Marketing & Public Relations Firm - Verasoni Worldwide

All posts tagged Financial services marketing

At the time of the writing of this post, the stock market is near an all time high and the business media seems to be whistling aAbe Kasbo happy tune about the comeback of the American Consumer. Earlier this year, according to Macys’, Target and the Gap reported sales that topped sales estimates in January, 2013. This past February, the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan preliminary index of consumer sentiment climbed to 76.3 from 73.8 in January. Ernst & Young cited stronger global markets and calls the US markets “very positive” in its most recent forecast.

With rising property values and the job market strengthening, Americans seem poised for an uptick in wealth. In normal times, a wealth-effect makes things interesting for financial services firms. It gets more interesting when we couple it with the JOBS Act, which will provide hedge funds and other financial service firms the ability to market and in the process giving investors greater transparency. This will thrust more managers into the public and media spotlights, raising awareness of their firms and products. Public spotlight will also make it easier for investors to compare managers and options within their global investment strategies, heightening the competition for investment dollars between mutual fund families, private equity firms and hedge funds – including fund of funds.

While The JOBS Act is creating an unprecedented environment for hedge funds to market themselves, we believe there will be an indirect impact on related financial services industries like Mutual Fund Families, Wealth Advisory Firms, and perhaps even banks because the JOBS Act thrusts hedge funds into a more open market where they may have to compete with each other and other investment vehicles outside their class.  Whether you’re a hedge fund, Fund Family, or wealth management firm, you may already know that institutional, accredited and non-accredited investors remain cautious because lessons from 2008 continue to loom large in the collective psyche. Those firms who understand how to develop effective strategies, and not simply employ marketing communications tactics and ride the American consumer comeback, will surely come out ahead.

Below are six ideas to help your firm navigate the tricky intersection of the JOBS Act and the American Consumer Comeback.

1. Brand Wisely Not Quickly – Financial services firms will now be enticed and encouraged to “brand your firm.” Keep in mind that savvy marketers understand that branding is a combination of “what you do” from a marketing communications perspective, how you perform, how you treat clients and a multitude of other variables that translates into how clients feel about you…this only happens over time. So “branding your firm” is not a product that you can or should purchase as a “branding program”. Branding is a multivariate process, but only those who understand this point will truly be on the way to effectively branding their firms and separating themselves from the competition. Keep in mind that it took decades for Vanguard, Blackrock, Fidelity, TRowe Price, The Man Group and others to become a brand. So, the time is now to build your brand’s foundation through strategies rather than tactics. As for hedge fund of funds, “Niche oriented hedge fund of funds that differentiate themselves by either focusing on a specific strategy, region, fund structure or investor type [and] …those fund of funds that can clearly articulate their differential advantage will be able to not only grow their assets, but command premium fees,” said veteran hedge fund marketer Don Steinbrugge of Agecroft Partners in his January 2013’s Post on

2. Be Ready To Compete Publicly and Transparently – Work from the digital world backward and understand that your web reputation is largely your reputation. So ensuring that your website speaks to the breadth and depth of the aspirations of your clientele and that your website is mobile ready is paramount to the success of your marketing efforts. Your collateral, key marketing messages, media and conference appearances, sales presentations, your website and social media platforms must be integrated. We would argue that outperforming your competitors is no longer based upon your market returns; it’s also based on how you are perceived in the marketplace, which has a direct impact on growth and asset under management.  Certainly in the case of hedge funds, as the qualified investor pool grows, the more attention the media will pay to the industry, the more questions people will have. Consider Timothy Spangler‘s latest column on entitled The Simple Truth About Hedge Funds. The column attempts to introduce hedge funds to the general public by casting light on some of the perceptions or ideas that the public may have about the industry. It’s a natural cycle, as the media focuses more on hedge funds, hedge funds will have to provide answers – publicly in the media and in conferences – and privately as more potential investors are subjected to the same media messaging.

 3. Be a Category Creator – In Why It Pays to Be a Category Creator (Harvard Business Review, March 2013), the authors found that “category creators experience much faster growth and receive much higher valuations than companies bringing only incremental innovations to market.” Researchers found that category creators, while only 13% of the companies studied, accounted for 74% of the group’s growth. Think of Bank of America’s highly successful breakthrough “Keep the Change Program” campaign. E*Trade and Raymond James, both of which are attempting to re-categorize their market based on the new investor and consumer realities. While there are plenty of reasons to discount this approach if you are a hedge fund, private equity or wealth management firm, consider that Fidelity recently went to market with “Get More Out of Your Investment,” where the investor can earn “up to a $2,500 deposit bonus when you open up and fund a Fidelity IRA or brokerage account or add to an existing one.” So, be creative, you may surprise yourself.

4. Marketing Is Here To Stay – Everyone will be marketing, it’s a matter of how you define it and make it work for your firm. For hedge funds and private equity firms for example, your digital reputation must be spotless because you may or may not have a front facing advertising campaign. Though, if you appear on CNBC, Fox Business, Bloomberg or speak at a conference and happen to catch an eye of an investor, be assured that it is highly likely, if not a certainty, that they will visit your website and Google your firm and you personally to learn more; this behavior works across the board from institutional to individual investors. Capitalizing on traditional media through digital redistribution of print, video and audio is one way of doing it. So are your integrated digital strategies in order? If not, take a look at PIMCO (yes the link to PIMCO’s twitter feed is intentional) as a best practices model.

5. Reposition for ValueE*Trade is doing it, so is Raymond James. Both firms seem to have understood that even with an anticipated wealth effect looming, the individual investor, and we would argue institutional and the accredited investor, are all demanding value. In their recent advertising campaigns both firms are appealing to the value-based investor suggestion that the firms will “keep less” and so “you, the investor will keep more.” We believe that the experience of the recent downturn continues to drive investor behavior from institutions to individuals. Just because the JOBS Act has opened the door, it does not mean that investors will be lining-up at it ready to do business. Investors will ask more questions and demand more clarity. Your firm’s value statement should be at the core of your marketing strategies.

6. Media: Not Your Father’s Oldsmobile – While the traditional media still has its lure providing a valuable platforms for financial services firms, the move to digital and self-owned media creation and distribution is the way of today and the future. Investors will seek information on their time and at their pace, something television and newspapers – at least in their current form – are not able to do yet.  Also note that stories on the web, positive and negative, can go viral quickly, affecting your firm’s reputation as is the case with the New York Times most recent story about LPL Financial. In this new normal of mobile media world, firms who strategically position themselves for this reality and execute against it will outpace those who don’t.

Abe Kasbo is CEO of Verasoni Worldwide a fiercely independent marketing and public relations firm in Montclair, NJ.



I started my career working for legendary stock picker and investor Mario Gabelli. In my brief stint at Gabelli’s Rye, N.Y.-based firm, I learned much that has stuck with me to this day, including the basics of value investing. Value investing is about kicking the tires, doing your research from the ground up, and carefully evaluating a company and its stock based on its intrinsic value… before you pony up one dime for shares.

Value investing also looks at businesses in their totality and, just as importantly, over the long term. No flipping stocks, no short-term trades; value investors are overwhelmingly in it for the long run.

The era of managing quarter to quarter is over. If you’re in business, surely you’re in it for the long term, right? So your business, including your marketing approach, ought to reflect that reality. No one doubts Gabelli’s success, just as we all love to hear from Warren Buffet, the renowned value investor, pontificate about his latest corporate conquest. Both Buffet and Gabelli run their businesses the same way they invest: with an eye on value and for long-term success.What can we learn from these legendary investors about marketing and promotion? Here are four suggestions to include in your marketing plans that will deliver real value for your business:

Kick the Tires: Do your homework on marketing, including media. Not all media are created equal relative to your products, services, customers, and geographic service area. Take time to review all options before investing a medium. And because media companies are recognizing that we are in the age of engagement, many are providing advertisers with more venues to reach customers. They may include websites, networking opportunities, and direct mail, in addition to its core business offers. So do your homework on media and negotiate a good deal.

Avoid Marketing Bombs: Without a marketing plan, you’re dropping marketing bombs and wasting your hard-earned money. Recently, a CEO of a $500-million firm that sells telecommunications equipment said of his marketing: “Yeah, we got that idea, we tried it, and it didn’t work.” When I asked him about the context of that particular tactic within an overall campaign and why it did not work, he replied, “What campaign?” A tactical approach to marketing is far less effective than a strategic one, so invest in and employ market-driven strategy. Then measure your strategy in its entirety; don’t simply examine one tactic, no matter how important.

Know that People Buy From People: Bring your business out of the office. Target trade shows that have a close affinity to your firm. Investing in trade shows goes far beyond having a nice booth. It’s a great chance to network with other businesses, each a potential client. Trade shows allow you to measure yourself against the competition.

In addition, invest in opportunities to make personal connections, such as the simple act of taking potential clients to dinner. It may sound clichéd, but it’s the blocking and tackling that allows you to move down the field with consistency, and not the 60-yard “Hail Mary.” Very often, personal connections win more business than 9-to-5 sales tactics.

Do Good, Do Well: In the 1980s, American Express developed a unique campaign for their customers to help restore the Statue of Liberty. A penny for each use of the American Express card and $1 for each new card were donated to the Statue of Liberty Restoration campaign. In four months, $2 million was raised and, more importantly to American Express, its transaction activity increased by 28 percent. So integrating social causes into your marketing strategy will surely allow you to “do good”—while doing well.

PLAN FOR THE LONG RUN: The above are value-based tactics that should be included in your overall marketing plans. Don’t rely on one approach. Delivering value through marketing is ensuring that you integrate your tactics with business-driven strategy. So, if you agree with me that we’re in a new era of customer engagement, you’ll give your marketing plan a second look. If you don’t have a plan, build one around adding value to your business. And remember, that plan must deliver value to your market not just for now, but for the long run.

Here’s a link to article about social networking in The Record by Joan Verdon. The article is also referenced below…

Mall links to shoppers via Twitter, Facebook
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Last updated: Tuesday July 21, 2009, 9:15 AM

When North Jersey’s largest shopping mall, Westfield Garden State Plaza, was looking for a new way to connect with consumers, it turned to two marketing tools becoming increasingly popular with retailers — a Facebook fan site and a Twitter account.

For the past 10 days, the Paramus shopping center’s representatives have been posting news about sales and deals on the Facebook page, and sending out instant messages via about celebrity sightings and restaurant specials. Mall enthusiasts have been signing up as Facebook fans at the rate of about 100 per day. As of Monday at 10 a.m., the site had 1,067 fans.

“Social media is shifting the way we communicate with our customers,” said Lisa Herrmann, the mall’s marketing director. The Facebook site and Twitter account “allow us to send out information that is significant to our shoppers with real-time updates in a fun and engaging way,” she said. The mall plans to expand its offerings with fashion tips and shopping suggestions from style experts, and video clips of celebrity appearances at the mall.

The use of Facebook pages and fan sites has surged among retailers over the past year. A study released by Hamilton-based interactive marketing agency Rosetta in January found that 59 percent of the top 100 retailers had Facebook fan pages, and that the number of such sites doubled during the second half of 2008.

National department store chain Macy’s debuted a fan site in late June and already has more than 11,000 fans.

The return on investment for retail social networking sites has yet to be quantified, but the investment needed is minimal, although some sites have spent money for features such as interactive contests. Computer company Dell Inc. last month boosted the business credibility of social networks by announcing that it had made more than $3 million in sales through links to one of its Twitter accounts.

Marketing executives caution that malls and other retailers should have a clearly defined marketing strategy in mind before they jump on the Facebook and Twitter bandwagons.

“We haven’t surveyed retailers to see if they’re getting the ROI [return on investment],” said Adam Cohen, head of the social media practice for Rosetta. “But frankly, to set up a Twitter account and a Facebook page is not that expensive.”

The value of such networking lies in allowing retailers “to connect with their consumers in a different way,” Cohen said. The sites let companies build relationships and a sense of community with their customers, he said.

Retailers, Cohen said, need to dedicate time and effort to truly interact with online fans. “Otherwise, I think a lot of companies are going to be disappointed. Or they’re going to be measuring the buzz by how often someone comments on their page. They’re going to have a hard time being able to really attribute that to any quantifiable increase in sales,” he said.

“It’s very powerful if you do it right,” said Abe Kasbo, chief executive officer of Verasoni, a Little Falls marketing firm that has seen its social networking projects increase tenfold over the past year. “You can stay in constant touch literally on a daily basis with your clients and customers,” he said. “But the big caveat is you have to have a strategy and you have to do it right.”

The biggest mistake, Kasbo said, is launching a site and not maintaining it with frequent postings and relevant information. “It has to be relevant to the customer or they’re not going to hang out with you” online, Kasbo said.

Another potential pitfall with Facebook fan pages is any fan is free to post comments about the retailer’s news alerts, and those comments may be negative. The Plaza site has generated very little discussion thus far, and all of that has been positive. But some retailers have seen their sites hijacked by disgruntled shoppers or even their own employees.

On most sites, however, the Facebook fans live up to their name. The Target site, for example, gets daily postings by people proclaiming their love for the Minnesota-based retailer.

Westfield Garden State Plaza got a running start on building the fan base by launching it the week “Harry Potter” movie star Tom Felton (“Draco Malfoy”) appeared at the mall. His appearance drew 2,000 fans of the film series, and the mall used the event to promote its Facebook site.

The no-Sunday-shopping blue laws of Paramus and Bergen County don’t apply to shopping tweets and Facebook updates. Herrmann said the Plaza’s Facebook and Twitter followers can expect to get news alerts even on Sundays. This past Sunday, Plaza fans online at 6:21 a.m. could learn that the Tourneau store at the mall was offering a free pair of TAG Heuer sunglasses with any purchase of a TAG Heuer watch.


At a recent fund raising event, I stood in a circle talking with a bunch of people, when I overheard a tired question to a member of our group to whom I was not yet introduced. “So What do you do?” went the question. “I’m in advertising, I build brands,” he replied with a smug confidence.  So I took that as my cue to ask a follow-up question, “What does that mean, you build brands?”  The gentleman went on to describe “branding programs” that his very successful 25 year old firm produces for clients. “We’re image builders,” he continued.  So I went on to ask him what the average length of client engagement happened to be, “oh, about 3 years,” he said.

More Wine…

Yeah, more wine was just what I needed, so I pondered “Mr. Branding” on my way to get a Cabernet.  While brands are important, I’m thinking that this guy’s advertising firm is with a client for about 3 years and he’s telling me he’s builds brands?  Think about the venerable brands like Coke, Intel, Sony, Dunkin’ Donuts. How long did it take to build their brands?  But, I guess this is the trouble with branding. As I’ve said before, branding has become a  package to be sold, partly because it’s easier to sell to the client, it’s sexy, and partly because the client is looking for a quick and easy hit to sell the boss, the board, etc…and who’s to blame them? The most recent studies showed that the average CMO is around for under 24 months in their position…And what can you accomplish in that period of time?

Even More Whine…

I got my wine and went back for more questions. I wanted to learn about how he builds brands.


“What else?”

“That’s it”

“That’s it?”


“What about integrating your advertising with the web?”

“Well, that’s up to the client, we’re in advertising.”

“What happened to your brand building?”

“Yeah, we do that through advertising.”

“Oh…I think I get a Merlot this time…If you’ll excuse me”

And that’s the problem!  We’ve got advertising guys or creative guys calling themselves brand builders. While that is in-part true, it is only part of a larger picture.  This is like the company who supplies the plane makers with seats for its planes calling itself an airline…But I digress.  As if I have to state the obvious, advertising is only one component of branding, it’s a cog in the wheel?  So why do advertisers and graphics people call themselves brand builders?  You have a great logo, now what?  You’re on the radio? Now what?  GEICO‘s advertising is impressive, engaging and now interwoven in our culture, still that is only part of the GEICO brand experience.  Call GEICO, speak to them, get their insurance, file a claim, interact with their people. That is their brand. I would consider their advertising, at this point, to be for brand awareness, which is part of their brand distribution strategy.

Why does this happen? Why do people continue to sell branding as a product? Because it’s appealing to talk “brand building” rather than advertising, it’s appealing to hear about how “your brand” can propel your business.  So if branding is a result of a bunch of market driven communications, interaction with the customer, connecting with the customer, and developing an emotional attachment to the customer, why do I continuously hear people present it in a simplistic manner, as a singular activity that happens over brief periods of time?

This is what I am now branding the selling of branding, as I define it here, as the “Madoffing of Branding.”  The Madoffing of branding is all about getting the account and selling your stuff. The times of managing quarter to quarter are over, they should have never started. And marketers need to become smarter about how they invest their resources. Suppliers of marketing services ought to partner with clients, as many industry on both the buyside and vendor side have been calling for years now. And when we partner with clients, their business becomes our business – yeah, that’s a bit scary and perhaps risky, but it is crucial for marketers, in this or any other enviornment, in order to stay relevant and deliver real value… It’s time for businesses to understand that while they are marketing for both today and the long term health of their business.  In addition, the buyers of marketing services ought to bear some responsibility by making sure that marketing programs they are purchasing are relevant to their business plan and more importantly, their customers..more to come.

By: Abe Kasbo

According to a recent article from IMedia Connection, authored by Tim McHale, Interactive media and marketing are playing a critical role in extending financial service companies’ core values of trustworthiness and customer-centricity. The article encourages financial services companies to leverage two main differentiators, namely brand and customer service.

The bottom line:

1. Invest in brands that convey trustworthiness and experience

2. Invest in customer centricity and experience

3. Encourage user involvement on the web – relevant content and interactivity are a must.

4. Direct mail works well and ought to be a strong element in your brand distribution strategies

5. Customer Service is key to client retention and referral

To read the entire article go to: