Calastone, content and the slow nibble

The largest global funds network and technology provider uses timely, informative and digestible content to gain and keep the attention of a small group of potential customers, raising its profile after it entered a new industry segment, writes Sophy Buckley

“When it comes to us and money markets services, content is more than just a sales tool – it’s about building awareness, starting conversations and securing return readers,” says Gene Peterson, head of product and regional marketing at Calastone.

Peterson has been using regular content as a central part of his marketing mix to raise the profile of and nurture leads for Calastone’s money markets services for a little over a year, although the company has been producing content for other areas of its business for some time. “It helps us get in front of those decision-makers whose eyeline we might not otherwise be in,” he explains.

For Calastone, this is important for a couple of reasons. The company is enabling liquidity investors and their fund providers to digitalise and automate the investment process – from trading and reporting to settlements and sweeps. While it applies proven, resilient cutting-edge technology – including distributed ledger (blockchain) – this technology sits in the background.

It helps funds to become more efficient, but is not necessarily visible. “Our brand is well established among fund firms for our other services, but we have now found ourselves targeting new buying centres in the same firms. We then need to consider the vast number of corporate investors who will be using our service to connect with their fund firms. Until now, we have not had a reason to call on them, so we are very much an unknown at this time – content is key to building a rapport and a sense of demand,” says Peterson.

And then, the sales cycle itself is fairly long. “The buyer intention may not arise for a year or two, and then it’s another year before we make a sale. It’s a slow nibble,” he adds.

Building a universe of good content

It’s the proven ability of content to attract and retain the attention of the right people that has earnt it its place in Peterson’s strategy – and he uses every available form of it. Firstly, he draws on original money markets research and data that Calastone either commissions or collects in-house. From this he may create infographics, podcasts or content for webinars.

He also creates Q&A series with industry leaders, such as the head of product at JP Morgan Asset Management, one of the world’s biggest money market fund providers, to extend Calastone’s reach. Other written content includes thought leadership articles for the exec team, blogs and webinar highlights pieces. It’s for this output that he often works with FirstWord.

“The great thing you get with an agency is scalability and capability. It’s good to have a firm you can work with and scale up when there’s lots going on and you have lots of ideas and scale down when it’s quieter. Also, they can contribute ideas about how to work with the content in different ways, such as repurposing it into new pieces. They came up with a year in review of our best bits of content, for example.”

Splicing and dicing content makes it work harder, so you get more bang for your buck. This might mean using snippets from a white paper on social media or summarising it in a blog, or creating infographics or a podcast to discuss the issues. Recently, Calastone turned the results of a client satisfaction survey into an infographic that stresses areas in which the company excels, for example.

“It’s all about building a universe of good content and driving people to our website,” says Peterson. “People like being educated by us. We give them information that adds to their knowledge.”

Standing out from the crowd

When it comes to choosing topics, Peterson focuses on those that are timely, thoughtful, informative and digestible – things “that will give my sales team a leg up, stand out from the crowd”, he says. This means trying to provide exclusive insights that others in the sector could benefit from.

But even the best content in the world will struggle to get eyeballs if it’s not promoted and distributed in the right way.

“I recently went to a conference and said that content was useless unless you deliver it in the right way,” he says. This means promoting it on LinkedIn and other social media platforms and getting the sales team to accept it as part of their armoury, so they too help channel people to the website to read it.

“If you can track the reader, you can then try to encourage them further along their journey in the sales funnel,” he says.

Rather than putting an entire blog on LinkedIn, he will “choose the tastiest hook for Twitter and LinkedIn that will lead people to our website”. This canny approach means he can then start tracking the readers, gradually finding out more about them, such as their role within an organisation and perhaps even their level of decision-making, with the ultimate goal of turning them into a sales lead.

Doing more of what works well

For this getting-to-know-the-reader process, he uses Pardot, part of the Salesforce customer-relationship management platform. And to help him finesse the type of content his target audience likes, he constantly monitors click-through rates.

“We achieve more than a 20 per cent open rate when we push stuff out and 18 per cent click-through,” he says. Some pieces, however, stand out as real winners.

“We wrote a white paper on blockchain last September that has been downloaded more than 1,000 times. It still gets clicks now on our website,” he says. Impressive given the tiny size of his target audience.

Creating all this carefully targeted and timely content also helps when it comes to internet searches, putting Calastone in pole position for key terms. “We want to own them. We rank top for money markets – a prime focus for us. That’s been organic, not paid for,” he says. “For thought leadership [in our area], we’re the most prevalent and probably one of the better firms out there. We’re ahead of the curve and want to maintain that position.”

But Peterson is keen to stress that value not volume is increasingly important. This became apparent during the Covid-19 pandemic. “We activated a much more regular webinar programme. But then we noticed everyone else was doing the same and we were seeing a falling off in attendees. So we scaled ours back. It’s about quality not quantity,” he says.

Looking to the future, Peterson’s strategy is to maintain Calastone’s position as a thought leader and to look at ways to treat the reader as an individual. “We want to be the go-to provider of content for money markets funds and DLT in the funds space,” he says.

It could be that this entails trying different concepts – perhaps more interactive or more tailored content. And he thinks his comms could be humanised a little more, made more personally relevant to the reader, although he acknowledges that this can be time-consuming and expensive. He’s also looking at how to track the influence a reader has on the buying decision.

Indeed, this is the nub. While Peterson says content is about brand awareness, he actually uses it as part of a large sales funnel. By keeping the company in front of the relevant audience, he is building a reputation for relevance, excellence and value creation. He might not see it primarily as a sales tool, but it is certainly an invaluable part of the sales process, helping the sales team. “We certainly provide leads,” he says.