[Financial firms are in the midst of planning their 2024 marketing and sales strategies and are grappling with an increasing amount of new marketing technologies, engagement approaches and marketplace uncertainty. What is working and what is not? What can we learn from last year? Where are we going forward? Then you have another series of questions about how best to implement your chosen strategy.

In order to explore this strategy building process more fully, we reached out to financial services marketing expert and Founding Institute member, Dan Sondhelm of Sondhelm Partners — an experienced provider of marketing, public relations and sales strategies for the asset management and RIA industries. His firm won the Hedgeweek US Awards 2023 Best Third-Party Marketing Firm accolade, along with a strong third place in the Best PR & Marketing Firm category. We will be exploring his thoughts and insights on developing strategy that can drive active advisory and asset management firm positioning and their own distinctive strategies for their marketplace and future growth.]

Bill Hortz: What are the most common mistakes that financial firms make during their annual sales and marketing planning process? 

Dan Sondhelm: A common and costly mistake we see boutique asset management firms make is failing to invest enough time or resources in identifying their target audience for marketing campaigns and neglecting to focus on determining who their core client is — understanding who they are, why they are investing, and how to communicate with them. This can result in wasted resources through ineffective messaging, targeting the wrong audience, or assuming they can earn their clients’ loyalty through good investment performance alone, so they are surprised when clients leave at the first signs of underperformance.

Another mistake firms make is not spending enough time watching out for their competition. If you do not know who your competitors are and what they are offering, how can you know where you stand out? How do you create a differentiated story? Successful firms use their knowledge about their competition to develop products and create marketing and sales strategies that take advantage of their firm’s strengths and competitors’ weaknesses.

But these mistakes stem from one overarching mistake smaller firms make, which is failing to allocate sufficient resources for a cohesive growth strategy that aligns marketing and sales. In many firms, marketing and sales operate in different silos, often resulting in inconsistent messaging and a lack of coordination between sales and marketing efforts.

Firms that are successful in growing assets recognize that marketing and sales go together. Sales can help marketing and marketing can help sales. Data and insight from the sales team helps marketing hone their messaging and more clearly define their target market. With that, marketing can generate more qualified leads and provide sales with more closing opportunities. It is a powerful synergy when properly implemented.

Hortz: What do you feel are the key areas to think through as you are developing your sales and marketing plan? 

Sondhelm: A critical element of the planning process often ignored by firms is to thoroughly assess their current situation and the effectiveness of their current plan. Firms must be willing to ask questions of their senior staff to identify and prioritize critical issues that must be addressed in the planning process.

It is an opportunity to review your previous goals, assess your current plan, and ask hard questions to determine what worked and did not work and why. Did we achieve our goals? If not, why not? Were they unattainable, or did we execute our plan poorly? If we achieved our goals, what was the reason? Were our goals specific enough? How can we improve on it?

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