5 steps for a successful marketing materials audit

If your department is undertaking a wide-sweeping marketing materials audit to identify stale messages and outdated figures, or if your firm is taking its marketing initiatives in a more digital direction, this five-step process will help you lead your team through this seemingly complicated process.

Step 1: Setting your auditing goals

Before jumping into writing and design, before you even begin hunting down all of your firm’s old marketing materials, we recommend that you clearly define your goals. Why are you conducting the audit? How will the audit help your marketing initiatives going forward? Typical answers are:

“We want our marketing materials to be relevant and have a longer life.”

“We want to lower our long-term marketing costs via fewer refreshes and fewer print runs.”

“We want our marketing materials to be read by a wider audience.”

“We want to engage our clients and prospects in new ways.”

Step 2: Create a content map

Now that you’ve clearly defined your goals, it’s time to categorize and reprioritize your marketing materials.

Start by using the goals that you defined in Step 1 to determine your grouping methodology. Ways that are more traditional include grouping your materials by product or campaign. Lately, however, we’ve seen a shift to grouping materials demographically or by life stage. For example, if you are trying to target millennials, you would list in a spreadsheet all the materials that apply to this cohort.

If you group materials demographically, you’ll find that many of them apply to savers and investors at different life stages. Make sure these materials end up in both buckets. Why? When you rethink formats in Step 3, you may decide to deliver similar content in radically different formats depending on who you’re engaging.

Step 3: Rethink formats

There’s a good chance the majority of the materials that you’re auditing are print brochures. And there’s an even better chance that your firm wants to take many of them in new digital directions. A marketing materials audit is the ideal time to have these discussions.

While you may simply update these brochures, keep in mind that infographics, microsites and online articles are all great ideas because they are engaging, sharable and easy to update, all of which deliver on the goals outlined in Step 1.

Step 4: Audit your resources

Is your team big enough to handle the updates and fill in the gaps that you identified? If the wide-ranging scope of a marketing materials audit seems too large, complex or time consuming, think about hiring a content partner who can help create a strategy for your refreshed content.

If you need additional resources, make sure that your content partner has the product and industry knowledge to effectively round out your team.

Step 5: Production

Now that you know what marketing materials you have and which ones you want to refresh, it’s time for your writers, designers and developers to get to work. Coordinating your resources is time consuming. But clear timelines and focused work – that is, strategically working through your list without running too many refreshes at once – will help your team deliver great results.

Next steps

Although a marketing materials audit will create some challenges, especially as your typical day-to-day responsibilities aren’t going anywhere, following these five steps will ensure that this challenging and exciting initiative goes more smoothly.

If you want to read more about auditing your marketing materials, read our post on how to better align your materials with your sales team.

Does it sound like it’s time for a marketing materials audit? Contact us at 1.844.243.1830 or


5 tips for creating stronger infographics

It can be difficult to communicate complex ideas or hold a reader’s interest in number and/or text-heavy documents.

This is especially true when it comes to financial services marketing, where it’s important that we clearly communicate the hard facts that support our messages.

Infographics are a great solution. They can take complex concepts like financial market trends, demographic changes or asset class performances, and make them instantly understandable through the visual shorthand of colours and shapes.

Through the use of numbers and graphics, infographics are easy-to-understand tools that quickly relay important information to your audience. Here are five key ways to make your next infographic stronger:

Stay focused

It’s important to keep your infographic streamlined and focused on a single topic. It’s not an opportunity to pack in a collection of unrelated facts and figures. Instead, try to isolate the most important point you want to make – and drive that point home through your infographic. Other important topics can be covered in future infographics.

It’s important to keep your infographic streamlined and focused on a single topic.

Simplicity is key

Infographics are beneficial because they can visually represent advanced information in simple, understandable ways. But they can easily become a complex overload of icons, graphics and fonts, which muddy and distract your reader from key messages. Simple is better, so let your main point shine through by sticking to just a few visual elements.

Know your audience

Successful infographics adopt a style and address interests specific to their intended audience. You can miss the mark by focusing on irrelevant concerns or too wide an audience. Figure out who you’re speaking to – e.g., professionals, Millennials, retirees – and craft your infographic accordingly.

Figure out who you’re speaking to – e.g., professionals, Millennials or retirees – and craft your infographic accordingly.

Size matters

Infographics may be resized a lot before being finalized. For instance, they may be designed large but compressed later for the web, which can hurt readability in the process. Make sure viewers can easily see the smallest fonts and images, no matter the format.

Pick a solid headline

Just like great articles, great infographics have strong headlines that capture attention and draw readers in.

Some key elements to remember when creating a great infographic: use an active voice over passive one, keep it short enough to understand and include a benefit to your intended audience.

Next time you have an important concept you need to share that involves complex information, try an infographic to get your message out there loud and clear.

And remember to ask us how you can make your next infographic even stronger by making it animated.

Need help crafting an interesting and easy-to-read infographic? Contact us today at 416.925.1700, 844.243.1830 or

Read more:

Provide an experience clients won’t soon forget

But can you make a PowerPoint?

But can you make a PowerPoint? We’re asked this question all the time.

It’s no surprise. “Financial services marketing and investment commentaries” covers a broad range of possibilities. To find out more about investment commentaries, click here. To find out more about financial services marketing, read on.

Services at Ext. Marketing Inc.

Yes, we make PowerPoint presentations – and we can do much, much more for you. Here are just some of the ways that we can help you and your firm achieve your marketing goals while alleviating many of your concerns and challenges around resourcing:

  • Copy and design for PowerPoint presentations
  • Copy and design for newsletters
  • Digital newsletters and eBlasts
  • Copy and design for brochures, infographics, sales tools and fund sheets
  • Copy and design for websites and microsites
  • Strategize and execute custom content campaigns
  • Write blog posts for content marketing and other usages
  • Help you brand and get the word out about a new product or services
  • Conduct marketing materials audits
  • Copy for executive speeches
  • Copy for press releases
  • Lead brainstorming sessions
  • Enhance your social media activity and presence
  • Script, storyboard, shoot and edit videos
  • We even offer print production and translation services!

You get the picture – we’re a full-service marketing and communications partner for financial services firms.

If you have a marketing challenge, we can help you work through it. Contact us at 416.925.1700, 844.243.1830 or

[Insert catchy headline]

Headlines are the first words your audience sees. And, if your headlines don’t catch your audience’s attention, they may be the last words your audience sees.

That’s why it’s so important to create headlines that grab your reader’s attention and act as incentive to read the rest of the piece you have taken the time to write.

The following are a few key tips for writing better headlines.

Keep it aligned with the content

Okay, we’re starting with the practical here. If your article is about your economic growth outlook for emerging markets, it’s probably a good idea to have the words “economic” and “emerging markets” in the title, or at least allude to these concepts in some way.

If your title for this article is “Strawberries and cream make for a proper outlook,” people may read on, but you will quickly lose them and their trust, possibly for good.

Keep it tight

Our motto is “the fewer words, the better.” Instead of writing, “The five best ways to improve your portfolio management process,” try “Improve your portfolio management process today.” The second option has almost half the word count and is way more active.

Our motto is “the fewer words, the better.”

And speaking of active words…

It’s always better to use strong, active words over a more passive tone. Verbs tend to draw in readers a lot more than adjectives and nouns.

Start your “search” engines

We’re not sure we’re saying it right, but these days it’s important to consider using words in your headlines that people are likely to “Google.”

If you’re writing about small-cap investing, include “small-cap investing” in the headline to improve the chance that your piece will be picked up by search engines and, when people punch in “small-cap investing,” hopefully your article will be close to the top of the list!

Avoid industry jargon

Financial professionals tend to use a lot of industry words that aren’t necessarily used or understood by the masses. It’s a good idea to save that jargon for the body copy in your piece, where you will have more room to explain what those jargony words actually mean.

You should also avoid largely unknown acronyms in your headlines.

These are just some of the tips we believe will help you write better headlines to better engage readers. Please weigh in if you have other tips on this topic!

Looking for writing help? Contact us at 416.925.1700, 844.243.1830 or

Read more:

Delivering the right information at the right time

Five techniques for more effective self-editing

Let’s explore the value of custom content

To connect with your existing clients – and to reinforce your brand, communicate your value as an investment management firm and create new opportunities – it’s high time that you craft tailored content specifically for them. We’re talking about custom content.

A lot of your custom content will focus on answers to your clients’ questions – that’s what makes it useful. Producing content like this sets your firm apart as a helpful, authoritative resource. Even better, custom content has a direct impact on fund sales and conversion rates. Let’s explore.

Your clients are looking for content

A study from AOL & Neilson captured how people spend their time on the web. It breaks down like this:

  • 53% reading published content
  • 23% on social media
  • 7% checking email

But here’s the stat we really want to share: 23% of all social media messages included links to published content. How much does that add-up to? Well, people share 27 million pieces of content every day on social media.

People share 27 million pieces of content each day on social media.

Content levels

Your firm is probably sharing content in one form or another. So, where does custom content fit into your broader content initiatives? This is how we break down content:

  • Curated, published content from reputable sources. For us financial services marketers, large North American news outlets, such as The Globe and Mail or The Wall Street Journal, are prime sources.
  • Firm-based content. This often includes product information, campaigns (e.g., RRSPs and RESPs) and portfolio manager perspectives.
  • Custom content. This is all about sharing your insights and expertise to a specific target audience (e.g., through infographics, videos, articles and blog posts).

When you put these three types of content together, you dramatically increase your chances of engaging your clients.

Custom content builds relationships

Why bother spending the extra time and money producing custom content? Because it provides a solid return on investment. Consider the following four data points when putting together your pitch for custom content:

  • 68% of consumers like custom content because it’s tailored to their interests (Source: The Content Council)
  • 55% of consumers said they would be more apt to buy another product from a company that provides them with custom content (Source: The Content Council)
  • 70% of individuals want to learn about products through content rather than traditional advertising (Source: NewsCred)
  • Clients invest and refer 2 times more often when they report feeling engaged by their advisor (Source: Vanguard)

Developing custom content

Knowing about custom content is one thing, producing it is another. Here are six ideas for launching a new custom content initiative at your firm:

  • Blogs – e.g., write a series of posts helping millennials save and invest better
  • Articles – e.g., create an advertorial highlighting the relevance of a new investment solution
  • Videos – e.g., produce videos that show how investing can make life better
  • Infographics – e.g., find an engaging way to share stats around retirement savings
  • Whitepapers – e.g., write a whitepaper explaining the shifting role of the advisor
  • Newsletters – e.g., craft print and digital newsletters focused on investor education

An interesting thing about these ideas is that they all cross-pollinate. That is, you can put videos in blogs, infographics in whitepapers, blogs in newsletters, and more. This exponentially improves your odds of engaging your clients.

Contact us at 416.925.1700, 844.243.1830 or to develop custom content and give your clients what they want.

Working with millennials

3 reasons to create a reference guide for your next sales tool

Sales tools are a great way to get information about a new product or campaign into your sales people’s hands so they can begin using them with clients.

But don’t send your sales tool out without a little support. Even the best sales tool will lose its impact if busy sales people aren’t fully aware of the key messages.

Also, language used during a sales presentation can differ from person-to-person, and the tool may end up not being used as effectively as it should be. Enter the reference guide, which can take the form of Q&As, detailed diagrams with callout boxes, or even basic microsites.

A reference guide:

1. Helps control the message

A reference guide speaks in clear voice from management, sales, product marketing, etc. about the tool’s most important messages.

Furthermore, the “internal use only” nature of reference guides provides a forum for direct and clear instruction regarding a product’s features and benefits.

The “internal use only” nature of reference guides provides a forum for direct and clear instruction regarding a product’s features and benefits.

2. Serves as a reminder on “how to”

The reference guide should go through the set-up of the sales tool and explain how to navigate it properly. For example: What needs to be highlighted? What is the goal? The reference guide should contain details that the sales team needs to know when they start using it.

3. Reduces training time for employees

Although getting everyone together and discussing a new sales tool is effective, having a reference tool can cut down on training time, meetings and emails. All the details required about the tool and how to use it should be included in the guide.

All the details required about the tool and how to use it should be included in the guide.

A reference guide can also build confidence in new employees, as they don’t have to memorize everything and will have a resource that can act as a refresher as time goes on.

For more information about creating effective reference guides, contact us today at 416.925.1700, 1.844.243.1830 or

Read more:

Strengthening the writer-editor relationship

When to use passive voice

How to communicate with investors about underperformance

Financial services marketers face challenges every day, from writing investor education articles to managing complex rebranding initiatives. There’s one marketing challenge that we all wish would never happen, even though it’s inevitable: communicating with investors about an underperforming investment solution.

So, tip #1: don’t hide from underperformance. Quite the opposite. Get in front of it, be transparent and talk about what matters most to investors. Trust and understanding will go a long way to building a strong, enduring relationship.

Identify investor concerns

Any project that tackles underperformance must start by identifying investor concerns. And when it comes to performance, investors typically have two highly important concerns:

  • Am I overpaying for my investments?
  • Will I achieve my financial goals?

Once you know investor concerns, use them to identify your key messages. Fees and the value of advice are hot-button topics in the financial services industry but for the purposes of this article, let’s move forward with the idea of reassuring your investors that they will meet their goals.

A note on the causes of underperformance

The reasons why a fixed income solution may underperform are different from those for an equity solution, and within equities, a Canadian solution may underperform for different reasons than a global solution. For example:

  • A bond fund could underperform because of unexpected interest rate moves
  • A Canadian fund may underperform because of its weighting to energy companies
  • A global fund could underperform as a result of its geographic allocation

The point here is that no one-size-fits-all strategy exists for communicating about short-term underperformance. To do it right, you need robust product and industry knowledge, and the ability to make complex issues investor friendly.


You’ve identified the primary investor concern: they’re uncertain whether they will achieve their financial goals. Could there be a more valid concern? We don’t think so. So, now it’s time to execute.

1. Create a special brochure

By crafting a special print- and web-friendly brochure, you create an opportunity to talk about the benefits of the underperforming solution. For example, you can highlight:

  • The manager’s philosophy and process – this is especially important if your firm has a strong history or if the manager has a truly unique approach
  • The solution’s role in a diversified portfolio – investors may question why a certain solution made it into their portfolio, offering you the opportunity to talk about asset allocation
  • The importance of focusing on long-term goals rather than short-term volatility – remind investors that they are on the right path

2. Build a microsite

If you want to reinforce the importance of diversification and asset allocation, you can create an interactive microsite that uses the underperforming solution to diversify investor portfolios. Microsites are a great choice since they can have a long life. Why? Because, in this example, the asset allocation story is important at all times.

For microsite tips, read Why microsites are a big deal.

3. Produce a whitepaper

We think that an investor-friendly whitepaper is equally valuable as a brochure in this situation because they naturally have a more sophisticated feel that relies on data. Talking about underperforming investment solutions isn’t about whitewashing poor returns, it’s about explaining the situation effectively and data can help you do this with clear examples.

For more on whitepapers, read Whitepaper tactics that work and Five best practices for creating better whitepapers.

4. Write an advertorial

Support your investors by supporting advisors. We recommend writing a piece specifically for a trade publication that not only references, but also builds, on the whitepaper mentioned above. Advertorials are a great way to reach a broad audience, and you can tie them into other marketing and ad campaigns.

5. Host a PM roadshow

Although portfolio manager roadshows might be falling out of favour as a result of their high costs, and while they aren’t our first recommendation, they’re still effective and beneficial if the portfolio manager believes a roadshow could help with retention efforts.

Since mutual fund underperformance is unavoidable, we think you should turn the challenge into an opportunity for you and your firm. Your honesty and transparency will help you build stronger relationships with investors. And don’t forget to equip advisors with relevant materials first, since they are the ones who communicate directly with clients and field many of the performance questions from them.

If you need help writing about an underperforming investment solution, contact us at 416.925.1700 or info