2024 YTD Marketing Snapshot

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We sat down recently for a question & answer session with Susan Catalano, Managing Partner at JQLaCorte. We wanted an insider’s take on the state of digital marketing in the financial services space and see how 2024 is stacking up so far against her expectations and projections.

  1. Has the macro 2024 economic environment been as you expected?

Like many others, we expected the spike in interest rates we saw in 2023 to begin to moderate throughout the beginning of 2024 as inflation moderated at the same time. While we didn’t necessarily expect a direct correlation between the two, we thought the mood of business owners would improve a bit. However, businesses seem to be taking more of a wait-and-see approach due to uncertainty over the direction of the economy and the upcoming presidential election. This is perhaps not unexpected as we have been, as a whole, conditioned for a number of years by an economic environment that featured very low interest rates. The difference between business sentiment and the ‘good news’ reported by economists may be akin to an interest rate hangover, or the disproportionate impact of interest rates versus the impact of employment and other indicators.

  • How has this impacted business growth for JQLaCorte? 

Our customers are clustered in financial services, so while there is an interest rate sensitivity inherent in their businesses, there are other factors that are continuing to drive demand in this segment. Current customers are still investing in marketing, with some adding more services because they are very focused on growing. We also offer fractional marketing management/CMO services to firms looking to bring in a higher-caliber team to oversee their entire marketing program. Those tend to be the customers that understand the importance of marketing and the growth potential that the right programs can bring to their businesses. However, the acquisition of new clients, often by definition companies that are less certain of the benefits of marketing or perhaps less certain of their own business model, has been slower. It’s like one group sees through the prevailing sentiment to the positive fundamentals in their industry while the other group is getting mired in pessimism.

  • When should clients consider tweaking their current marketing plans?

Marketing takes time, and if new campaigns started in 2024, four months in is not enough time to make big changes. Tweaking and reviewing happens all the time, with campaigns being reviewed on a regular basis to see what’s working and what can be enhanced. Most of the tweaking usually relates to messaging; testing to make sure the copy is resonating with the targets and the expected results are occurring. Sometimes, there are external factors – such as changes in the relative performance of a channel or an advertising platform – that lead to changes in the plan. We are seeing some strength with B2B advertising and lead gen results across the Meta platforms (Facebook and Instagram), nominally B2C-focused platforms. That’s one area where “tweaks” are ongoing.

  • When should clients start making 2025 marketing plans?

In the context of the constant testing and tweaking that goes on as noted above, clients need to balance the demands of the planning calendar with the need to collect as much data as possible regarding the performance of the current plan. If there are distinct initiatives planned for 2025, then some of that marketing planning can take place as part of the development of the initiative. But generally, it is late in the third quarter or early in the fourth that 2025 plans should be developed. Proper planning does take time, and many organizations need to ensure multiple constituencies have provided input and buy-in to plans as they are finalized. We don’t recommend marketing plans to be an afterthought or an ‘over the holidays’ exercise – it should be treated as the fundamental element of success that it is. If you want to make a plan in 2025, make sure the marketing is in place to support you starting January 2nd.

  • How is AI impacting how clients perceive marketing?

We have heard some comments like ‘AI can write this for me’ or ‘maybe you’ll get AI to do this for less,” but not a lot. We think most clients still don’t know exactly what AI can do, and in financial services some of the larger firms and banks are developing their own, internal AI-based applications that will take some of the rote work out of their workforces. This leads to concerns about AI replacing certain jobs, but it is more about enhancing the work that is being done. To summarize their perceptions, aware of it (mostly ChatGPT and CoPilot), but not yet certain what it really means.

  • How is AI impacting your firm?

As the most important technological trend in a long time, of course we are staying on top of it. Our writers may use AI for summarization that serves as the basis for their own summaries, but so far, the impact has been slight. Plus, it’s not that good yet, and you really must check the copy it generates. In terms of time spent, it is quicker for a talented writer to just compose what they need to compose. In terms of quality, the talented writer does far better. AI can also generate images, but we find those to be applicable only in certain situations. Most of our imagery feature people, faces, and smiles and so far, only “real” photographs look real. The AI images frankly look a little creepy.

  • What is new with the platforms, LinkedIn, and Meta?

LinkedIn is testing TikTok style videos, games, and has introduced the ability to verify important information, making the platform more secure. As mentioned above, we are seeing more B2B success on the Meta platforms, which is a bit of a surprise based on the historical position or LinkedIn as the authoritative business & professional platform.

  • What’s new in the segments you cover?

The bulk of our clients are in financial services, with 80% being in that space. 40% of those are RIAs or registered investment advisory firms, with the balance being asset managers, investment bankers, M&A advisors, insurance dealers, and service providers. The RIA firms we work with usually have 1 billion in assets under management or more and are looking for someone to handle all their marketing. There is still a lot of consolidation in the RIA section of the market, with a thriving segment supporting breakaway advisors who want to become independent or supported independent RIAs. We work with different types of firms to recruit advisors or breakaway advisors, while also helping RIA firms establish awareness and a digital presence online. We end up using various forms of email, CRM, and marketing automation tools to further their goals. We also have a strong content shop and provide custom content for distribution through marketing automation platforms. 

The advisory firms have their eye on the Department of Labor’s Fiduciary Rule, keen to understand how that will impact their core business. For the firms that understand marketing and see the relatively untapped potential for a unique presence that is differentiated from their competitors, interest remains strong. 

Thanks, Susan! We covered a lot of ground here, and now you know what we know. If you are thinking you’d like to work with a marketing firm that thinks things through, and approaches business the way you do, give us a call. Let’s start a conversation.

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