Every marketer, no matter what industry they’re in, relies on digital technology to maximize success in the future. Digital transformation doesn’t happen in a bubble, but alongside and as a complement to traditional marketing techniques.
Financial services businesses are among the most competitive, and to compete as a small- to mid-size firm isn’t easy. Every touch point—in person, digitally, over the phone—takes on greater weight. Figuring out a process where those three paths work together is essential, and your first course of action is maximizing personalization. Learn exactly what clients are interested in and deliver it to them, whether they’re engaged or in need of a re-engagement marketing campaign.
In this Salesforce Marketing Cloudcast, Chris Howard from Calamos Investments discusses the approach that his financial services firm takes with emails, clients, and content and also shares his thoughts about the future of digital marketing.
(Full Podcast Transcript)
Welcome to the Marketing Cloudcast. It's the podcast where marketing leaders shoot straight about key trends, technologies, and topics in marketing today. And now, straight from the Salesforce Marketing Cloud, it's your co-hosts, Heike Young and Joel Book.
JB: Hello again everybody, Joel Book here. Welcoming you to another great episode of the Marketing Cloudcast. And if you're a Marketing Cloudcast listener, you know that I serve as Senior Director for Digital Marketing Insight here at Salesforce. And on the Marketing Cloudcast, we feature some of the best and brightest minds in digital marketing today, both from the practitioner's side as well as from the partner, and sometimes the agency side. Well today, you're in luck. If you want to know what a really, really top-flight application of using data and digital technology to engage with a B-to-B buyer [looks like], you're in luck. And to share with you who our guest is, I'm going to welcome in my friend and colleague here at the Marketing Cloudcast, Miss Heike Young.
HY: That's right. Well thank you Joel. I am Heike Young. I serve as our Content Innovation Lead here at Salesforce and [am] really pleased to introduce Chris Howard to you today. He is VP of Digital Strategy and Design at Calamos. He's also an Emmy Award-winning—yes, Emmy Award-winning—digital strategy and marketing executive. This guy is really an expert in innovation and driving digital transformation. So Chris, welcome! How about you give us an intro to Calamos for folks who aren't familiar with it?
CH: Wonderful! Well, what a great introduction. Thank you Heike, thank you Joel. It's an honor to be with you today. I've been a podcast subscriber of yours for a long time. So it's a delight to be here with you. So Calamos Investments—It's basically a global asset management firm where we'll offer investment solutions to clients around the globe. We offer mutual funds, closed-end funds, and institutional strategies to help people plan for their retirement or for any of their specific investment goals that they might have. So our business model is setup where we sell directly to investors and institutions but the bulk of our business is really working with financial advisers. Those are advisers that have very large financial planning companies as well as independent advisers. So when you look at Calamos Investments, we're your standard asset management company in terms of distribution. We've got a large sales team that meet with advisers as a resource, our team shares industry knowledge and kinds of specific funds, and how they might be able to complement an individual’s portfolio or investment needs.
HY: Got it. Chris, so from the marketing side, I want to be clear about who exactly your audience is. I'm thinking these financial investors, they've got to be a busy bunch, right? What are some of your challenges in reaching that audience?
CH: Yeah, it's a very competitive space for us, so if you look at the number of asset management firms that are calling on these financial advisers and reaching out to them by phone, by email, it's pretty significant. And so the average financial adviser is getting anywhere from 15 to 30 phone calls a day—oh, excuse me, 15 to 30 emails a day and probably the equal number of phone calls. So, our challenge is trying to get the right message in front of the right person at the right time. And so, every time we have that touch point, we've got to make sure that it counts.
JB: So, to be clear for our listeners here, the target audience—back to Heike's question—is that financial adviser. So you're not communicating directly with the individual or the institutional investor, what you're trying to do is get the attention of that man or woman who is advising their respective clients about what specific product to invest in. And you touched on the fact, Chris, that this is a pretty competitive category. I know a little bit about your space. I'm going to go out on a limb here and I'm going to say Calamos probably competes with somewhere upwards of maybe 100 different asset management firms. Am I pretty much on the mark there?
CH: Yeah, that's absolutely correct. We're competing with some companies which are smaller and in some cases more niche, but at the same time we're competing with asset managers that have a sales force 50 times what ours is, and assets managed in the billions of dollars. It's really competitive to try to get in there, and get in front of these financial advisers who are making the decisions with their end clients.
JB: Well, okay. Let's get right to it. In the opening, Heike had talked about the fact that one of the reasons that we wanted to have you on the show is that Calamos, in its industry, is really known as a digital innovator. What has enabled you to be able—given that stiff competition you face in reaching financial advisers—what has worked for you at Calamos to really cut through the clutter, get the attention of that financial adviser?
CH: Yeah. For us, if you look at the industry data, we're seeing fewer and fewer meetings that are being held between asset management companies like Calamos Investments and these financial advisers. And the expectation is that that trend is going to continue. While we really like face-to-face interaction, and that's still the key relationship dynamic that we have, we saw a few years ago this need to really help bridge that face-to-face meeting in our digital interactions—where we can take that client data that we have and really use it to improve that digital relationships and that digital experience. The way I see things and see this, no one wants to go and meet with someone and have that person not know or [not] remember anything about what you had discussed in the past. It shows that you either weren't listening then, or you really don't care about the business. I know it drives me crazy when I have a meeting and I have to repeat myself and I know that I've already had the same conversation before.
CH: And that same thing holds through I think online. So if the experience is, "Eh, online, just let them go, and they'll find the information that they're interested in on their own," it really shows you're not listening. In our industry in particular, we've got a tremendous amount of data, and so if that data is just sitting on the sidelines and not helping us better communicate and have a better dialogue with our clients, then shame on us. So, if we know what topics and what mediums or what content one of our financial advisers likes, then we really need to do everything we can to make sure that we can share that and let them know that we are listening. So it really makes a big difference for us in letting them know that we know more about them, and we want them to know that we know more about them, and want them to have the best optimal experience with us each time we touch them.
JB: Well, when it comes to delivering that type of relevant content, as you just talked about, to a financial adviser, what channel or channels work best for you?
CH: So for us, we're really focused on our website, and we have a web portal that allows us to have financial advisers log in and get some customized content. And then email for us, so email is probably still one of our largest tools in terms of communicating content in a timely fashion to our financial advisers.
JB: What have you learned about email, Chris, that—obviously email is not new. Everybody that's listening to this episode of The Marketing Cloudcast knows that. But in your world, where you're trying to get relevant content to a financial adviser and get them to click through, get them to call, what are you discovering? What have you learned about using email effectively?
CH: Email marketing is a key, if not the key, medium for us to really connect with those financial advisers. So we've got a sales force that's on the phone, and they're trying to get in touch with these people, but for us, email is really something that is continuing to drive that traffic back to us as well as generate phone calls. So we share your standard subscription content, market outlooks, and specific fund information pretty heavily through email. I'd say in the last year, we've really been able to integrate the marketing cloud and personalization builder into our email campaigns. And we've seen some really strong results with just how much more engaged people are when we can show that we're really listening. We have a very strong probability that the content that we're putting in front of them is on point and it's on time. I don't know if I need to get into too many of the numbers or specifics but if I have a couple minutes, I can go over just a few high-level campaigns.
JB: For sure.
CH: I know I spoke about some of these at the Salesforce Connections just to give you an idea of what we're doing. So one of the first things that we're doing, we're running an onboarding campaign. It's pretty standard. So when someone signs up for our financial adviser portal, they get a series of emails. What we found was that using recommended personalized content, that we have a significantly higher click-through rate on our welcome emails. It's by double digits of what we had before. So it's not just that one-way push dialogue, but it's really being able to customize content into that welcome series where we focus on our engaged clients, which is really crucial, especially in that first three months of any online registration. So we've really hit the ground running with this audience. Again, we had decent statistics and numbers before, after we started including this personalized content, because we already know so much about the customer—again, a much better engagement level.
CH: Another campaign we're running is for website abandons. Again, that's nothing groundbreaking, it's nothing new, it's a standard trigger campaign. But based on what we know about a person's recent activity on the website, the follow-up email from us a couple of days later, based on that visit—we see nearly a 40 percent click-to-open rate on these emails—which for us, in our industry, it's unheard of. So, our personalized email content, which is really based on that specific user's most recent session—it really helps us reinforce that we're listening, we appreciate your time, we want to make sure that we know what we're putting in front of you is right, it's on target, it's on message, and so that's really some exciting metrics behind it.
CH: The last email that I can talk about is a re-engagement email. So, if we don't see someone on our website for 60 days, we reach out to them in an email series. Again, the difference that engagement scores from someone previous to having recommended content is night and day. So the email has your standard, "Hey, we haven't seen you in a while, we think we've got some great content for you." But it's not just lip service in this case, we really do have the content that we know that they're interested in based on their profile, and we serve that up to them. So recommended content to us through email has been really powerful. The results have been terrific for us, so now we're trying to go back in, and we're trying to integrate as much as we can with the personalization touch on all of our emails. So it's going to take us some time, but we've already seen the importance and the impact of that for us.
JB: Well this is huge, Chris, and I think it really is all about personalization, no matter if you are in the industry that you're in or any other industry, frankly, whether consumer-facing or B2B, personalization is the end game, and to have personalization work effectively, you've got to have enough content. And I hear this a lot from companies who are starting to work on content marketing, that they are afraid to get too personalized with their content, they're afraid to go too far down a rabbit hole of specificity with a specific topic because they don't want to alienate anybody. They don't want to create some content that certain people won't find relevant. But I think what you're saying is that you found success in really creating that personalized type of content. And so I'm wondering, what does your content engine look like? Where are you getting all this stuff? And do you feel like you have enough content every week when you come into the office, or are you always kind of hoping for more?
CH: I would say my biggest challenge overseeing the digital market and efforts here is content. So, someone best explained Calamos Investments as being very big on the outside, but very small on the inside. My biggest—not a complaint—but boy, if I had one wish, it would be to have more content. You know, we're pretty light on content and of course, you know, sometimes we'll be very slow for a couple of weeks, and then all of a sudden, we've got more content than we know what to do with. And so it certainly ebbs and flows. So for us, it's really working with the internal business partners, trying to get more content from them, and then really going back to them and showing them what impact it had, because you've got all these different metrics, digitally. But you know, to that point, originally when we were doing this, we tried to keep things at the highest level possible. To stay relatively high with our messaging, with the hopes that that generalization would engage a largest audience—
JB: The biggest possible audience. Yeah, you're creating that biggest net.
CH: That's right. And that some of those individuals might drill down to a level with a little bit more information if they found some interest in it. And the results were fine, they were in line with the industry metrics or historical data, and that direction was really taken because we didn't want to alienate visitors from an email or from someone visiting the site. But what we found now is that casting that wide net, that kind of who sank my battleship approach of just putting out as much content hoping that someone might bite, well that was wrong for us. So the more we can personalize, the more specific we can get with our message, the better. So while we thought that direction was right with that—[be] universal, don't alienate—it turns out it didn't work, so my advice to marketers is personalization is less of a “nice to have” and it's really a necessity.
CH: The thing is people are getting recommended content everywhere, it's Amazon, it's Netflix, it's YouTube, even my DIRECTV DVR is now recording things based on what they think is recommended content, so it's really an expectation that people have now. And if you're not doing it, then you're really missing a great opportunity I think to connect digitally with someone. I'd also say it's not just B2C. So we look at things as either B2B or B2C as marketers, but the end user really doesn't see it as that, so while my company is certainly B2B, and I don't have a shopping cart where someone can go and make an e-commerce transaction, I'm still able to create success events and I'm really able to share related items and content so I can really have an impact on engaging clients.
CH: So even though I don't have a B2C business model, I can really tell you that we've seen a significant difference in someone clicking on a recommended content on our website. They visit twice the number of pages in a user session than the average person. If someone clicks on a recommended content item, they actually spend twice as much time in our portal than an average visitor. So we know that we're engaging with them. So, it's just been terrific for us and I really see that as a key strategy for us moving forward.
JB: Chris, how do you acquire new email subscribers? In other words, and maybe if you can share it with our audience, fine. If not, I'm curious to know what the size of your email subscriber base is of financial advisers? But the question is, how do you surface? How do you acquire new subscribers so that you can begin engaging them?
CH: Yeah, so we've been working on a key initiative this year and we're going to be launching it in the next month, of really working on trying to get anyone who visits the website to really do one of two things. We'd love for them to give us a phone call. And we'd love [for them] to call us. The other thing is to subscribe and sign up to receive regular communications. Because of some of the metrics that have shown how well the personalized content has been, we've now started to really break out our subscription capabilities and when someone comes to the site, the more engaged, the more specific the messaging is, the more likely they are to do business with us, and keep us in the back of their minds. We're really trying to generate new leads from social media outlets and from other paid source campaigns. But it's really driving that traffic from the home page, or from Calamos.com I should say, and then having the capability to get them to sign up and want to receive more messaging from us.
JB: What's the tactic, lightbox? How are you doing this?
CH: It's a multi-channel effort. We've got the sales team out there working new leads and trying to generate new people, and sign them up within our content management system - our customer relationship system. We also have a team here that's dedicated to that e-business channel. And just trying to identify where the audience is, and trying to drive them in with the incentive of saying, "We know what you're interested in. We'll make sure that we respect your time. And you won't be disappointed when you receive messaging from us."
JB: So you really set the expectation as to what the experience with Calamos is going to be like. I really like that a lot. Chris, a lot of people listening to this episode are probably listening to everything that you do. And I'm just going to put myself in your shoes and ask the question they would. What's the size of your team? How many people are really at the controls here from a content creation to managing your site to doing the email communications?
CH: It's a lot smaller than I think most people would think. We have four people that I would say are really dedicated to providing content for us. They'll work with the investment team to try to help bring in some of that content, and they do other roles within the company, but there are really four people, I think, that are really trying to bring that content into us. From a marketing perspective, I have one individual who's really managing the e-business marketing and all of the customization that we're doing. One of the best parts about the personalization-builder and what we've been able to see is it's really a terrific out-of-the-box solution. We implemented it with relative ease, and that algorithm just starts immediately and starts serving up dynamic recommended content, and it's really spot on. So we don't have a large team that manages that, and then we've got another channel within marketing that helps us figure out what messaging and what we want to be pushing out there to clients. But I'd say holistically we've probably got less than a dozen people that are really touching that marketing message out there digitally.
JB: Before we wrap up this segment, I'll just ask one last question, and that is as you talk about personalization-builder and using the email capabilities of Salesforce Marketing Cloud, what advice would you give to any marketer that may be listening to this broadcast and is interested in personalization or probably wants to know how difficult it is to learn and really deploy and so forth? Obviously, you're seeing big returns thus far. In terms of the way in which you're using personalization to make your email communications much more relevant to the adviser, but what would be maybe one or two pieces of advice that you'd give marketers who are contemplating maybe stepping in and doing this?
CH: I think the biggest thing for me is there's one out there that has it all. No one is doing everything right. In this world, we don't have all the answers and my answers might not necessarily work for you. I would say trial and error and it's a learning process. We need digital marketers to continue to test, I mean test everything—messaging, platforms—take a step back, look at the data, learn from it, and make adjustments. You can't be afraid to fail. We have a saying here, "Make imperfect decisions based on imperfect data. Learn from it and keep going." I would say for us, look at what personalization has done for companies. The biggest companies in the world have huge staffs of people who are writing the algorithms, trying to figure things out, and it's where the world is going, and that's really that big trend.
CH: In three to five years personalization is going to be a standard, it can't be a “nice to have.” And I would say, "Look at who is doing it, they are doing it for a reason, and give it a try, we couldn't be more happy with what we are seeing with personalization builder, very simple to implement, very simple to manage." And our results, as I have mentioned here on the call, have been terrific for us.
JB: I love it. Before we head to our last segment with you Chris, I want to take a moment and just let people know that this episode is brought to you by the marketing cloud mobile app. Just text “app” to 38767 for the free marketing cloud app. If you're already a Marketing Cloud customer, now we announce this app at connections, and what it really is a one-stop shop to manage your digital marketing while you are away from your computer. For example, you can pause and resume, and campaign on the go via email, and you can track metrics associated with that email campaign. Currently, it's in the IOS app store. So, that's available now, and it's available for free, for all Marketing Cloud customers. You can just text “app” to 38767.
JB: So Chris, with that, we are looking forward to doing this final five segment with you. These are the last five questions that we ask every guest who joins us at the show. We're going to learn a little bit more about you, starting with this: Who is your biggest influence professionally, would you say?
CH: A gentleman by the name of Bob Montgomery, who some people may know, some may not. Bob was the head of Headhunter.net and then CareerBuilder.com. I had the chance to work with him 15 years ago, and I still find myself, in certain situations, thinking, "What would Bob do?" Bob was a former sales guy, but any time you met with him—whether it was a one-on-one meeting or an entire company town hall—everyone brought a notepad. Everything he said was just eloquent, and he was just inspirational, always wanting people to do better for themselves and for the firm. Bob Montgomery was probably the biggest influence for me.
HY: Gosh. What a great story. Thank you for that answer. I'll take question number two in the final five, and the question for you is this, Chris, is there a specific company that, as you think about brands with whom you have a relationship, that you would say you have a brand crush on because you have become such a big admirer of their marketing?
CH: There are so many companies to choose from for that question. Recently, I've been having a big crush on Netflix. Netflix is so many different things—it's a streaming media company, now they're a studio production company—but I think across all their marketing efforts they're really on brand and do a terrific job of consistently being on target for me. And I love their personalization side, keeping [with] the brand of the podcast today. Every time I log in, I'm asked if it's me that I'm watching, or is it one of my kids that are watching. Their recommended content is always there—great personalization—and they really seem to get that entire life cycle and all the different devices you're on. So I think Netflix has really got it, and is doing things right.
HY: Yeah, it's funny you say that. Our friend Jay Baer always says, "You want to make marketing so good that people would pay for it. Something that people would actually miss if it was gone." And it’s just funny. Last night my husband and I finished a movie on Netflix, and he actually said, "All right, well what does Netflix recommend next? We'll watch whatever it is." And we're looking for it. We're like, "Hey, entertain us, Netflix. We'll do whatever you say at this point." So it's a great example. Chris, if you had 10 per cent more marketing budget for Calamus this year, and you could only invest it in one strategy, what would you pick and why?
CH: I would say digital ad strategy. In the last two years, segmentation and that near one-to-one connection, it's absolutely amazing. If you haven't looked into it deep enough, the ability on Facebook and LinkedIn is like I've never seen before. And even Google, over the last year, year and a half, has been able to advertise within Gmail and if someone is getting emails from other competitors that you can actually show up there in your ads. I mean, you can really isolate your audience like never before and that's where I would like to see that additional spend and I think it's only going to improve. So, you know—I've never seen that before, in the past it was always that, "Well, I get..." They always say, "Quality is quantity with the right filters in place." And these companies are really giving you those filters.
JB: Yeah, I completely agree with that Chris, and we had a lot of customers presenting at Connections this year that have now really gone pretty aggressively into coupling targeted email communications with targeted ads on social media in those channels that you've referenced. Could be Facebook using custom audiences or could be Google with their new product, and I think what's compelling to me about this as an old direct marketer, is that we're seeing increases in response rates go up double digit when you have that coupling. So instead of relying exclusively on email to deliver your offer, I now have that ability to take that same offer and I can push it in an ad directly to that individual so that he or she is able to see it on Facebook, on LinkedIn, on Google, whatever the channel happens to be. I think that it's going to continue to be a trend where we see that kind of coupling effect, be able to boost response rates. I think you're spot on there.
JB: Chris, so many of our listeners always ask me for a reading list of books that help them up their knowledge in digital marketing. So the question for you is this: Is there one book that stands out with you, that you would say this is a must-read for your listeners? What would that book be and why?
CH: I read this book about a year ago and I recommend it to everyone that I've spoken with: It's So Good That They Can't Ignore You. It's written by an MIT grad Cal Newton. I just love the book. The trend, or maybe the direction, that we've heard over the last 20 years has been, "Follow your passion and the money will follow." That's always kind of been what you hear, and he takes this, and this book focuses on just the opposite. It goes into the quest to discover how to discover how people end up loving what they do. It's a different perspective and I think it's a really a great read. I would say, So Good That They Can't Ignore You.
JB: Sounds like a great recommendation. All right, Chris, we're going to close with this question. It's a tough one but a good one: What one word to you sums up the state of marketing today?
CH: One word: Dialog. Personalization allows us to go from that one-way push dialogue to really a more engaged customer approach. It's a simple way to let people know that we know them, they aren't just a visit or just a number. Having a platform lets them know it's custom. I think that just opens that dialogue across the board, for the company. One word, the state of marketing: dialogue.
JB: I love it, and again I could not agree more: Dialogue is where it's at. Chris, we've come to the end of our—all too quickly it seems—the end of our chat with you today. I really want to thank you for sharing your insights with us. I learned a lot, I know our listeners learned a lot about what's working for you and your colleagues at Calamos today. Folks, our guest today here at the Marketing Cloudcast has been Chris Howard. Chris is Vice President for Digital Strategy and Design at Calamos. Really a very, very innovative customer of ours here at Salesforce, in the way in which they are engaging financial advisers using email, using their website. And as you heard Chris also speak, increasingly becoming much savvier in their usage of social media for advertising. Really, it has been a clinic today. Chris, thank you.
JB: I want to remind all of you that are listening today, that if you have not taken the time to share your evaluation of the Marketing Cloudcast, we would invite you to rate us at iTunes. It's very easy to do so. If you have not subscribed and you heard Chris talk about the fact that he has been a subscriber to the Marketing Cloudcast for some time, if for some reason you have not yet subscribed, folks it's real easy. All you need to do is go to our website and you'll be able to opt in or subscribe right there, so that you never again miss another episode. You can listen to those episodes at iTunes, you can now listen to them at Google Play Music, and as you just heard Chris Howard explain, you can listen to them on Netflix. You've got a lot of different listening opportunities out there so that you never ever, ever Heike [chuckles], miss an episode of the Marketing Cloudcast.
JB: It's been great being with you again folks, on behalf of Heike Young and all of us at Salesforce, I'm Joel Book and I want to invite you to stop by again next time for another great guest here at the Marketing Cloudcast.