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Thursday, September 30, 2004

What Can Funds Learn From BD Marketing Strategies?

Reported by Theresa Sim

When you're in a business dependent on advisors, does it ever make sense to side-step them? Yes, when it comes to market research, according to marketing executives from private client groups and broker dealers.

"Sometimes you just have to leave the advisor by the side," says Gerri Leder, president of Ledermark Communications, at the Securities Industry Association conference on sales and marketing in New York.

Ultimately, the advisors are filters of information, explains Leder.

Marilyn Hensle-Hirsch, director of marketing and advertising for Smith Barney at Citigroup Global Markets, expands on the idea of contacting clients directly for market research. For clients with $10 million or more in assets, Smith Barney typically arranges one-on-one interviews (with Smith Barney flying out to meet clients at their homes or offices); for clients with fewer than $10 million, Smith Barney favors web-based surveys.

What exactly have they learned from the focus groups? Clients overwhelmingly replied, "talk to me about me, not about my money," says W. Thomas Matthews, president of Smith Barney at Citigroup Global Markets

Michael White, director of marketing for Raymond James Financial, also reports that web-based surveys have been effective for the firm. Paper is not as effective as it was five years ago, said Hensle-Hirsch.

Hensle-Hirsch also offers other marketing tips: Smith Barney applies different marketing methodologies to client bases depending on the type of client; Smith Barney divides clients by assets and life stages, among other things.

Sylvia Toense, director of marketing for the private client group at Legg Mason, adds that it is critical to evaluate market research based on the client's relationship with the advisor -- questions to ask include: does a client use an advisor merely for validation of her own investment decisions? Or is the client totally dependent on the advisor?

What if a firm is starting from square one? Leder recommends identifying issues with focus groups. 

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