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Jan Deahl – Want A Competitive Edge As A Marketer? Understand Your Business – Episode #105

“Nobody is going to manage your career for you.”

Jan Deahl is a marketing leader with over 20 years of investment industry experience who has ran international and global institutional marketing efforts at some of the world’s top asset management firms including AllianceBernstein, Janus Capital Group, American Century Investments, and the CFA Institute.

He has worked globally, including being based in New York and Hong Kong. Jan graduated from Binghamton University with a BA in English Literature. He is currently the Head of Marketing for a Global Investment Bank.


  • What are some differences and challenges between working at large global investment organizations vs smaller FinTech firms?
  • When planning out a marketing strategy, what does Jan focus on first?
  • What are some of the specific marketing challenges within the financial services industry?
  • Why did Jan specialize in this specific industry?
  • How to define sales enablement and why do marketers need to incorporate this into their B2B marketing campaigns?
  • Is customer segmentation a one-off exercise? How often should marketers review documentation around customer segmentation?
  • What qualities and skills does Jan look for when hiring?
  • How should managers approach helping their teammates grow in their careers?
  • What benefits come from traveling the world, that translates into career growth?

And more!

You can say hi to Jan via LinkedIn, here –

Full Episode Transcript:

Kenny Soto 0:01  

Hello everyone, and welcome to the people Digital Marketing podcast. This is Episode 105, believe it or not, and today’s guest is Jan deal. Hi, Jen, how are you?


Jan Deahl 0:17  

Hey, Kenny, how are you? Thanks for having me on. Wow, Episode 105. Great to be here.


Kenny Soto 0:22  

Yeah, it’s a, it’s been remarkable that this has been going on for two years. And I haven’t gotten bored about doing this at all. It’s actually really fun to talk to smart marketers like yourself. And before we get into your speech, your areas of expertise, excuse me, I wanted to just get some more context for myself and for the listeners. So let’s start off by asking, How did you get into digital marketing?


Jan Deahl 0:48  

Yeah, sure. So, you know, look, I was an English major in college. And I honestly didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. And, you know, some people just say No, I want to be an actor or photographer, a research analyst, or an investment management marketer, that wasn’t me. And, you know, to all of you guys out there starting your career journey, you don’t need to know, I think what you need to do, or what I have done throughout my career is try to capitalize on the opportunities at hand in front of you today. 


That’s huge because it’s hard to predict where you’re gonna go 510 1520 years from now, you know, I sort of figured I was unlikely to write the great American novel. So I got into the business, I used my writing skills then expanded into a broader marketing role. And you know, as for digital marketing, you know, the world has obviously gone digital, and the pandemic has only accelerated that. So, you know, the two are basically synonymous one in the same these days.


Kenny Soto 1:53  

Could you give us some context into what you are doing now?


Jan Deahl 1:57  

Sure. So, you know, I started my career at Sanford, C, Bernstein, and Co, Inc, writing RFPs. Great place to be a great asset manager, a great marketing organization, an excellent place to learn the investment management world investment products, and understand clients and their needs. 


Fast forward to 2005, I moved out to Hong Kong. And that’s where I really broadened into a larger marketing role running b2b marketing for the first AllianceBernstein in Asia, and then the non-US business. Since that, I’ve worked for several large investment management organizations. 


And here we are today. I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Alexandria technology. So we use machine learning to analyze the world’s financial text. It’s pretty it’s a pretty cool area. And we work with the largest and most sophisticated institutional investors in the world. To simply help them do two things one, make better investment decisions and generate additional outperformance or alpha in their portfolios.


Kenny Soto 3:13  

Financial Services is always fascinated me and I had the pleasure of working for a year at a Fintech startup, they were and they still are selling the world’s first checking and investing account at the same time. And I found it rather difficult because we were a team of seven people at the time, and a lot of us had to wear multiple hats. What are some of the differences and challenges between working at large global investment organizations versus smaller FinTech or porks?


Jan Deahl 3:46  

Yeah, no, great question. I mean, look, I’ve enjoyed both quite a bit, I would say that I’ve always been a generalist in nature, running b2b marketing efforts within larger global investment organizations. And what I have done back to that, like seizing the opportunity at hand, I have made it my mission to learn the industry, learn client needs products, etc. So generalist with a specialist in asset management. 


And I think, you know, for those of you out there, you know, in your career right now, whatever position firm you’re in, make it your goal to really understand the business side of things that gives you an edge. You know, I moved to Hong Kong as part of a larger organization, but we’re this small team, very entrepreneurial. And today as chief marketing officer, yeah, we do not have the scale and resources of a, you know, 500 billion asset management firm. And I love that I mean, I own everything. 


So it’s the, you know, setting the vision and strategy for marketing, building the marketing infrastructure, you know, and me and my team responsible for bringing that to life through multi-channels. And finally owning the results. I think, you know, I sort of relish that what I love to do is build marketing efforts to build businesses. And this role allows me to do that.


Kenny Soto 5:26  

When planning out a marketing strategy, specifically, what do you focus on first?


Jan Deahl 5:32  

Yeah, I mean, I love this question, how much time do we have? There’s, there’s a lot that goes into this, right? You know, one, and, Kenny, this is gonna sound obvious, but understand the business side of things, I think, you know, especially people just starting out, think I’m gonna run a marketing campaign. It’s like, well, you can’t run a marketing campaign in a vacuum. And that’s not a strategy. 


So you know, what level of maturity is the business and you were just talking about Kenya, you worked at a place with seven people in marketing. Well, that’s going to be you know, much different a smaller FinTech organization with call it five peers, versus a large global asset manager with, you know, 1000s of people around the world and 1000s of peers alike. That’s a very different equation. So, understanding where the firm is, is, at first, what are the firm’s goals. 


Like, once again, obvious, but you need to make sure marketing is aligned with the firm’s business objectives. Like, you know, okay, are we at the stage where we need to look at our brand and messaging? No, that’s all sorted out, okay? Are we at the stage where we need to increase, you know, penetration in certain markets, like, you know, from there, once you understand that, then you can shape the strategy, you know, you can shape what your key initiatives are going to be, and then how you’re going to execute those? So I guess, long story short, start with the business and you know, the business objectives.


Kenny Soto 7:15  

One thing that’s helped me in my new role working in car insurance, I’ve never worked in car insurance before. But I’ve made it my mission to meet with as many heads of other departments as much as possible, and as frequently as possible. 


Because one, no one’s going to really tell you to do that that’s on you, you need to take the initiative to do that yourself. And so by doing so, all these little pieces of insight, give you access to more ideas, if you’re creative. And if you’re on the performance side, it just helps you understand how you are impacting the business from a holistic perspective. So I’m glad you mentioned that. Now,


Jan Deahl 7:59  

Kenny, I mean, that is outstanding like that, you know, that is making the most of your days. And you’re, you’re where you are today that that’s what I’m talking about, like understanding the business, you might not be able to meet with prospective clients if you can. That’s fantastic because that is firsthand insight. 


But the next best is alright, let me partner with the sales team. Let me understand the product team, let me understand, you know, what clients are saying. So that’s excellent. And that, you know, you take that with you wherever you go.


Kenny Soto 8:36  

Yeah, it’s a practice that I’ve been trying to adopt more and more because, for the most part, I’m realizing that I’m speaking for myself. So I don’t know if everyone is doing this or if the listeners have done this, but at least for myself, in my first three years of marketing, I only cared about marketing metrics. 


Meanwhile, marketing helps drive revenue, right? And until that really clicks, you don’t realize how important it is for you to understand how the business makes revenue, and how marketing aids in that endeavor. Once you figure that out, I feel like you immediately start becoming a better marketer.


Jan Deahl 9:09  

100% that is massive. And I think one thing that was phenomenal about the move to Hong Kong, I mean, I always partnered with, you know, business leaders and sales leaders. But I was a part of this much bigger organization in Hong Kong. 


It was a group of us at this larger firm saying, Okay, how do we take our products and services, you know, to these institutional investors around Asia and outside the US, and it was you a palpable feel for Okay, we have this client need, how do we meet it? Partnering with sales, so I 100% Totally agree.


Kenny Soto 9:51  

What are some of the specific marketing challenges that FinTech and financial services organizations face that others or organizations don’t?


Jan Deahl 10:02  

Yeah, I mean, you know, look, I’ve spent my whole career in investment management, you know, first these large global investment management firms. And now FinTech, I think, you know, there are a few challenges. One, there’s a lot of competition. And, you know, I think asset management, you have great asset managers providing a very valuable service to, you know, call it a pension plan that needs to grow their assets to meet the needs of their end beneficiaries like that’s an important service. 


But you have a lot of asset managers providing, arguably similar services, and you have this industry that is not, let’s say, the most progressive from a marketing standpoint, right? So one of the biggest challenges is being able to cut through the noise. And there’s a lot of noise out there and more and more every day. 


So thought leadership is a good example. You know you can look around the industry, quote, thought leadership and a lot of it looks the same. So how do you differentiate one, your firm, and your competitive advantage? And then how do you bring insights to clients and prospective clients that are uniquely differentiated, that’s not an easy thing to do. And I think, your final point here, a lot of marketers will take the easy way out and say, Oh, I’m just gonna write the same thing that everybody else writes. And, you know, Hey, is that right or wrong? I don’t know. But I like to try, I like to try to push my team to cut through the noise.


Kenny Soto 11:48  

Why did you specialize specifically in the finance industry? Yeah.


Jan Deahl 11:55  

Looking back, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. And I knew I could write, I knew I wanted to get into business. And then sort of, I would say, I found asset management, but it found me in some respects, as I said, I was fortunate to start my career at a great investment firm. And I did relish learning the business learning, you know, the global competitive landscape, and I’ve grown to love it along the way. 


I think that you know, it brings unique challenges, as we talked about, but incredible opportunities, it’s taken me, you know, kind of around the world and back, and I, you know, I enjoy ultimately trying to help clients, you know, improve their investment returns, improve their portfolios. And back to that point, it is a really important service meeting, you know, the needs of pension plans and their participants as one example.


Kenny Soto 13:05  

Let’s dive into some more tactical stuff. Now. How would you define sales enablement? And why do marketers need to incorporate that into their b2b marketing campaigns?


Jan Deahl 13:18  

Yeah, good question. I mean, this might be a little flippant, but sales enablement. I’m I’m been in b2b marketing my whole career. It’s marketing, right? I mean, sales and marketing should be intertwined. And that is just unequivocal. You know, back to your point earlier, Kennedy, when you were walking around your firm or your organization, meeting people on the ground, understanding their roles and in your role within the larger, larger organization. 


Ultimately, marketing and sales should be especially in an institutional b2b setting, hand in hand. So, you know, one of my specialties is partnering with my institutional sales team, they understand we are on the same team, and my goal is to help them be successful. So we spend a lot of time thinking about okay, where are we winning today? You know, what, what, what challenges do we have? Where are we losing? What do we need to improve back to cutting through the noise, you know, is our message resonating? If our message is resonating, great, then let’s get it out there in a big way. 


And we’ll figure out together how we need to do that. What channels if it’s not? Well, we need to hone in on, you know, fixing and sharpening that. So I guess, and then, you know, final point, look, this can take many forms from sitting down with your sales organization, partnering with them to build a strategy to make sure they have the right messaging and positioning Making sure they have the right tools. 


And back to this. Look, if you’re at a smaller firm, you might not need a quote or sales enablement tool. If you are at a large global firm with, you know, 100 salespeople running around the world, well, then you need tools to make sure that you are consistent, efficient, etcetera.


Kenny Soto 15:22  

Is customer segmentation, a one-off? Or once off? Excuse me exercise? And how often should you review documents around customer segmentation?


Jan Deahl 15:36  

Yeah, um, you know, I think, I think this goes back to the organization and understanding the organization you are at. So if you have an organization with, you know, 1000s of people and 100 people in marketing versus, you know, you’re at a smaller firm with three people in marketing, you have to pick you, you have to pick your spots, what are you going to focus on? Right? So, I guess, when I ran b2b marketing, you know, throughout my career, I owned that institutional client, essentially, I owned understanding who our clients are, what are their needs. 


What’s the difference between, you know, a regional pension plan versus a global sovereign wealth fund? You know, or a smaller pension plan in the US versus a large sovereign wealth fund in China? And then, you know, in a larger sense, I guess, if you have a channel marketer, I think that channel marketer should own the client segmentation in partnership with sales, like they could own it themselves and say, Hey, sales team, do you think I have this correct, or you partner together to create that, if you’re in a smaller organization, you know, marketing owns everything. 


But I would say this, that you, you could afford to make this an ongoing exercise at a larger firm and really, continually fine tune and hone that and get very granular versus at a smaller firm, I’d say, look at a baseline level, know who your clients are, and then focus on the other 50 things you need to do. Does that? Does that make sense?


Kenny Soto 17:31  

That makestotal sense. Now, when it comes to your team, I’m curious, what qualities do you look for in job candidates before hiring them?


Jan Deahl 17:39  

Yeah, thanks for this question. I, I’ve been fortunate, I’ve managed some great marketers and great teammates, you know, the things I look for. Look, obviously you need to have the skills and the expertise at a baseline level. But what I look for honestly, is grit, and attitude, I look for somebody that I want to partner with, and that wants to partner with who’s going to teach me and push me to, I want to partner with my team to build marketing efforts that build businesses up. 


So I want strong partners and collaborators. On the flip side, what are the only things I really can’t accept are, you know, a lack of effort, a lack of positive attitude. I mean, look there, there’s, there’s no job, that’s perfect. And I think everyone at times in their career has some empathy. But if you don’t want to be there, or I’ll call myself out, if I don’t want to be there, fine. It’s on you to move on. But it’s sort of a two-way street. It’s sort of like, you know, help you help me, Jerry, like, if you want to work with me, and you bring the effort. I typically think we can do great things together.


Kenny Soto 19:03  

Some of the listeners or managers, what advice would you have for them for just helping their teams get upskilled? What approach do you have when it comes to training your teams and making them better?


Jan Deahl 19:17  

Yeah, good question. I mean, you know, once again, I think first and foremost, this comes back to attitude. So both my parents were teachers when I grew up, and I have, you know if I didn’t get into investment management, marketing, that was one potential career path, and I like to teach and I like my team to teach me this gets back to a partnership, openness, willingness if you’re putting an effort. 


Let me say this, Kenny, nobody’s going to manage your career for you and I have learned that along the way people have literally told me that and it’s true. Your organization, your manager, and your boss aren’t sitting around saying, how do I help Kenny progress in his career? Now, if you go to your manager and say, hey, look, I’m here, and I want to get to here, and this is going to help me and we improve, great, like, let’s work on that together. So I think that bringing that attitude and that hunger to learn more or do more. 


I love that because that’s going to make us both better. And I guess I enjoy sitting down and talking to my team about business brainstorming. I think one of the best things I have done is, you know, I set up a Yeah, we always have our weekly check-ins, but I set up a one-to-one, and then a group setting with my team, where we just brainstorm. And that doesn’t have to be, you know, that shouldn’t be every week. But every month every quarter, why not? I don’t have a monopoly on the best ideas, certainly. 


And that’s where it gets back to. I want teammates and collaborators we’re together, and we can say, hey, what, what good ideas? Do we have any? What bet do you think are bad? Like what’s working? What isn’t? So, you know, that’s just one thing that I’ve done that I have really enjoyed and gotten a lot out of.


Kenny Soto 21:33  

Two more questions for you. You mentioned several times that you live in Hong Kong, I’m curious to know, how has travel in general affected your career?


Jan Deahl 21:44  

Yeah, I mean, Lucky gives you a great perspective. So you, working in Hong Kong was fantastic. I ran b2b marketing for Asia, and then the non-US business, as I said, and you know, just learning different cultures, different, you know, national pension plans and approaches to retirement savings, different languages, food culture, it was fantastic. 


And I think one thing it did for me, too, is Hong Kong and Asia had this great energy and excitement and entrepreneurial fields. So not only, you know, just being there, but being a part of a smaller team at a much larger organization. It really helped me shape wanting to build marketing efforts to build businesses. And it was just, it was so much fun, great experience, I highly recommend it if you get the opportunity.


Kenny Soto 22:55  

Yeah. And I would double-click on that I lived right across the border in Shenzhen for a year. Oh, yeah. Yeah. And I lived in Beijing too. And I just, I think it’s so important. Even if you don’t move everything, spending at least a month somewhere, and seeing how other people live outside of your career, just adds more perspective on what you have at home, what to be grateful for, and what might be missing from your life by observing others that you might want to add. I think that’s very important to see it at least as early as possible.


Jan Deahl 23:34  

Yeah, I mean, definitely. Kenny, I think, you know, you also, you know, see the world. And then look, a lot of our organizations and opportunities are global, right? So if you’ve spent your entire life in, you know, one city and never left, it’s like, it’s hard for you to have the perspective that, you know, that is helpful when, you know, running marketing for a global organization. So 100%.


Kenny Soto 24:05  

Jan, my last question for you is hyper-hypothetical, because time machines don’t exist, but if they did, then you can go back in time, 10 years into the past, knowing everything you know, right now, how would you specifically accelerate the speed of your career?


Jan Deahl 24:18  

Wow, that’s deep Kenny. Um, well, you know, I honestly wouldn’t accelerate my career. I’m, I’m happy with my career. And I’m happy overall, with the, you know, the way I’ve gone about things back to grit and attitude. I think I’ve had that for a lot of my career, and that’s served me well. You know, I think just one piece of advice I would give myself is to make sure that you understand, it’s a small world. 


And you know, when you’re young Young and starting out, it’s easy to say, oh, you know, I don’t like this organization or this person or this is bothering me. It is a small world and back to digital. It’s even smaller now, right? Everybody knows each other on LinkedIn and others. So build strong relationships at an early point, I think, you know, fortunately, I’ve built strong relationships over my career. But I’ve got a deeper appreciation for that over the years, and I’ve become much better at it over time.


Kenny Soto 25:35  

Jan, if anyone wanted to find you online and say, Hello, where can they go?


Jan Deahl 25:39  

Yeah. So you know, you can find me on LinkedIn, shoot me a note, and happy to, you know, hear from you.


Kenny Soto 25:48  

Perfect. And I’ll put your LinkedIn in the show notes. And again, thanks for your time today. Really appreciate it. And thank you, to you, the listener, listening to another episode of the people that digital marketing, and if you’re hearing this, we are taking guest suggestions. Do you have a marketer that you’ve always wanted to learn from, but you possibly don’t just want to read tweet threads? Let me know I’ll reach out to them on your behalf and we will get them on the podcast. And if you haven’t done so already, please subscribe. And I hope everyone has a great week.




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