INTERVIEW: How Neuberger Berman is aligning sales and marketing to target intermediaries

Alex Sword

Alex Sword

Editor

The Financial Services Forum

Marketers need to build deeper relationships with sales to approach the intermediary market, according to the EMEA Marketing Head of asset manager Neuberger Berman.

Adam Brown has been in his current role for just over a year, having joined in June 2020 after a career spanning multiple asset managers which started in Fidelity’s call centre in the late 1990s. He then moved to consumer marketing at the same company, before working at BlackRock as it built its brand in the early 2000s from not being “known in the slightest”, Threadneedle during its merger with Columbia as it rebranded and became much more internationally focused, GAM and finally Neuberger Berman.

“All of those steps on the career have helped me understand that key to any senior marketing role is aligning whatever you’re doing with sales. When they’re not working together is when things go wrong.”

In Adam’s words, Neuberger Berman has an “eclectic” product mix and deep existing relationships with institutions. Culturally he says the firm, as a privately owned organisation, has a “real sense of stewardship”, since most senior people are equity owners in the business.

His first year has seen him working to maintaining relationships with the institutions while devising a strategy to target the intermediary markets, a key area of focus for the firm.

The company is working to create familiarity with the brand and align its product shelf to those intermediaries in markets such as the UK, Germany, Spain and Italy.

“It’s not a case of build it and they will come, but institutionally you can have a one to few conversation. In the intermediary world you need to have a one to many. That’s where marketing comes in, to amplify that sales approach and try to get to as many people as we can with the appropriate messaging.”

He says that to achieve this, firms need to move away from a “sales say jump, we say how high” approach to “demonstrating the value we add to the sales process.”

One of his tactics for this when starting at Neuberger Berman was having regular touchpoints with all sales people to “understand their challenges, whether at the regional, channel or country level.

“There’s no real alchemy in it to be honest, it’s just being able to understand what people need. You can’t have 100 people in your sales team anymore. You have a much smaller sales team whose efforts are amplified by marketing.”

Adam says that Neuberger’s large product range can be its “Achilles heel” in the intermediary market, with “drumbeat efforts” around key products such as multi-sector fixed income and thematic  equity essential to building focus.

Much of the firm’s efforts focus on content. One of the big lessons during the pandemic, he says, has been from the shift from physical and virtual events. This has driven home the importance of not just producing content but making sure it is aligned to the audience.

“If content is king then context is queen,” says Adam, explaining that the topics people are interested in has changed significantly as the pandemic has progressed.

Keeping content timely is about marketing partnering internally with sales and portfolio managers to determine what will work. He says marketers need to focus on the on meaningful insights offered by data.

“If you rock up in front of sales people and talk about open rates of 1%, their eyes glaze over – it doesn’t mean anything.”

This is why a big part of Adam’s role is making sure that marketing output is “relevant” to sales people and they can see its benefit. Adam uses the maxim that “if it isn’t in Salesforce, it hasn’t happened”, with Salesforce serving as the “golden source” for all client interactions. The team ensures that webinars point clients in the direction of products with the potential for a within Salesforce.

“We can do a great job of engaging clients and getting them interested in products but then there has to be a hand-off to sales. Making that hand-off at the best possible time and in the best possible way is where we’re aiming for.”

Adam uses a number of KPIs to measure the success of these efforts.

“When we do our own proprietary emails [to institutions] we know at the company and individual level who opened it. We then assign lead generation scores, so the sales person gets a report that says this person has gone from this insight to the product page.

“You’re then moving from a conceptual term about how we’re pumping out 10,000 emails a month to 15 of your clients in Germany have read this content and then gone to this product page – this is someone you should talk to. That’s filling in the blanks from the sales point of view.”

For intermediaries, it’s not possible to do the same detailed level of interaction, Adam explains. Here it is more about using automation to create a user journey, so that when they read a piece of content they get a related email.

Neuberger Berman webinars have recently covered topical areas such as China, emerging markets, inflation and cryptocurrency, as well as more product-led events.

The topics often spring from meetings with sales, who are interested in the company having a view on what clients are talking about. Cryptocurrency is a good example of this process, with discussion and coverage in the marketplace pushing Neuberger to develop a view on it and translate this into appropriate content.

“There’s so much noise,” Adam says. “How do we help clients decipher all of this?”

 

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