Why Your Site May Be On The Verge Of Losing Lots Of Traffic

Here’s a quick test for you: Search for the ticker symbol of one of your firm’s funds, a big one, a small one, it doesn’t matter.

What’s the top search result? A big ole chart, right? The screenshot below shows the results of a Google search on a desktop and on a smartphone. (Incidentally, note how simple and clean the data display can be when not weighed down by the pesky disclosure that’s required on your site.)

How many searches do you suppose your site loses to Google Finance, Morningstar and Yahoo Finance, the sites linked to at the bottom of the ticker symbol graphs?

There’s no need to guess—just check your Webmaster Tools account (Search Traffic/Search Queries). You’ll likely see that your site is being displayed in search results for ticker symbol searches (Impressions) but that you’re not getting the majority of the clicks.

In all likelihood, the information that Google is providing to ticker symbol searchers right there on the search results page is either 1)satisfying the searcher or 2)driving the searchers to Google, Morningstar, Yahoo fund or (for ETF ticker searches) even MSN Money profile pages.

Ouch. This especially hurts because ticker symbol searchers are the most qualified site visitors you could ask for—no doubt you’d prefer them to come to your site, sign up for an email newsletter, ask for more information, check out other funds… Opportunity is being lost because Google (and Bing, too, by the way) siphons interest in the ticker symbols of your products and reroutes traffic.

Now, competition for organic search rankings is one thing. If the authority of your domain is lacking or if you haven’t taken the appropriate SEO steps to lift the visibility of your fund pages, well, then, you’ve had your fair chance and didn’t step up.

But this extraction of structured fund data from a third-party database is different because it’s completely beyond your ability to appeal.

The publishing of fund prices on the search results page has been going on for years. My sense is that asset management digital marketers are desensitized to the traffic/attention that’s being lost. Do you remember that parable about the frog in the water? As long as the water boils slowly, the frog won't jump out because he doesn’t perceive danger. 

The Knowledge Graph And Its Impact

As it turns out, asset managers have had an early taste of what many site publishers are now experiencing due to Google’s implementation of what it calls the Knowledge Graph.

The Knowledge Graph, according to Google’s 2012 introduction of it, enhances search by narrowing search results, summarizing relevant content around a search query, and facilitating deeper and broader searches. "It currently contains more than 500 million objects, as well as more than 3.5 billion facts about and relationships between these different objects. And it’s tuned based on what people search for, and what we find out on the Web," Google wrote three years ago.

Knowledge Graph-driven search results have become more prevalent in the last year. The goal of Knowledge Graph information, whether displayed in answer boxes immediately below the search box or in a panel to the right of the search results, is to instantly provide an answer that’s relevant to a search query. Relevant answers delivered on the spot are increasingly important as more searches take place on mobile devices. The fewer clicks required on a smartphone, the better.

This is an expanded role for Google. As opposed to just directing search traffic to the most relevant Websites, it’s now taking it upon itself to try to answer search queries. For a current overview of the various search-related initiatives underway at Google (i.e., Voice Search, Knowledge Graph, Google Now), see this Medium post, part one of a series. About 25% of search queries today produce Knowledge Graph answers, according to author Steven Levy.  

While fund sponsors never made a peep about Google effectively hijacking searches for ticker symbols, many Website publishers who explicitly monetize their sites are upset and confused about the rise of Knowledge Graph.

Some object to Google’s “scraping” their sites to extract a result to show in a Knowledge Graph answer box. It’s a backhanded compliment—Google thinks enough of the site to extract answers from it, but that results in a loss of visitors to revenue-producing pages.

It’s easy to see the value that’s being provided to the searcher. If all a searcher wants is a basic definition of ETF, this Knowledge Graph extract from might be enough. If the searcher wants to dig further, Nasdaq is in an advantaged position to get the click from the added prominence on the search results page.

Consequently, some search engine optimization experts are pivoting into Knowledge Graph Optimization. Sources of the Knowledge Graph include Google+, Wikipedia, Freebase and Schema, which is structured markup added to Websites to clearly identify standard elements that Google may want to lift. Following the markup standard for Customer Service phone number, for example, can result in Google extracting the number and publishing it with the search results.

Knowledge Graph Optimization prepares Website content for what is effectively syndication of granular content.

But not all SEO experts or Website publishers approve of this appropriation of content. Many are product manufacturers, like fund companies, and they’re insisting that they should be able to be both the authoritative source of information and a search destination. For two perspectives, see Knowledge Graph 2.0: Now Featuring Your Knowledge and Knowledge Graph: Does it Make Sense to Optimize for the Google Scraper?

We live in interesting times.

So, where does this leave the asset management Website and Web strategy?

Next: Converting Searches For Fund Names

I remember how shocked my team and I were back in the day when we saw the first analytics that revealed that our site’s Daily NAV pages were the most popular pages. That made sense then for two reasons: 1)This predated the fund data aggregators and 2)advisors habitually used multiple funds from the same fund family—a late afternoon or evening visit to the fund sponsor’s Daily Prices page was all they needed.

The bleak future of sites that relied on single-page visits to pages whose data could be found elsewhere didn’t dawn on us until later.

Let’s turn now to your Web analytics. How much of your traffic goes to your product pages? Today, you may be missing out on ticker symbol searches, but my guess is that you’re still getting the traffic from people who are searching for your products by their names. This includes a long tail of searchers using a creative mix of how they spell, remember or type fund names. 

Such keyword searches are increasingly giving way to semantic searches, in which Google considers user search history as well as other contextual signals. It’s just a matter of time before Google looks at those incomplete, hastily entered fund names, automatically does the translation and understands that the searcher is looking for a fund. The fund data graph will be what's displayed as the top search result for all those searches, too.

The goal is to provide information fast, remember, and displaying the graph with the table of basic return, expense and asset size data is faster/more useful than just offering links to an asset manager fund page or, God forbid, PDF of a fact sheet. The implication for your site: More traffic (opportunity) lost.

This is your risk today. I make the assumption that traffic to your domain is something you want to protect, if not build, for a multitude of reasons that start with brand awareness and lead right up to lead scoring and predictive analytics initiatives.

A Few Recommendations

Here’s what the proactive asset management digital marketing team should be doing, at a minimum: 

  • Use the data available from Webmaster Tools and your Web analytics to get a handle on what’s what. Make sure you understand the sources of traffic to your fund pages and their value to you. How many anonymous visitors convert to newsletter subscribers or registered advisor site users, for example? How much of the traffic that Google sends to Google Finance, Morningstar, Yahoo Finance and MSN Money finds its way back to your site—how much as a result of the editorial versus advertising? 

Track all changes in your volume of search traffic and sources over time.

  • Confront the obvious: Why would a fund searcher be better off coming to your site as opposed to another site?

If you’ve researched a car in the last few years, you know that there are some automobile manufacturers that deliver superior, differentiated experiences on their Websites. Car buyers who rely exclusively on an or other car review site are missing something if they don’t check out the configuration capabilities and other bells and whistles offered by the manufacturers.

What information can you uniquely offer and attractively/interactively present for product tire-kickers?

By the way, I had the “So, what’s so special about the fund information that appears on your site?” conversation with someone recently, and she answered, “We’re the only source of our capital gains distributions.” Well, OK, that’s a start. Those pages command a lot of eyeballs at this time of year. And yet, very few firms use the margins of those pages to cross-market or otherwise communicate.

There’s no stopping Google so control what you can control—give the site visitors you attract better information and a better experience, and that includes when on a mobile device. 

  • If you think your site offers worthwhile, appealing features and data that deserve the attention of fund data searchers, promote it. Don’t sit back and expect site visitors to find it. 

Make sure your wholesalers are versed on the depth of the fund data available on the site. Promote it on the home page, throughout the site and consider targeted pay-per-click ads. As of now, you can still buy your way to the top of the ticker symbol search. 

As Google gets more grabby to protect its own value proposition, you need to be more aggressive, too.  

  • Finally, if you can’t fight them and win, join them. Google’s evolution of the Knowledge Graph (whose answers are extracted from only the first page of search results) gives you just one more reason to commit to publishing authoritative mobile-friendly content that’s optimized for search.   

Your thoughts?


Who’s Retweeting Asset Manager Tweets?

“Whatever you do, don’t tweet anything.”

That was how every conversation with a loved one ended for me last week. I was cooped up, battling the flu/cold/creeping crud that others have been succumbing to (well, just short of dying).

The Tamiflu lady is a reasonable facsimile of what was going on in my house.I had a fever, which for me has the strange effect of making everything I come in contact with seem profound and good. It used to be that when I had to stay home sick, I’d watch a movie and proclaim it the finest film ever made. Last week, bouncing between my smartphone and iPad, I couldn’t stop bookmarking content. Everything was coming together as if by design…I was seeing patterns I hadn’t seen before…my handlers were right to counsel me not to post.

Except: That DST acquisition of kasina really happened, didn’t it? That combination is intriguing and could be truly powerful for the asset management industry. Congratulations all around.

What follows is the post I thought I’d publish last week but held off until a cooler head prevailed.

What do we really know about the retweeting of mutual fund and exchange-traded fund (ETF) content?   

According to Cerulli Associates’ data quoted here, as much as three-quarters of U.S. asset managers have seized on Twitter as a means of extending the reach of their thought leadership and market insights.

An expectation unique to social platform participation is that others, fellow users, will see value in your content and share it with their own networks. This sharing expectation is at the center of discussions about the length of the tweet, the voice used, and word, hashtag, image and soon video selection.

We set the table and we wait. We wait for the retweet, that affirmation that what’s been posted has been noticed and deemed "shareworthy." A retweet, even for the handful of asset managers swimming in retweets, never gets old.

If you’re paying attention, you know who your own firm’s Twitter account loyalists are.

But here’s what I’ve been wondering: What would we learn if we looked at all retweeting of all investment management tweets over time? Would analysis reveal a community of investment tweet fanboys and fangirls? Would it—deep breath here—surface a list of the financial advisors who make up the most enthusiastic group of retweeters?

Short answer: No, not according to my modest research project.

First, Some Qualifications

First, we need to scale back what could be done. A look at all retweeting of asset manager tweets over all time isn’t possible, given Twitter’s limits on its API.

However, I was able to use the enterprise edition of to download “recent” (see below for an explanation) retweeting of 10 of the most followed asset manager accounts (BlackRock, Franklin Templeton, Invesco US, iShares, JP Morgan Funds, OppenheimerFunds, PIMCO, Vanguard_Group, Vanguard_FA and WisdomTree ETFs.) This is the majority of all retweeting, I'm confident.

My analysis included whatever retweeting data that retweetrank could provide—more than 7,200 tweets in all, but over varying time periods. For example, the data for PIMCO went back to February of 2014 but to just December 2014 for JP Morgan Funds. The available data covers the third and fourth quarters of 2014 for most of the firms.

I combined all the data and then looked for accounts that retweeted the tweets from at least two firms. Most accounts tweeted three or more firms.

The result is this list of the top 20 asset management retweeters as of the start of 2015.

This is a public Google spreadsheet.

Reality Sets In Re: Retweeting

Notwithstanding all the qualifications to this compilation, here are some of my takeaways. If you have more, please comment below. 

  • Retweeting today is a long tail proposition. While Twitter accounts belonging to individuals may indeed get their retweeting support from a cluster of supporters, it’s more a case of onesies and twosies for asset manager brand accounts. Which makes the high retweeting counts of a few firms (BlackRock and Invesco US) that much more impressive.
  • Financial advisors are not the predominant retweeters of asset manager tweets. There are exactly two advisor accounts on this list, one belongs to a Morgan Stanley advisor and the other to an investment advisor representative. 

To pursue this some, I then also aggregated and analyzed the retweeting being done of Twitter accounts belonging to financial advisor media: Advisor Perspectives, ThinkAdvisor, Investment News, Morningstar Advisor and RIABiz. But no, advisors aren’t leading the retweeting across those accounts either.

Hmm. We know that advisors think of Twitter as a means of “cascading” thought leadership, which on the face of it implies retweeting. This was documented as recently as in the Putnam Social Media survey released in December.

However, Twitter is not advisors' most prominent social network. Not every advisor who uses Twitter is permitted by his or her firm to retweet. And, one in five advisors say they use Twitter passively.  

It was just the middle of last year when the announcement came that Morgan Stanley would begin to allow 1,300 of its 16,000 advisors to begin to write their own tweets. Time will tell whether additional permissions and retweeting interest by more participating advisors across the board will play a greater role in the circulation of more investment management content. 

  • The retweeting is not coming from massively followed accounts (and definitely not the financial media Twitter accounts that asset managers seem to themselves like to retweet). Retweeting by lightly followed accounts limits the explicit value of the additional reach provided by the retweet. Remember, though, that every retweet helps in some way, even if only to prop up overall numbers.
  • The list of top retweeters includes more bot accounts—accounts with sketchy profile information or lacking URLs that go to bona fide companies—than I would have hoped. It’s anybody’s guess who’s behind these accounts but let’s not jump to the conclusion that this is a bad thing. Using a dummy account for monitoring Twitter is common, accepted practice. It makes sense that bots (which you can set and forget) are prevalent. Obviously, though, “engaging” a bot is out of the question.
  • #1 on the list is a Twitter account that retweeted 45 investment management tweets. It belongs to Dean T. Carson II, C.P.A., not a bot. However, it must be automated, given its average 133 daily tweets.
  • The list includes an employee of J.P. Morgan Office of Inspector General in Russia, who tweeted other firms’ content as well as J.P. Morgan Funds'. We may see more of this as firms begin to authorize their employees to use Twitter, to amplify their own content but others' relevant content, too.
  • Based on the number of non-U.S. retweeting accounts, Twitter is indeed extending the geographic reach of asset manager content. 

After all other considerations are exhausted, any discussion about “who’s retweeting our content and how can we get more of it?” eventually works its way ‘round to the quality of the content being posted. While you can’t control most of what drives retweeting, there’s always room to improve the appeal of what you post—here’s to your work on that in 2015!  

Your thoughts?


14 Investment Company Content Highlights Of 2014

Pay no attention to the graph below that suggests my excitement on Twitter plummeted from its high at the start of 2014.

I begin the Rock The Boat Marketing annual round-up of favorite content super-optimistic (is that better?) about the quality and range of content that I stumbled upon this year. So much so that I can finally limit this list to content highlights produced by and about the asset management industry alone.

That’s a change from previous years’ lists (2013, 2012, 2011, 2010), which included a handful of investment industry examples along with mainstream content gems. This year someone else can cover the Adele Dazeem Name Generator aka Travoltifier.

Unchanged is the need to acknowledge straight away that there’s no identifiable criteria being applied here. My favorite content, numbered below and yet in no particular order, made an impression that continues as much as 12 months after I first saw it. Whether it broke new ground, introduced new ideas, deepened my understanding or changed my mind, I found myself returning to this content, emailing links to it and finding a way to work it into presentations. 

1. Thank You For That Nice Introduction

Not so long ago, tampering with an investment company logo might well have been a fast way to meet the brand’s legal representation. The brand would never have publicly acknowledged yet alone embraced whatever travesty might have occurred.

That was then.

When, in February 2014, Jimmy Kimmel Live created a Kidelity Investments, Fidelity jumped on board. On Facebook and on Twitter, it shared the video and then deftly sought to use the mention to its advantage. Well played, Fidelity.

First the video and then the tweet.

2. Finally An Answer: About 3%

The rise of the “robo advisor” dominated financial advisor news this year, sharpening the advisory community’s focus on the value it provides.

Vanguard stepped up to help quantify the value in what has to be among the most valuable insight advisors were offered by asset managers in 2014.

Putting a value on your value: Quantifying Vanguard Advisor's Alpha was published in March (the table below is an excerpt from it).

3. And Where Did The Money Go?

This infographic is genius and yet why didn't anyone think of this before? We've all seen, produced and updated the classic Asset Classes Returns matrix chart (at right is J.P. Morgan's).

In February, Kurtosys presented 10 years of fund flows into various asset classes. Shown below is just an excerpt.

4. The Keynote Speaker Becomes A Meme

Just before the mainstream adoption of social media, the event experience was getting a tad predictable, wasn’t it? Presentations prepared weeks ahead were delivered by expertly polished speakers, most of whom seemed oblivious to the audience. They were on, they were off and then they were on their way to the next gig.

Social media gives conference attendees a voice, thereby introducing an accountability edge to the experience. Plus, event content-sharing includes the stay-at-homes who can easily follow along.

The Morningstar conference machine was humming along that day in June when PIMCO’s bond king Bill Gross took the stage wearing sunglasses and delivered some far-reaching (from The Manchurian Candidate to Kim Kardashian) remarks.

Before social media, reporters would have reported on Gross’ comments, of course. But I believe the sustained social attention—including the industry’s very own meme created by Michael Kitces—ramped everything up.

It seemed to set in motion the events that culminated in Gross leaving PIMCO for Janus, a September episode that was riveting to watch and, for some of your firms, benefit from.

5. Take Your Time, Stay A While

This was the year that asset managers joined other brands in wading into what’s called native advertising—content sponsored by an advertiser that looks as if it could be editorial.

One of the best examples has to be Goldman Sachs Interactive Guide to Capital Markets. The guide debuted on the New York Times site in February and now also lives on Goldman’s.

The top metric on this, according to what Amanda Rubin, global head of brand and content strategy at Goldman Sachs
, told Contently, is time spent.

6. Act Like You're Human

Easier said than done, especially if you’re a quanty portfolio manager, or at least that’s been my observation. That’s why this Van Eck portfolio manager selfie from October tickled me.  

Ellen De Generes and her Academy Award cronies are actors. Mugging for cameras is what they do, we shouldn’t be surprised. But when money managers think to use (or even if they were cajoled) a relatively new platform to be social and show a little personality, that’s cool.

Nobody retweeted this, though, it’s often pointed out to me. While that’s true and I wish someone had if only to encourage Van Eck, it’s not always about the retweet. Imagine seeing this tweet in your stream—four guys squeezing into the frame while taking care not to obscure the bridge behind them. This is cute. My bet is that it prompted a smile from those who did see its one and only appearance, making the kind of incremental positive impression that can be achieved on Twitter.

Sometimes you just deliver a message, you don't always get a receipt.

7. How Soon Before We’re Really All Working For Google?

In his searing contribution to the otherwise jolly What To Give The Mutual Fund, ETF Marketer—9 Elf-perts Weigh In post (vive la difference), RIABiz’s Brooke Southall made the point, “Asset management has enjoyed one of the great business models of the past 30 years—with high profit margins and terrific scalability…[But] the need to market like your lives depend on it has come to the fore.”
While Brooke’s focus was on the uninformed purchase of online advertising, it applies, too, to what may be the most intriguing story of the year: the Financial Times’ September report that Google two years ago hired a financial services research firm to assess how to enter asset management. 
In your work optimizing your sites for search rankings, including via mobile devices, digital marketers may already feel as if they're working for Google.
Here's a short list of possible advantages that Google could enjoy as an asset manager:
  • For investing, data on search volume for specific words or phrases to time the market 
  • For investing, use of its satellite imagery to predict company earnings
  • To distribute other firms’ funds
  • For relevant, even personalized marketing based on what it knows about individuals' search patterns
Watch this space. 

8. Yes, Do Dignify With A Response

When something critical is written about an asset manager, the standard response is to turn the other cheek, to not engage. But there may be times to do the opposite, given the long life of discoverable Web pages.

This year saw a few firms standing up for themselves in public ways.

To wit: 

  • In September, AdvisorShares distributed a press release about a five-star rating on one of its ETFs. In response, writer Dave Nadig cautioned readers not to be "starstruck" about that fund. And, AdvisorShares CEO Noah Hamman took to his AlphaBaskets blog to respond to Nadig point by point. Wow.
  • No mutual fund company takes on Morningstar just because. But Royce Funds’ apparent frustration (“while both our investment philosophy and process, which date back to 1972, have remained steady over the years, most of our funds have experienced frequent movement in and out of Morningstar's equity style categories”) prompted the firm to research how common it is for funds to move between categories. 

The whitepaper and accompanying blog post How Morningstar Category Flux Impacts Peer Group Analysis concludes, “Our research suggests that a fund's category is changed far more often than seems commonly acknowledged, and this should be a consideration when screening, evaluating, and/or monitoring portfolio performance.”

A subsequent video (not embeddableclick on the image to go view it) presented an interview with Director of Risk Management Gunjan Banati sits down with Co-Chief Investment Officer Francis Gannon.

9. After The TV Commercials, Content Comes Next

We don’t ordinarily think of advertising as content, but the John Hancock Life Comes Next series of intriguing television commercials are cross-channel. They serve as teases that lead to the microsite where three endings are offered for each, backed by related content.

Veteran advertisers like John Hancock know how to create commercials that are evocative, and these are terrific. If the overall program is succeeding in engaging viewers in the follow-up content and #lifecomesnext Twitter conversation, they’ve crossed a frontier not many have.

10. Dare To Be Different

Who says you can’t mention product in your blog posts? Lots of people have, over time. The idea is to engage with content that's a level above product.

But this isn’t a hard and fast rule for a business whose business is to manufacture products. Technology companies, for example, blog about their product innovations and updates.

There’s nothing poetic about this January Direxion Investments post but it’s straightforward in connecting forecasted trends with ways to use ETFs to play them. Why not try sales ideas as blog posts and see what happens?  

11. It Takes A Community

I liked Jay Palter’s Top 250 Financial Services Online Influencers That You Need To Know post for a few reasons:

  • Most obvious: The list itself, published in March, is a good place to start if you’re wondering who to follow on Twitter. Finserv isn’t as showy and prolific as others, and you could burn up a lot of time before finding these accounts on your own.
  • The very ability to create a list of 250 names of individuals focused on the regulated financial services industry (broader than just asset management) flies in the face of those who believe not much is happening with financial services and social media. There is a community, in fact.

Lots of smart people have seized on social media for its potential to improve information exchange and overall communication, and the focused content sharing by these Twitter accounts helps foster that.

  • Jay gives a good tutorial on how you might use Little Bird to create your own list of influencers for use in market intelligence. The exercise can help you see the value of optimizing your firm's social accounts with relevant keywords and hashtags that will help others find you.

12. The Benefit Of Looking At Your Own Data: The Sequel

One of 2013’s content highlights was TD Ameritrade’s creation of the Investor Movement Index, based on a sample of the firm’s 6 million accounts. It “raised the bar for other investment companies whose proprietary data contains insights when aggregated,” I wrote.

    It’s back in the list this year because of a Tumblr post by Nicole Sherrod, Managing Director of Trading at TD Ameritrade, published on Yahoo! Finance. Sherrod used the actual data to challenge sentiment survey results. You have to love this subhead: "Is Investor Sentiment Like the Truthiness of a Tinder Profile?"

What people tell the American Association of Individual Investors (AAII) Investor Sentiment Survey that they’re doing is one thing, Sherrod writes, and is volatile. 

But, she says, “What they actually are doing is reacting fairly consistently…Now you can see why we built this index. The IMX gives a view of reality with empirical data that shows what retail investors have actually been doing.” 

13. A Definitive Study On Social Media And Financial Advisors

At this point, financial advisors’ use of social media has been a preoccupation for several years. Early on, it was enough to know that some percentage of advisors considered social media appropriate for business.

But as interest heightens among asset managers, broker-dealers and vendors, questions about advisor participation have necessarily gotten more granular. We are well past high level issues. Given the investment that’s being made in content development, training (firm/advisor) and increasingly advertising, we need to know who’s doing what where and why.

Last week Putnam shared the first of the results of an extensive survey that reports on some issues not previously researched and digs into questions just superficially covered previously. These details could provide the insight needed to optimize your strategy.

LinkedIn, for example, gets all the ink and its dominance among advisors is unquestionable. But note this finding from the full report that the highest percentage of advisors considers Twitter the best network for “cascading thought leadership.”

There is a lot here worth your attention, given the survey’s finding that more than half (56%) of advisors now say that social media plays a “somewhat significant to very significant” role versus 35% just one year ago.

(By the way, after I tweeted some of the findings last week, a few people asked whether Putnam is a client. No, it isn’t and never has been. I was excited to see the new dataand yet no exclamation points were used.)

14. Bond Lessons As Performance Art

When you’ve got it, flaunt it.

This iShares video plays to the performance chops of fixed income strategist Matt Tucker and troupe. BONDing is a 2014 asset manager video series (just two to date) that investors will both learn something from and enjoy. My favorite moment in the video below comes at 1:40. Watch for the hand, that's just people having fun. Mutual fund and ETF videos could use more of that.

Bonus: More?

Inspired after reviewing the 2014 content that has stood the test of time? Download Synthesis Technology's Win The Investment Marketing Game, a 20-page e-book that I was pleased to participate in.

This will be the final post of 2014. My sincere thanks to all who contributed to and followed the blog this year. I wish the happiest of holidays to you and yours. Meet you back here the first week of January 2015.


What To Give The Mutual Fund, ETF Marketer—9 Elf-perts Weigh In

Now that the day of giving thanks is a distant memory and you’ve managed to score a few Black Friday/Cyber Monday bargains to give as holiday gifts, let’s talk about you. Specifically, what to give you, the mutual fund or exchange-traded fund (ETF) marketer this holiday.

Oh, sure, I could stuff a stocking for you. I’d pack it with thousands more YouTube video views, hundreds more email subscribers, dozens more Webinar attendees and a healthy dose of ambition for all that has to get accomplished in 2015.

But that’s the small stuff. To make it a memorable year for you, I organized a small Gift Ideas for Investment Marketers crowdsourcing project.

“And what gift would you give a fund company marketer?” I asked a panel of merry elves hand-picked for their relevance and because I consider them experts in our world at large (sorry about the elf-pert mash-up, it couldn't be avoided). Feel free to put your tongue in your rosy cheeks, I added in my note although not in so many words.

The result, below, is so not the gift guide for someone who has everything. The asset management marketer doesn’t have enough of anything—there’s never enough time, money or resources to deliver what management, Investment Management, Sales, Sales Support and consultants want.

But, let’s suspend belief for a moment...Pour a cup of hot chocolate, turn the volume down on your computer (there’s one video that’s not completely safe for work) and let’s open these gifts. 

Note: It’s been said that a gift says more about the giver, and there is definitely some of that in these. Suffice it to say that marketers’ self-improvement is the contributors' overall theme. You’re going to have to get your sugarplums from some other group.

New, Improved Clients

From Tom Brakke (@researchpuzzler), CFA, consultant, writer and investment advisor who frequently comments on asset management marketing on his The Research Puzzle blog. Tom’s Letters to a Young Analyst, which I blogged about in March, would also make a fine gift for an investment marketing team.

"I'd like to give investment marketers a new group of clients [financial advisors] that will make their lives harder, but more rewarding, during 2015.

"Of course, getting a number of incremental clients would be a bonus, but I'm really talking about current clients changing how they make decisions, specifically by abandoning the near-universal tendency to chase performance. As it is, performance trumps everything, and marketers ride the ebbs and flows of performance-driven choices. (It must be tiring to bob around in that ocean, unless you have been "hanging ten" for a long time on top of a nice wave and have forgotten what it's like to fall off.)

"However, the 'harder' part that I mentioned is that devoid of the performance driver, clients would have to dig deeper to understand what's really going on at an asset management firm. That means getting beyond the pat descriptions of investment process and 'smart people' to see the messiness of the organization intersecting with markets. The reality of it, rather than a stylized model of it.

"More demanding clients would make for tougher, but more interesting, days for marketers. And, the chance for the best to shine in a whole new way."

Better Social Media Analytics

From Blane Warrene (@blano), founder of the Arkovi social media archiving solution (now RegEd), co-host of the Digital Well podcast, editor-at-large for TheDigitalFA and speaker and advisor on financial technology.  

“An area I've been exploring is finding more context in the use of social media. From my perspective, that reaches beyond the standard analytics. For example, a normal dashboard looks for engagement and then maps that to the possible influence and reach of those who are connected with your digital properties.

“I would put two new tools in the asset manager marketer's toolbox: ThinkUp and SumAll.

"ThinkUp uses a more plain English approach to giving you a view into daily interaction with your content. I also like the time shifting reporting—looking back and reminding you of what's worked in the past.

“SumAll is analytics 2.0 to me. Giving you the ability to combine and overlay metrics you might not have thought of or been able to do in the past. One example would be connecting statistics on social advertising with organic content marketing to evaluate the value of social ad dollars.”

Study Up On What Not To Do

From Lawrence P. Stadulis, Esquire, Stradley Ronon Stevens & Young, LLP, a specialist in “matters pertaining to the registration and regulation of investment advisers and investment companies under federal and state securities laws.” Every once in a while, I ping Larry with a completely random (for him) question regarding FINRA or Compliance and he’s been good enough to set me straight.

“How about a copy of that timeless and informative tome, How to Lie with Charts, by Gerald Everett Jones?

"I recognize that most folks tend to have a pretty good handle on this aspect of marketing so it might seem a bit boring at first. But I promise you that this book is positively loaded with invaluable tips and techniques to create the most misleading marketing piece possible and draw the admiration and attention of regulators, such as the SEC."

Marketing Survival Kit

From Rob Shore (@shorespeak), wholesaler training and coach of and an inveterate salesman, as you'll see in his gift. :)

"Created by recent graduates of a 12-step financial services marketing intervention program, and specifically designed for the home office marketer, this kit contains everything you need to improve the chances of your wholesalers emerging from group meetings victorious in both the message of the firm and furtherance of their brand in the field. 

"Inside this kit you'll find:

  • slide:ology: The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations by Nancy Duarte so that you never again create slides for your sales team that contain 14-point type, charts that simply can't be read by audience members, and graphics that do nothing to support or enhance the story your wholesalers are trying to convey.
  • Wholesaler Masterminds Email Clinic so now you can craft emails that get opened, read and acted upon versus the mountain of product-pushing pseudo spam that is generated each day by well intending marketers across the land. 
  • Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds for the marketer who wants to up his game using Garr's fresh approach, which has inspired millions to communicate more clearly, creatively, and visually.

"And, if you order before the next National Sales Meeting, we'll include Tequila of The Month Club to cope with the endless deadlines, demands and irrational requests of the internal clients that you serve every day.

"The Sales Force Marketing Wholesaler Survival Kit from ROBCO, because talented folks and sizable budgets don't always mean a great end product."

When You Need A Knowledge Boost

From a real, live (follow his @iamreff Twitter feed for action shots) fund company marketer: John Refford, Vice President, Strategic Marketing Technology, Natixis Global Asset Management – U.S. Distribution

"You’re a busy digital marketer, always asked to do more with less. What you need is a knowledge robot.

"Imagine you’re working on launching that fixed-income email campaign…but wait…you need to know how many teaspoons are in a tablespoon, and you’re just too darned busy to pull your phone out of your pocket! Noooo problem. Amazon Echo to the rescue!"

How About Paying Attention To Where Your Ad Budget Is Going?

What I appreciate about this next contribution is that Brooke Southall, managing principal and reporter of and @RIABiz, has his own platform and access to conceivably millions more readers. But here he's sharing a very targeted perspective for those of you who are outsourcing/offloading your media decisions. My broad exposure to advertising analytics after the fact leads me to believe that these comments have value beyond RIABiz' self-interest.

“With a large red bow I would like to present to asset management marketers a bottle of Tylenol—not for any headache they have now. It is for the one I would think they should court in 2015 by rethinking their strategy.

“Asset managers, with a few exceptions like T. Rowe Price, Invesco and Fidelity Investments, have used a low-neuron method of attracting new investors to their products—reserving larger lobes of the corporate mind for investing. Marketing has been treated as a necessary evil. This harsh assessment comes from our perspective of selling advertising to this constituency—often through the third parties hired by the asset managers.

“The prototype at these third-party firms is a 26-year-old who is at pains to be dealing with a business-to-business publication when the sexy, millennial thing to do is to work on consumer products. Their interest in financial wares or how they flow to investors is very low.

Understanding the difference between an RIA and a broker is not something a third-party ad agency will strain their mind to understand.

They know the client will be wowed by creative output and flash and numbers and "deliverables"—even if only illusory ones. In the online world, there is no reward system to that third party for the handful of super clicks an advertisement receives from the managers of large pools of money, i.e., billions in assets.

“Often enough an asset manager simply gets a list of publications and applies dollars across the boardrewarding the lowliest publications with higher buys because the pageviews are dirt cheap.

“This tendency is truly unique to the asset management industry. People who cross over to a trade publication that covers investment managers from, say an aeronautics trade publication, are dumbfounded by the lack of care applied to the spending of these precious marketing dollars. The ultimate proof they see in the advice industry is that there has never been a shakeout of the dozens of websites and print publications that serve financial advisors—though many of them are a shadow of their former selves because of a diminishing value proposition.

“I can only conclude that this confounding marketing practice of giving final discretion of dollars spent to uninformed outsiders, like other tendencies that come across as nonsensical, can be attributed to the residue of a culture of privilege.

“Asset management has enjoyed one of the great business models of the past 30 years—with high profit margins and terrific scalability. It has also existed in a very static world of distribution whereby stockbrokers held sway and acted in predictable ways.

“But with RIAs or quasi-RIAs supplanting brokers and asset managers squeezed by ETFs and a proliferation of other asset managers, the need to market like your lives depend on it has come to the fore. This is only complicated by print publications fading as online publications take up the slack. Telecommunications companies eventually learned that you can't trust local phone companies to handle cable quality from the trunk lines at the telephone pole across the yard to the living room. Marketers of investment management could pay greater attention, too, to who sees their marketing by concentrating on this 'final mile'.”

You Can't Afford Cold Feet

And now let's hear from Leslie Marshall (@LeslieAMarshall), Director - Events, Magazine and Social Media, Morningstar Inc., who can always be counted on to lighten up a room.

"For 2015, I would like to make sure my fellow #finserv #funserv marketers stay warm…with socks—the more colorful the better! With early cold temperatures, we can’t stay on our toes and think of fresh social media ideas and ways to work with Compliance if we have cold feet.

"To capture ideas and inspiration, I also love to give paper-based notebooks or agendas. Old-school? Sure. But there’s still something inspiring about putting pen to paper. In pure social media style, I found these on Pinterest: Kate Spade Bella Bookshelf and Replace the Fear of the Unknown with Curiosity.

"Here’s to an inspired new year!"

Financial Jargon Fighter

From Susan Weiner (@susanweiner and one of my anchors on Twitter), writer-editor and chartered financial analyst (CFA) “who helps financial professionals increase the impact of their writing on clients and prospects.” You can follow her thoughts on her InvestmentWriting blog, her @susanweiner Twitter account and in her Financial Blogging: How To Write Powerful Posts That Attract Clients book. 

"Investment marketers want to do the right thing. They want to use language that's easy for readers to understand. After all, that boosts the impact of their communications. But sometimes it's difficult for marketers to detect financial jargon. Or maybe they can't think of plain language to explain complex concepts.

"My recommended gift is Financial Jargon Fighter (FJF) software. Unfortunately, it exists only in my mind. However, the ideal product would go beyond identifying jargon. It would also suggest wording that satisfies even persnickety portfolio managers. Perhaps it could tap the mind of Berkshire Hathaway’s Warren Buffett, one of the industry’s most influential advocates of plain language.

"Until an FJF is commercially available, impatient gift givers can seek a living, breathing Financial Jargon Fighter. A member of the marketers’ target audience can give invaluable feedback on communications. Marketers will get the most mileage out of these folks if they ask, 'Please explain my main point in your own words' to test reader understanding. Otherwise, their readers will parrot the marketers’ words back at them.

"Also, free tools, such as and the SEC’s A Plain English Handbook: How to create clear SEC disclosure documents, may help to identify jargon and other bad writing habits."

Harmony, Peace And Some Stretching

With this contribution, Back Porch Vista Chief Marketing Officer Jeremy Floyd makes his debut on the Rock The Boat Marketing blog. In the spirit of his message, here are both his Twitter and LinkedIn accounts. 

"If I had one wish that I could wish this holiday season, it would be for all the marketing and sales departments of the world to join hands and sing together in the spirit of harmony and peace. 

If you proceed to YouTube to watch this video (not embeddable), now would be a good time to turn down the volume on your computer.

"Maybe that’s a bit much, but in Steve Martin’s holiday wish is a nugget of truth: we need to connect. Our role as marketers in this space demands that we connect with our clients, customers, investors, and most importantly our internal alignment. So, my gift to a fellow marketer is a book, the courage to carry the message, and the imagination to tell our stories in new and creative ways.

"I'd give David Meerman Scott’s newest book, The New Rules of Sales and Service, because in 2015 we must see sales and marketing sing in perfect harmony. Success will require 'stretch' on both sides. As marketers, we have to embrace our role as technologists, marketers and community managers, and we have to 'join hands' with our sales departments to recast the vision of our departments within the business. Cheers!"

My thanks to these contributors who've given us a lot to think about. While you do that, I'll be back the week of December 15 with the final post of 2014—my annual roundup of the best of the year.


Time’s Up: Mobile-Friendly Websites To Be Rewarded, Others To Be Penalized

Here’s where the rubber meets the road.

For the last several years, Website publishers including mutual fund and exchange-traded fund (ETF) firms have been encouraged to focus on the mobile user’s experience. This includes reducing the time a Website takes to load on a mobile device and enabling the taking of action via call-to-click functionality. While Google has been leading the charge, Bing also is checking sites for “mobile compatibility.”

But yesterday Google made it all real with the announcement that it will be adding a mobile-friendly label to mobile search results. At the same time, it acknowledged that it’s experimenting using mobile-friendly criteria as a ranking signal.

Awesome And Not Awesome

If your firm has made your site’s mobile friendliness a priority, it's all good. As Google rolls out the mobile-friendly label in the next few weeks, you could conceivably benefit from the designation and possibly a boost in Google search engine rankings.

But a spot-check yesterday of the largest asset management Websites, using Google’s mobile-friendly test, suggests that many firms have work to do. Note that root domains were tested, I noticed that some firms with mobile-unfriendly sites have mobile-friendly blogs.

In addition to returning either an "Awesome" or "Not mobile-friendly" result, the tool's analysis provides specific reasons and information on how Googlebot sees the page. The tool is part of a developer's guide to mobile-friendly Websites. 

The Consequences

The desktop computer is no longer the leading way people access the Web. As reported by comScore, by July, 60% of U.S. digital media time was being spent on mobile devices. Financial advisors, in particular, use smartphones and tablets.

If there was any doubt before, it is now crystal clear that Google is serious about eliminating frustration for mobile searchers. When text is too small, links tiny and sideways scrolling is the only way to see all the content on a mobile device, a site will be penalized.

At the minimum, a ranking boost for sites that are mobile-friendly disadvantages the unfriendly. But also last month Search Engine Watch reported that Google was testing a mobile-unfriendly icon in search results. It’s unknown if a decision was made to eliminate the negative and accentuate the positive but OMG. No brand or Web team wants that badge of shame.

Here’s hoping you do whatever you canas soon as you canto avoid the unfriendly label and the resultant loss in ranking, traffic and relevance. I'm working on the same with this site.