Monday, July 20, 2009

Guest post: Attaining and Sustaining High Productivity in Investment Management Marketing

Investment management firms need optimal internal collaboration to achieve the best possible communications, marketing, and client service as they cope with anxious clients, tight budgets, and lean staffing. Tips for how to achieve this goal are the focus of this guest post by Jacqueline L. Charnley and Christine M. Rostvold, founders of Charnley & Rostvold, a marketing communications firm.

“Productivity is never an accident.  It is always the result of a commitment to
excellence, intelligent planning and focused effort.”
~  Paul J. Meyer

Now more than ever, investment firms need to become well-oiled machines, leveraging every possible resource to produce the highest quality communications and service.  Timely and relevant content, whether for reporting or sales, needs to be developed, produced and distributed…all too frequently with too few resources.  What are best practices to attaining and equally as important, sustaining high productivity in marketing and communications?  How can counterproductive politics be minimized, good decisions be made and stressful deadlines be met in the face of rapidly fluctuating workloads?

Know Your Objectives and Plan to Achieve Them
First, management must document key objectives and agree on a plan to achieve them.  Communicate both the goals and the plan to everyone on the team and to senior management.  Document priorities (by product, by client, by consultant) and adhere to those priorities.  Stay focused by making it okay for anyone to question whether an activity is a fire drill or is on plan.  At the same time, recognize when deviating from the plan is a good idea.   

Train People for Success
One firm is known for promoting people to roles where the individual’s past experience is not relevant to the new role.  Then when the individual fails, the firm simply moves to another candidate.  Instead, know the required skill sets for the new role in advance.  Know what can be trained and what cannot be.  Measure the individual against criteria required to do well in the role, and train and support that person to be successful.

Document Your Procedures
In a recent survey, members of  the Professional Association for Investment Communications Resources (PAICR)) shared that only 57% had written procedures for their firms and only 56% for their marketing departments.  You need procedures that are current and easy to follow.  In addition to being written, procedures need to be updated regularly.  Empower employees and trainees to question existing procedures, and to rewrite them to reflect their most current (and useful) form.

Commit the Time to Communicate, to Train, to Debrief
Time is one of the biggest obstacles to regular communications, training and debriefing.  Other priorities will always come first until you recognize and commit to the importance of communicating your plan and procedures, to train people to succeed and to debrief after major projects as to what worked, what didn’t work.  Debriefing leads a team into greater and greater productivity and away from politics and failure to produce.  

Evaluate Systems and External Resources
New systems and technologies to enhance productivity are constantly being brought to market.  One of the biggest time and resource drains is updating and proofing data.  There are systems that can connect and update client files, presentation books, database responses and RFPs instantly and provide tracking.  Software and service systems can help with project management and communications.  Commit resource and time to stay on top of what is available.

“You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar”
Keep your culture positive and supportive.  Constantly ask what can be done differently to help clarify and streamline a direction or process.  Avoid blame games when something does go wrong.  Instead, find the solution that will make it go right the next time.  Evolve from your own experiences.  Critique in private, praise in public.  Celebrate victories and accomplishments.  Celebrate being a productive team.

Susan B. Weiner, CFA
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Copyright 2009 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved


  1. Margaret PattersonJuly 20, 2009 at 9:48 AM

    Great article. I herald Jackie's emphasis on a division of responsibilities and avoiding blame game. Good focus on high productivity with low stress.

    Outsourcing to consultants, individuals and/or virtual teams also helps a lean internal staff get the lead out of major projects. Productivity gets top priority when smooth in-house data sharing is an important part of the plan. Outsourced projects can be taken in-house if internal staff and virtual team consultants communicate well.

    "Evolve from your own experiences", an especially good closing, brings to mind many success stories when adapting to change was part of the initial plan.

    Margaret Patterson Company
    Identity Development and Sales Support Materials for Financial Services Firms

  2. Thanks, Margaret! Outsourcing works extremely well with a strong point person, who communicates equally well with internal and external team members. We've discovered the ideal situation is when all are empowered to volunteer, "we can do that" or "do you want us to tackle that part..." The projects then can be completed in advance of deadlines with ample time to ensure quality. The feedback loop, facilitated by this point person, then directs both internal and external team members to perform at their best levels. A great way to work!

  3. Jackie,

    I agree that a strong point person is essential when outsourcing.


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