Redefining Digital Marketing for Asset Managers With Data

The Data Possible Podcast: Episode #9

Speakers: John Gulino & Keith Kochberg

Summary: John Gulino founded GK3 Capital to help asset managers and other financial services organizations redefine how they think about sales and marketing tactics in a digital world and how it can lead to building relationships with future clients. In today’s episode of The Data Possible Podcast, John and GK3’s Chief Marketing Officer, Keith Kochberg, define inbound marketing, detail two different types of data, and highlight the most important aspects of a website. You will learn:

  • What inbound marketing is and how it’s a roadmap for growing your business
  • The importance of collecting and analyzing both target audience data and key performance indicator (KPI) data
  • How GK3 Capital uses data to help their clients succeed
  • Key elements every website needs and the biggest mistakes people make when creating a website
  • How advisors can build a sense of urgency and what to do to make themselves attractive to younger investors

Resources: Discovery Data | GK3 Capital | Advisorpedia

Podcast Transcription:

Doug: Hello, and welcome to The Data Possible Podcast, presented by Discovery Data. This is your host, Doug Heikkinen. And today, our guests are John Gulino and Keith Kochberg from GK3 Capital. GK3 Capital are specialists in digital transformation for asset managers, wealth managers, and fintech firms. Welcome, guys.

John: Thank you.

Keith: Thanks for having us.

Doug: You know, I bet this year, this past year has been quite a big one for you, as many people in our industry began to navigate the digital space for the first time. Would you agree?

John: For sure, definitely accelerated what we’ve been talking about for a number of years. Unfortunate that it was this circumstance that led to many industries beginning to think about how to evolve and change their strategies. But yeah, Doug, you’re absolutely right. The pandemic definitely accelerated the need for what we feel we’ve been talking about for a number of years.

Doug: John, let’s go back a bit. Tell us about how and why you founded GK3 Capital.

John: Yeah, thanks, Doug. So I spent almost all my career in financial services, I started as a financial advisor. And then I moved over to an asset management company in 2002. And that’s where I really began my career in distribution. I’ve held just about every seat from internal sales, representative, external sales, sales management, executive, and leadership roles. I’ve launched a number of products and built a number of teams in just about every category from 40 active mutual funds to private real estate, private equity, raised some venture capital in my career. And it was actually my time at Discovery Data that I began to realize that things were changing. My role at Discovery Data at the time as executive vice president was to work with our asset management clients that helped them use our data to distribute more effectively. And every client that I went in to see had the same challenge, which was, people aren’t answering the phones anymore. It’s harder to get meetings, it costs more and more to hire salespeople and good salespeople, there are sales people who are just leaving six messages a day on voicemail. And there was very little in the way of solutions in terms of what do we do? A lot of, let’s rearrange deck chairs on the Titanic. Let’s change personnel and territories and coverage and all the traditional, I think, variables are levers that we had to pull. And at Discovery Data we were getting in front of new clients through digital tactics. And it wasn’t until a little later that I was introduced to something called inbound marketing that I realized and recognized that folks in the asset management and financial services world can really benefit from that type of strategy. And that’s how I started GK3 Capital. Not only because it was about inbound, but it was about finding a company that understood distribution, understood financial services, understood digital marketing and tactics really in a way that leads to, how does that help the sales person build relationships with their future clients?

Doug: Inbound marketing can mean a lot of things to different people. What does it mean to you?

John: Yeah, that’s a great question. I’m often asked that. And I start with what it doesn’t mean. Because when you think about inbound, you often think about something that’s passive, you’re just sitting there waiting for stuff to happen. And it couldn’t be more opposite than that. Inbound to me represents a roadmap or a strategy for how to grow a business in a world where all of our clients have information at their fingertips. And as a company, you’re attempting to be part of the conversation. You’re attempting to build relationships where people are spending their time, which is online, and ultimately transition that relationship into one that’s more personal. And that’s kind of how I define inbound as a roadmap or a strategy for how to grow a business in the digital world.

Doug: When we were prepping for this podcast, you mentioned that there were really two different types of data. Keith, can you talk about those and why they both matter to advisors and asset managers?

Keith: Sure, I’d say right off the bat, there’s probably much more than two different types. But let’s focus on first your audience or target audience data, which can include demographic, behavioral, etc. But really defining that target audience, frankly, it’s a big part of what Discovery Data helps folks do in the world. And then the second set of data that we think is important is performance data, not only from a macro level distribution standpoint, but from a marketing perspective. One of the things we see often is folks come to us to talk about growing or transforming their business digitally. And we’ll start by asking them how many folks go to your website today? How many folks are in your database, etc. And it’s interesting and still surprising how often folks don’t know the answers to those questions. So in summary, I’d say it’s the audience data, which Discovery Data can be an incredible benefit. And then the performance data as you’re building growing your business. To me, those are the KPIs you want to stay laser focused on.

Doug: There are as many marketing firms as daisies in a field. So what are the unique ways that GK3 Capital uses data to help your clients succeed?

Keith: One, we like to think our competitive advantage, if you will, is that between John and myself and our team, we have the unique background of 20-plus years in financial services, 20-plus years in digital marketing and transformation. So I think while yes, there’s an endless amount of quote unquote, marketing firms, digital folks, I’d say we’re unique in the composition of our skill set and the backgrounds we bring.

Doug: As we emerged from the last year and begin face-to-face interactions again, do you think we will go all the way back? Or are people going to continue to rely on digital relationship building? And if we’ve swung from one extreme all the way to the other, what’s the middle ground gonna look like?

John: It’s a great question. I don’t know anyone really has the answer. I’ll tell you what I think and Keith has a similar opinion, maybe slightly different. But it was my belief five years ago, that companies needed to evolve and transition, that’s why we started GK3 Capital to begin with. I don’t know that we ever go back to, let’s call it, pre-COVID. I think that that world is just gone. I don’t know where we land on the other side. I do know that companies that have pivoted, because they’ve had to, are recognizing more and more that digital is certainly a big component of the way that they’re going to grow in the future. I don’t know how we measure the percentage right in digital versus in-person. And I don’t know that we ever attempted to solve for them. I think our initial thesis was if you have a digital strategy that’s really effective with the goal of doing what you’d want a digital strategy to do, which is inform your sales team on who to talk to, when to talk to them, and what to say, I don’t know that that much will change in essence, whether or not that salesperson then is meeting that potential client face-to-face, or whether they’re doing it via Zoom for much longer, right? Or keeping it.

Keith: Yeah. And just add to that, I think, one, it’ll be down to the individual organization level, and the individual employee or team member level in many cases. I think some folks will learn from this that, wow, in a virtual world, I can be as or more productive than I was previously. Yet the person down the hall may have really struggled, because maybe the tech is scary to them, or, you know, change is scary, old habits die hard. And that person may be itching to get back on the road, and sit face-to-face. So I think it’ll come down to the individual. I do, though, think, from a much longer-term window, not the immediate euphoria of, hey, we can conduct business in person. I think if we look at a 5, 10, 15-year window down the road, I think those companies that embrace this change, this digital transformation today will be the winners at that point. Because it’s one thing for those of us in our mid-40s, to be on the fence of adapting to a new method or not. But 15 years from now, when that recent college grad is sitting in our shoes, they may have never grown up in a world of, I have to be on a plane two, three times a month, etc.

Doug: Interesting. You also mentioned on our prep call that websites have become company’s number one salesperson, they work 24 hours a day, seven days a week, should people reevaluate their websites? And what are the key elements you think every website needs?

John: Yeah, absolutely. Without question, the number one asset you have digitally as a firm is your website. Most firms think about it as a corporate brochure. Those that are doing it well are thinking about it as an interactive way to communicate with prospects and clients. There’s a lot that goes into that, by the way, which includes content and includes analytics and includes understanding what your audience is actually seeking when they’re coming to your site. There’s a whole strategy and way to think about how to build a website today that’s much more sophisticated than it was just 10 years ago. It’s typically your future clients’ first interaction with your firm. And so it’s a tremendous opportunity to start earning trust. And most folks attempt to do that through demonstrating experience and credibility and talk all about themselves, which is a huge mistake.

Keith: And if I may add to that, I think often folks in financial services, when they do think of their website, they’re envisioning sitting at a desktop or laptop the way most of us are right now. I would encourage folks to also if not primarily, think about that mobile device, because increasingly consumer behavior has in some cases, 80% of initial visits to a website occurring on that iPhone, Android, etc. So not only is there the challenge and opportunity of presenting yourself at the highest level digitally, I think that has to carry beyond the quote unquote, desktop experience, and include a really stellar and compelling mobile experience.

Doug: And this being The Data Possible Podcast, there’s a ton of data that Google Analytics can tell you about what people are doing on your website, correct?

John: Yes, the answer to that is a definitive yes. And I’d say it’s also probably the biggest gap that we see when clients come to us and ask us to build them a new site. We always start by asking, well, tell us how your old site is performed. And that usually leads to a conversation about how they can track down their analytics, which just tells us that they haven’t looked at them. They’re not looking at them. They’re not focused on them. They’re not measuring their website’s performance in most cases, because they’re not sure what to measure and what to look at. And that’s really where a company like GK3 Capital can help.

Keith: And it takes, Doug, if I may add on to that, it takes what can be almost endless conversations that often start with look, feel, etc. and turn things from subjectively, to objectively. So for the folks that do have Google Analytics and either pay attention or work with us to be brought up to speed, let’s look at where folks are consuming content on your website, where are they spending time? Where are they just expressing zero interest and why? And we like to route our recommendations or build our work on the objective side using data and analytics, as opposed to the subjective. Hey, I’m the driver of the project. And I personally think this is what everyone should care about.

Doug: Yeah, besides missing on the data, what are the other biggest misses when people build websites?

John: Yeah, I touched on this a little bit earlier, but having a way to convert visitors into leads, if you will, some type of capture mechanism. It’s having calls to action and content offers on their site that signal to you that there’s interest there. And so it goes back to the strategy, I guess, is the way that I would categorize it. It’s not a corporate brochure to tell people how smart you are and how much experience you have. It’s really a way to have an interactive conversation with someone who’s going to visit you when their needs arise. And you never know when that’s going to be.

Doug: Last one for you. We’re seeing the largest generational transfer of wealth in history happening. How should advisors build a sense of urgency? Or what do they need to think about doing to keep these younger investors?

Keith: Absolutely, Doug, I think one, you’re 1,000%. Right, that’s an issue facing every advisor today, candidly, whether they know it or not. When we think about it, I don’t know that it’s about creating a sense of urgency with their clients or their clients’ heirs, I look at it as an opportunity to build trust with the younger generation. So being present on digital platforms, having the right experience, making it easy for them to get information, making it easy to communicate. This newer generation, they may prefer to message somebody on Facebook, as opposed to pick up the phone and call. So I think advisors that are looking further into the future should be embracing everything that COVID has been expediting in digital transformation, so that the potential client or the second generation of an existing client, you’re communicating with them in the ways they’re comfortable communicating, not in the way the advisor themselves for first.

Doug: John, Keith, it’s been quite a pleasure hearing from you today. Thank you very much, and best of luck, both of you.