The role of marketing leadership is being transformed, driven by rapid change and direction in the business environment.

Marketing leaders of today require six broad attributes. As we move towards a more client-centric and digital world, the requirements of marketing leadership are changing and new skills are required. Those in marketing leadership positions need to be proficient marketers, build strong connections across business functions, keep pace with rapidly evolving technology and trends that influence clients and they need to deliver consistently across the client experience. This informs the ‘must have’ areas that should be a key focus – these fall into six areas: Advocate for positioning a company correctly across all audiences; an interest in driving clients and prospects towards a stronger understanding of business capabilities; a strong business partner with other functional areas; a capability builder with a focus towards digital; a customer champion and think like a Chief Financial Officer, act like a business owner.

There are different operating models within businesses that will influence where marketing sits. Marketing leadership might report directly into the CEO, or into another functional area, such as distribution. Alternatively, in some organisations, the marketing function is overseen by distribution leadership. This is because each organisation has different structures and different requirements depending on their business model and they require a structure that is right for them. However, regardless of where marketing leadership resides, the challenges are similar, if not the same.

Advocate for positioning the company correctly across all audiences

Leads the development and design of messaging that articulates and tells the story of the business. For organisations with European or global reach, this also means determining a regional approach for that messaging within the framework of a global vision.

An interest in driving clients and prospects towards a strong understanding of business capabilities

Any business positioning needs to be supported by an effective content strategy that speaks uniquely to the different target audiences where relevant – institutional, wholesale and retail. Marketing leaders also require an understanding of content strategy, in terms of the balance between technical publications and short digestible content – and its shift over time, alongside knowledge of how different audiences interact with content today. A defined and well executed content strategy reinforces the value proposition (what you want to be known for) of a business.

A strong business partner with other functional areas

An ongoing drive to build and strengthen partnerships with other functional areas, especially distribution, to translate business strategy into effective marketing support. This means successfully providing the distribution teams with information to help them drive sales, and evaluating this support with distribution at regular intervals. This also means developing a fully integrated approach to marketing to maximise the effectiveness of campaigns or bringing new products to market. Finally, as a marketing leader, a vision is required for how marketing strategies will evolve over the next three to five years, including the interplay with distribution, product, operations and technology.

A capability builder with a focus towards digital

The organisational and client demands from marketing are shifting, reflecting many external factors. Two of the most important are the increasing shift towards digital and the resultant impact this has on client expectations and behaviours.

The digital transformation around us means that marketing is becoming an environment where marketers have to work more with technology. For example, they should be integrating online marketing touchpoints – websites, social and email – with their firm’s CRM platform to deliver more personalised and contextually rich experiences for their clients and prospects. It also requires ‘digital first’ thinking – for example, writing copy differently for online, understanding the need for quality of excellence in the digital space, developing brochures for online use and adhering to best practices in email communication. The digital transformation is also evolving, driven by changes in the way everyone accesses technology – becoming ‘mobile aware’ is now critical for marketing functions. Finally, with digital transformation, clients (institutional, wholesale and retail) are expecting consistent and high value digital experiences. It’s what they experience outside of financial services and it is transforming their expectations within the financial services arena.

Leading a trusting, performance-focused team with expanded training, knowledge and capabilities to address these new challenges means that marketing can continue to translate the business strategy in the most successful way possible and also position the team to fulfil anticipated strategic goals.

A customer champion

Marketing leaders need to become customer champions, aligning the marketing organisation around customer centricity. Developing a framework around how we interact with clients across all their touchpoints with the business is key. In addition to having clients segmented consistently through a CRM to tailor communications, it is important to arrive at a common level of understanding between marketing and distribution about the sales process utilised across different client types. This involves mapping the interactions that lead to business pipeline or a sale and then as marketers, looking for opportunities to leverage all the areas of the marketing mix to ensure the business is providing the right level of information to clients so they can make an informed decision and continue positively along the sales process. Such exercises can yield very interesting results and sometimes, even the simplest of enhancements can yield a significant difference to the client experience.

Think like a chief financial officer, act like a business owner

Today’s marketing leaders need to think like chief financial officers. Marketing usually accounts for the largest percentage of discretionary budget across asset management organisations (Note: The allocation of these budgets within marketing has shifted significantly in recent years in favour of technology-related activity). As a result, quantifying the success that marketing brings to an organisation is important, which requires a robust framework for the collection of metrics and key performance indicators (Note: There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to developing out this framework – it is dependent on the level of technology integration at each firm to collect this information). However, a framework is required as it assists marketing leaders to make informed decisions about what activities are working or require improvement – a first step is auditing what is currently available and starting with a small framework, then developing it out from there. Good metrics and key performance indicators provide more commercial discipline around budget proposals, and a deeper thinking about the value that each budget ‘ask’ brings to an organisation.

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