities, the demand from consultants, advisors and individual investors has only grown. It’s reached the point where content is no longer viewed as a “nice to have,” but is increasingly seen as compulsory to attract and maintain the attention of gatekeepers and investors. To quantify this, we studied content-development capabilities of the 200 largest asset managers, and a full 87% are producing either white papers, market commentary or videos on a regular basis. Moreover, more than two out of every five firms are generating new content weekly, a number that jumps to over half when the frequency is extended to a monthly basis.

BackBay Communications in the process of developing a white paper that delves deeper into the numbers, but even as we compiled the data some obvious trends jumped out. The rapid adoption around social media, for instance, was profound. Roughly 95% of the top global asset managers now operate at least one social media channel and more than four out of every five of the top 200 are active on three or more social channels. This makes sense amid the broader build out of content capabilities, as social networks provide ideal channels through which to distribute thought leadership.

Also, as it relates to the content itself, size does make a difference. This shouldn’t be surprising. Of the 50 largest asset managers, nearly 70% are producing content weekly and, on average, creating nearly four different types of content, be it white papers, market commentary, videos or something else. A number of firms produce podcasts and host live webinars, while others will leverage their data to create compelling infographics. In the bottom quartile, however, the number of firms maintaining a weekly pace falls to 40% and, on average, these firms are working across fewer mediums.

But size, for smaller asset managers, doesn’t have to be an inhibitor. The forthcoming white paper will highlight key best practices, particularly for those who don’t have a sales budget or editorial team to match the likes of BlackRock. That said, many of the most effective at content marketing are actually quite smaller. They’ve acclimated themselves to do more with less, so their content is tailored to meet their business objectives, often making it more timely and targeted to capture and convey their unique edge. Many smaller firms will also leverage thought leadership across multiple mediums in order to get the most out of their efforts. Even for boutiques that may only have the bandwidth to produce monthly or quarterly pieces, if there’s a regular cadence and the content is timely and topical, the output will more powerful than those merely churning it out without a strategy.

What many also fail to recognize is how content can support larger marketing and PR campaigns. Beyond providing targeted collateral for conferences or sales meetings, a thorough thought leadership strategy can also buttress public relations. The exercise of producing content, in and of itself, helps PR teams conceive relevant themes to pitch to the media, while also forcing spokespeople to refine their talking points to engage with the press in a way that conveys a simple and clean narrative. As part of fully leveraging the output, many also find success repurposing content for bylined articles published in third-party publications.

Based on the widespread adoption of content marketing across the 200 largest asset managers, expectations for thought leadership will surely trickle down to the rest of the market. It’s increasingly being viewed as critical to sophisticated investors who want to understand how an investment strategy will fit within their larger portfolio and can help investors contextualize performance and better understand how short-term results relate to longer-term expectations. The white paper will demonstrate how others are using thought leadership as part of an integrated marketing strategy and provide a roadmap that can serve as a starting point for those late to the game. To sign up to receive an advanced copy please click here.