Cogent Syndicated Study Reveals Optimal Marketing Mix for Institutional Investors

May 20, 2024

Despite growing reliance on digital outreach, the US Institutional Investor Brandscape™ report highlights the importance of personal interactions in driving consideration

Institutional asset managers are increasingly leaning on digital marketing to build and maintain relationships with institutional investors. But while emails, webinars, websites and social media can be valuable elements of an asset manager’s engagement strategy, nothing beats the power of one-on-one interactions—especially for investors evaluating prospective partners.

That’s according to the latest findings from Cogent Syndicated’s US Institutional Investor Brandscape™ report by Escalent. This annual study examines the behaviors and attitudes of senior investment professionals who oversee institutional assets of defined benefit (DB) pensions, endowments, foundations, tax-exempt organizations, large defined contribution (DC) retirement plans and insurance company general accounts. The report tracks trends in asset allocation and investment strategies and evaluates the variables that lead institutional investors to select institutional asset managers.

Communication preferences among institutional investors varied between sectors, but overall, the study found a shift in the value of broad digital communications compared to highly targeted and in-person interactions when considering prospective asset managers. While face-to-face interactions are historically valued highly, the study revealed a growing emphasis on prioritizing personal engagements alongside digital mediums.

A plurality of investors in pensions (39%), non-profits (34%), DC retirement plans (33%), and insurance companies (41%) reported that in-person visits were the most effective mode of engagement in the evaluation and selection stage. On the other end of the spectrum, mediums like social media and podcasts are less impactful. In fact, almost 60% of investors indicated that they did not use social media to engage with asset managers or consultants at all.

Once formally engaged, email continues to be the favored form of communication with existing asset managers for a plurality of investors in the pension (32%), non-profit (45%), DC retirement plan (28%), and insurance (39%) markets.

Most effective method of communication among institutional investors

“Institutional asset managers are putting a significant emphasis on digital outreach in a bid to capture the attention of new clients,” said Linda York, a senior vice president in Escalent’s Cogent Syndicated division. “However, our research indicates that in-person interactions are the most important tool managers can leverage during the consideration phase. Brands should balance the use of digital platforms with the benefits of face-to-face connection to ensure they are cultivating meaningful relationships and building trust and rapport.”

Beyond in-person visits, Escalent analyzed survey responses to determine the optimal marketing mix to maximize brand consideration. The study found that three touches offered the best return on investment (ROI) for asset managers. The most effective mediums were those that afforded opportunities for personal connection and education. A combination of email, conference interactions, and webinars proved the most successful formula for increasing consideration levels, achieving a potential lift in brand consideration.

Institutional investors cited meet-ups with asset managers and members of the C-suite and educational webinars as among the most impactful events they had attended. They also praised sessions focused on timely trends, such as fixed-income investing and artificial intelligence (AI).

“Institutional investors are increasingly demanding more from their asset managers. Along with seeking higher yield, lower fee solutions, they are looking to managers for practical, insightful market perspectives,” said York. “To remain competitive, asset managers must align their communication strategies with their audience’s attitudes and behaviors. That may mean pulling back on low-lift, low-yield activities like social media in favor of meetings, webinars and events that allow them to engage directly with prospects and clients and demonstrate their expertise and experience.”

About US Institutional Investor Brandscape™

Cogent Syndicated conducted an online survey from October 6 to December 13, 2023 of a representative cross section of 671 institutional investors. In order to qualify for this study, survey participants were required to be managing institutional assets of at least $100 million and play a direct role in the evaluation and selection of investments or asset managers within their organization. In determining the sampling frame for this study, Cogent relied upon the Standard & Poor’s Money Market Directories (MMD) database of institutional investors. To ensure the population for this research was representative of the universe of institutional investors, strict quotas were established based on a nested classification of institutional investor category and size of assets. Minimal weighting was applied to adjust for purposeful deviations from the actual marketplace distribution. The data have a margin of error of ±3.78% at the 95% confidence level. Cogent Syndicated will supply the exact wording of any survey questions upon request.

For more information about the full report, click below.


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