EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW & INSIGHTS
What’s the secret to creating the complete customer journey? That is the question Alexander Cavalieri – Head of Marketing at CION Investments – will be covering at next month’s TSAM Boston event. Leading up to the event, we got to the heart of how it pays to be provocative in your marketing efforts.
Find out why financial firms should be spending less time planning and more time executing, with rich and relevant content designed to captivate a target audience.
Provocation vs. Alienation
How do you create a provocative campaign without alienating your audience, as some firms try something that is far from their comfort zone? “From an audience perspective, you really need to understand the audience you’re targeting before you build any campaign. This includes what they care about and what their tendencies are. Whether you’re building a campaign based on personas or you’re just looking at pure user data and building cohorts of users – it’s essential to understand who you want to go after with the campaign and create different messages for different audiences,” Alexander explains. “When it comes to targeting without alienating, you shouldn’t be concerned with that type of approach because the targeting mechanisms via social and via search – as well as via email these days – are so robust that you don’t necessarily need to spray and pray, hoping your messages are going to impact your sub-set.”
The Head of Marketing expands on how marketers need to focus on their users to tailor marketing messages, which includes specific sub-sets of their audience. “You can really target specific audiences, users, and individuals that you think will be the most receptive to your message. We can easily put parameters around those users via Facebook and LinkedIn. It’s extremely powerful stuff!” Alexander states, “That helps prevent alienation because you could be showing your message to a group of financial advisers in NYC, when a group of financial advisers in Chicago would need a completely different message. With the capabilities that you have, you can understand which messages will really resonate with your users. From this, you can develop your messages. Regarding provocative messages to your audience – you shouldn’t be so married to a post or campaign, as people have a short-term memory nowadays. So, if you see something didn’t work , you can pivot from that.”
If a campaign is intended to be provocative, is the main goal to get an extreme reaction, regardless of whether this reaction is positive or negative? “I think you want a reaction, whether or not it is viewed positively or negatively. I think the worst reaction to a marketing campaign is a neutral one. That just means the audience isn’t paying attention,” Alexander suggests. “For example, with the Nike campaign, all of the conversation and feedback helped them because more and more people were talking about it. I think you want signals that help change and adapt moving forward,. Any negative reaction may be from a user base that you don’t want to attract anyway. Nevertheless, if they’re not your target audience but they’re talking about it – it helps!”
In comparison to yielding the right reaction from the right user base, marketing campaigns should be establishing a strong emotional reaction, whether the subject matter is provocative in a controversial sense. “We’re in world that has an abundance of technology and features, which means feature-based marketing and product-based marketing will be a lot harder to continue. This is because emotional-based marketing is so well received,” Alexander clarifies. “Whether this is emotional marketing or leveraging data to drive home the message, I think those are the two biggest aspects of a successful marketing campaign. There are instances where you can still talk about features, but I don’t think they alone hold enough weight. Firstly, people respond more emotionally to things, and secondly, a lot of products carry the same features now. When you look at specific industry sectors, like the financial space, there are some products that have features far better than others. Whereas, in the tech and retail space, there is more of an emotional connection because people respond to that product so much more.”
Video Without Pause
Video marketing is becoming more popular as an effective way to reach audiences. Yet some firms are falling behind their competitors when it comes to picking up the media tools. “Video is interesting because we’re at a place where video is so prominent and it takes a lot less resources to produce a video than it did in the past. Also, people accept lower quality video because lower quality video is actually better quality. Today, you’re able to produce videos cheaper and faster, which has become the norm,” Alexander poses. “At CION Investments, we’re going to be rolling out a video series. I don’t want to say it’s “high production”, but it’s more of a discussion where we’re just talking about different topics with people inside and outside the industry. I think this will really stick, as overly-produced videos can appear inauthentic. For companies that are lagging, I think there’s a fear because they don’t know what it takes to produce a video or what they want to talk about in them. You need consistency with video production. Companies need to know what they’re talking about and map out the next 10 to 15 topics over the course of the next couple of months. That way they can maintain a steady stream of content.”
Video marking is also a great way to promote brand awareness and for firms in the finance industry to negate any mistrust associated with the sector, especially in light of the latest regulations. “Yes, I think firms like us see video as a way forward. To me, it’s less about the format of the content you’re rolling out. You can write an article, build a video, or launch a podcast. From a financial perspective, it’s a matter of firms needing to develop and distribute more content,” Alexander declares. “I think that is an area in which firms are lagging. If your clients resonate more with the written word versus video or audio, you should really be developing your content with that in mind. Our clients like to read, so we develop a lot of written, educational articles – but we are still rolling out videos! You’ve got to anticipate where your client is looking to go too.”
There are other challenges that marketing firms face, including how they react and adapt to the ever-changing regulatory landscape. “In finance, I think it’s very interesting to navigate now there is a lens to magnify the message marketers are delivering, when using specific marketing materials,” Alexander adds. “You have to the understand the volatility of the industry. There are ups and downs, ebbs and flows, and you must be consistently honest and transparent with your audience. The regulations in marketing has definitely shifted in a stricter way, in terms of what can and cannot be said, ensuring that you’re representing your firm or promoting your product in the appropriate way.”
Leading the Customer Journey
We wanted to know what advice the Head of Marketing would offer to asset or investment managers who are attending TSAM Boston in November, to gain industry insights and actionable tips for their own marketing and communications strategy. “Just start. I think bigger firms have this issue more than smaller firms, where they get stuck in a planning phase for months and months, without executing anything. I think that’s where things can get a bit dangerous,” Alexander warns. “Don’t rush things too quickly out the door but understand and action how you want your customers to react to your product or service, and then develop the appropriate content and distribution channels. Once you get that locked in, you need to get going. No piece is ever going to be perfect when it’s going out the door. It shouldn’t be perfect. The only way you’re going to progress from a marketing standpoint is if you can see what is resonating with individuals.”
From this, we can glean that timing is everything for marketing strategies in asset and wealth management. To create a successful customer journey, you need to get the timing and the content right. “I think it’s similar for financial firms because we need to see more interesting content. Because of the regulations, I think the problem with the industry in general is that it is easy for content to be boring,” Alexander emphasises. “Other industries that have done well, like Nike, have developed interesting content and campaigns. Now more than ever, this is important because the marketing space has become so noisy. You need to be able to separate yourself from your competitors by pushing out eye-catching content. To achieve this reaction, the major points are deciding which type of content you want to develop, which channels to distribute these on, and avoid the ‘planning paralysis’.”
Are financial firms under-utilising their marketing teams due to this ‘planning paralysis’ or because the definition of a customer journey remains unclear? “They may not have determined the customer journey or sat down and understood what the data looks like from user point-of-view, in terms of feedback, activities, behaviour, or conversion. Firms, especially bigger firms, need to know what data to monitor daily and whether the data they’re presenting is being used to impact the customer journey. Otherwise, it’s more like vanity metrics that don’t really matter. Page views on your website are great, but how many people have logged in and registered? How many people have been followed up by a sales call after joining a webinar? How many people signed up to the newsletter after reading an educational article?” Alexander questions. “Those are the things we monitor here to help develop our own customer personas. Once your message is out the door, it can be tested by your target audience. Then you can discover how people are interacting with your brand and determine if you need to conduct any third-party research. All this helps shape the customer journey. It will also help firms to create the marketing team they need and how they can utilise the department more.
With financial firms outsourcing their solutions, is this becoming more out popular with advancing campaigns and business models? “I think we’re going through an agency disruption. A lot of bigger firms are building their talent inhouse because it’s easier to train your own employees, control, and shape the company vision. In the short term, it may be harder. In the long-term, companies will end up having a more positive ROI. I think this will determine how the agency model evolves too.”
With advances in automation, such as RegTech and FinTech software, this has attracted an element of fear. The idea that the human element will be obsolete is a cause of concern for some, but human marketers and AI can co-exist. “I struggle with people that share that fear. Technology has continued to progress in changing people’s jobs for many years. I think AI and automation is just another layer impacting certain roles, whether that be marketing or sales.” Alexander advises. “I think less marketers will look at AI as a threat and think, how can I use this and how can this help me to supplement my job?”
So, what changes are on the horizon? “AI and automation will change the marketing job description in the next 5 to 10 years when it picks up, but my advice is that people should naturally embrace the fact that it’s only going to help – don’t fear it! AI will create insights you may need to help shape and drive the vision of your marketing campaign. Us it as ammunition.”
Continue the conversation at TSAM Boston on 15 November.
Don’t miss Alexander Cavalieri’s panel on ‘Moulding the Complete Customer Journey’ as part of our Marketing & Sales track.