March 27, 2014

CMO Insights: The Importance of Fresh Marketing

by Renegade

Faced with big-budget competitors boasting award winning advertising, John DeVincent, CMO of eMoney Advisors, needed to find a fresh way to stand out. For DeVincent, this meant focusing his attention on eMoney Advisors’ rare, personal approach in a business that is increasingly self-served. DeVincent’s marketing tactics revolve around excellent customer service and include openness to changes in marketing trends. At the end of the day, his efforts make eMoney more visible in the financial services industry, introducing trusted advisors to a solution that helps them build and strengthen client relationships.

Note: DeVincent won the CMO Club President’s Circle Award late last year.  According to The CMO Club founder Pete Krainik, this award is based on “a marketing executive’s demonstrated delivery in supporting the DNA of The CMO Club for building relationships with peers in the club, sharing and helping others, and referring other CMOs to join the world’s best CMO conversations.”  

Drew: A CMO has a lot of choices in terms of where they invest their time.  What have been your top priorities in the last couple of years?
My focus has been around product innovation – the messaging and positioning of new products. eMoney Advisor operates within the B2B space and our focus has been on presenting software products to financial advisors who are looking for innovative and all-encompassing wealth planning solutions for their clients. Ultimately we’re looking to position ourselves as advocates for financial advisors in the marketplace.

Drew: Have there been any big surprises in terms of what’s worked really well and what hasn’t?
There haven’t been any huge surprises. We’ve been working on new 90-second video elements that have shown success so far. Online advertising doesn’t work quite as well (though we don’t focus as much of our efforts here). Additionally, we’re beginning to expand our digital presence to offer constant flow of timely and relevant content to our audience. This industry experiences frequent market changes, which calls for us to shift our priorities. Regardless of this unpredictability, we do a fantastic job of creating content to accommodate these changes.

Drew:  You have some noisy competitors like eTrade and Fidelity.  How have you been able to get your message across without being drowned out by talking babies and endless green lines?
eMoney is a smaller firm. We can’t compete with the advertising budgets of our big competitors like eTrade and Fidelity. Instead, we created a campaign to position our user-base as “trusted advisors” and encourage them to leverage our product as a tool to further strengthen the advisor-client relationship. It can be challenging because of eTrade and Fidelity’s award-winning advertising, but when clients need comprehensive financial advice, they look for a trusted advisor, not an automated system. We advocate for the human advisors – the ones who provide a personal touch.

Drew: Marketing seems to be getting increasingly complex in terms of ways to spend and ways to monitor. Has it gotten more complex for you and if so, how are you dealing with that complexity?
As marketers, we wear several hats.  At eMoney, we manage a blog, create video vignettes, maintain a social media presence and employ traditional advertising. Again, how you shift that focus is dictated by the market itself. With that in mind, it is extremely important for us to work collaboratively to align the 12-15 tasks assigned at any given time.  We make sure we communicate among ourselves to develop our campaigns that reach all channels based on what’s currently relevant in the industry.

Drew: Have you been able to link your innovative marketing activities to the kinds of business metrics favored by CEOs?
We have a number of analytics coming back from these 12-15 projects on any given day. What we do is take the key metrics from each campaign initiative and tie it to an ROI for our CEO. Edmond has come to rely on these metrics as a starting point to strategize for future initiatives.

Drew: How do you stay close to your customers when the relationship is primarily online?  
We’ve realigned ourselves to become a regional company. Our sales team attempts to get as many face-to-face meetings with prospective clients as possible. We also have an advisory board that we meet with twice a year. Our retention team monitors whether or not our clients (advisors and their staff) are actually logging in and using the software. If we find out that they are not, we reach out and offer educational resources, software training, etc. Additionally, we provide classroom training sessions. We are really focused on this because, to us, getting in front of customers to facilitate the natural interactions that we have as human beings is imperative to a lasting advisor/client relationship.

Drew: A lot of financial services firms have tip-toed into social.  Do you see social as viable channel for your business and if so, in what capacity?  
The financial services industry has been very slow to adopt social because of the regulation and compliance gray areas associated with it. FINRA has been very slow in defining how social media initiatives should be handled in our industry. There is a fine line between what is considered advice and what isn’t. Recently, we’ve seen more advisors embracing the tool as an arena to show thought leadership, reach existing clients and find prospects.  However, LinkedIn is currently our biggest social platform. We are using it heavily as a recruiting platform. Highly educated, high-income prospective clients are on LinkedIn and that’s who we see our advisors going after.  However, we’ve recently ramped up our efforts around Twitter and Facebook.  By leveraging these channels, we can participate in current industry conversations, connect with thought leaders and show the depth of our own knowledge.

Drew: What are you doing in the content marketing area?
We have a corporate blog and a user-focused knowledge community blog called Ask eMoney. On this blog, we’ve included eMoney-focused content, as well as general industry best practices. The content is incredibly rich to the point that I’ve hired people whose sole responsibility is managing the blog. We’re also increasing efforts to identify people who are knowledgeable in the industry as content contributors. We’ve found that good content is incredibly sticky – people become more interested in your site and, therefore, your product.

Drew: Do you agree with the notion that “marketing is everything and everything is marketing” and if so how have you extended the boundaries of your job beyond the normal purview of the CMO?   
I do agree with the notion that the CMO’s job extends to supporting the entire customer experience. In my mind, during every customer interaction, you either win or lose share. It’s either positive or negative. That includes everything from a phone call and training, to customer support and interacting with sales people; you want to make the process easy for your customers. You want to be the company that people want to do business with. It’s important to stay relevant and stir emotion. Make people feel good. If you face obstacles, you must make sure you overcome them with style and go above and beyond to problem-solve. Being a small company, this has been a relatively easy philosophy to adopt. The customer experience is a big priority for our CEO. We focus heavily on best practices and proper training for our team — embracing that philosophy as a company. You have to consistently go above and beyond to create an excellent customer experience.