In the spring of 2017, Nationwide selected us to help introduce a series of new Strategic Beta ETFs they had developed in conjunction with two asset managers at the forefront of index design, Rothschild and TOBAM. According to Morningstar, there was close to $3.5 trillion dollars in ETFs in the U.S. market by the end of 2017, and the category is growing almost 6 times as fast as mutual fund assets. So the potential opportunity was highly attractive to Nationwide.
Over the past year, we’ve learned a lot about Nurture Path marketing, and we believe it can serve as a blueprint for developing creative work to support initiatives of this kind.
Nurture Path marketing is designed to engage.
Nurture Path marketing is primarily a B2B marketing strategy that seeks to engage with, educate and ultimately drive preference for a specific product or service. More often than not, the audience is made up of time-strapped professionals who are focused on doing the best work they can and might respond to marketing overtures that have the potential to help them do that.
Nature Path marketing isn’t a branding exercise. It’s predicated on the assumption that more complex products and services are rarely purchased on impulse, but rather require marketers to carefully and systematically build a relationship with potential customers and escort them through what can be a lengthy selling process.
Advisors are tough to engage with.
Our challenge was to attract the attention of wealth managers and Registered Investment Advisors (RIAs) and get them to consider Nationwide ETFs for their clients.
But advisors are a difficult audience to target. They’re bright, busy and, both by their nature and training, incisive and analytical. Think about how they make their living. The business of growing clients’ wealth is largely about making rational decisions based on sorting through a steady stream of information (share prices, earnings, valuations and so on) closely and critically.
On top of this, and likely because of it, they’re skeptical of marketing.
How could we stimulate and sustain advisors’ interest and help them recognize how ETFs from Nationwide, a company most closely associated with insurance, stand to benefit their clients? What particular needs and pain points of theirs would these ETFs help them address?
What follows are the steps we recommend.
Step #1 – To speak to the market, understand the points of differentiation.
To do strong marketing communications work for a complex product or service, we believe you need to know at least enough to be able to effectively represent the client in their booth at a trade show.
That’s the first requirement of Nurture Path marketing – know your stuff.
In the case of Nationwide, what we needed to know was anything but simple. We spent time to become articulate about the selling fundamentals – for example, how the indexes represent a new, innovative model and how positions in Nationwide ETFs give advisors the potential to reduce volatility and drawdown without surrendering market returns.
This is the language of the market. Without doing as deep a dive as we did, we couldn’t speak it.
Any good marketer will make this their first priority.
Step #2: To build engagement, the creative better be strong.
Frankly, a lot of nurture path creative work we see is undistinguished; it reads more like product briefs than anything more ambitious. Work like this compromises results before it even gets started and stands little chance of generating sufficient interest.
We suggest approaching creative development by producing work that is actually creative:
- Is fresh, timely and topical
- Challenges existing assumptions
- Takes advantage of the opportunity to be provocative
- Speaks to the target about experiences they relate to and that resonate with them
One of the initial emails we created was sent to a group of just over 900 advisors, and it generated an open rate of 65%. The email we got from our client reporting on the results was gratifying to us to say the least:
“In all my years,” he wrote, “I have never seen a 65% engagement rate with any email message! A tribute to the right content for the right market environment!”
Step #3: To move advisors towards preference, satisfy their need to know.
To interest advisors in Nationwide’s Strategic Beta ETFs, we knew we’d have to provide them a steady stream of information that brought credibility to claims we were making.
Our activity began with a series of banner ads that appeared on websites like Investment News and Financial Advisor and linked respondents to various creative assets designed to deepen their understanding of the Nationwide products and bring them closer to a decision. These included:
- Multiple “explainer” videos
- A white paper
- Product fact sheets
- Multiple infographics
- Fund stories
- A continuing education webinar
View examples of 360’s work for Nationwide Strategic Beta ETFs.
Nurturing takes time.
I mentioned that our work began in the spring of 2017, and we’re still not done. Which brings me to a final point.
Nurture Path marketing is a process. There are often a lot of interrelated assets that need to be created, distributed and coordinated. Need I note that these efforts don’t necessarily produce dividends right away? The whole idea of “nurturing” implies that the process takes time and care to do what it’s intended to do. It’s incremental, not immediate.
But done with intelligence, deliberateness and creativity, Nurture Path marketing can deliver very positive results. No wonder increasing numbers of savvy marketers like our friends at Nationwide are choosing to pursue it.