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Thursday
Aug212014

A Quick Update On Multiple-Device Users, Cross-Domain Tracking, Tag Management

Measurability is a key difference between digital and traditional marketing.

The possibilities for gaining insights from digital analytics are boundless and ever-expanding—that’s the good and the bad news. There’s a lot to keep up with.

For a quick tune-up this week, I sat in on a Digital Marketing Depot Webinar, “Digital Analytics Checkup: How to evaluate the impact of your web analytics data.” The title was promising but it was the inclusion of Jim Sterne, founder of the Digital Analytics Association and eMetrics Summit, as a co-presenter that most appealed. I’ve heard Sterne speak before and it's always worthwhile. The co-presenter was Jenny Elliott, senior manager of digital analytics for CrossView, a cross-channel commerce solutions provider.

If you’re lucky enough to be a dedicated Web analyst employed by a mutual fund or exchange-traded fund (ETF) firm, you may be on top of all of this. But if analytics are only part of what you do or if the analytics function reports to you, I recommend that you invest an hour and listen to the full presentation on-demand.

My takeaways follow.

What The 'Insights Consumer' Needs

Sterne set the scene with some comments on the art of analysis. “It’s about asking really good questions. If your job is cranking out reports, you’re doing it wrong,” he said.

“The insights consumer," according to Sterne, "wants an answer to one of these three questions: How do we make more? How do we spend less? How do we increase customer satisfaction?”

He offered this advice for analysts communicating with business managers: “Don’t come to me with data, come to me with stories. If you come to me with numbers, you make me responsible for the numbers and I’m going to ask you questions about how did you get these numbers. But if you come to me with an impression based on the numbers, I can trust you to know the numbers.”

The business manager doesn’t want a report, he or she wants an opinion, Sterne said. “Your informed opinion based on the data is your contribution. That’s why we hire analysts.”

De-duping Visitors

While enabling the collection of more and more data, technology is resulting in a fragmented view of the visitor, Elliott noted.

Specifically, she discussed three issues: 

  • Multiple-device users can confuse things. 

Elliott quoted a Cisco forecast that a single business user will be accessing the Internet via an average of five connected devices (e.g., desktop, smartphone, smart watches, smart TVs, Google glasses) by 2018.

Analyses that focus on session growth alone fail to take into account the effect of visitors visiting from multiple devices. And, Elliott touched upon a few analytics solutions including device mapping, universal visitor cookies and device metrics stored in CRMs, all of which enable an analyst to link views to a single viewer.

Unique visitor metrics will be more important than the session-based metrics that we have come to rely on, according to Elliott.

  • Cross-domain tracking—relevant for even the smallest asset management firms that have a site and blog on separate domains or maintain multiple microsites—is another issue that analysts are gradually returning to. The technology supporting early attempts to track traffic across domains was, as Elliott says, “scary” and complex.

Some analytics tool providers have made significant investments in the last year to enable users to de-dupe visitors. While solutions that include multi-site roll-ups and tracking methods to pass cookies across domains are not yet “a walk in the park,” the technology is not as daunting as it was just two years ago, Elliott said.

“Think about the power you can give your marketing organization if you can give them insights into visitor behavior on not just one domain but on all domains,” she said. “They’d have so much more context to figure out how to market, how to provide good personalized content, all because they have a much more cohesive view.”

  • Finally, Elliott discussed tag management tools, which manage the variety of analytics, ad-serving, affiliate relationship tags that are typically added on an ad hoc basis to Websites. 

 Tag management solutions are more simple to use and can shift the responsibility from IT resources to Marketing, which should improve responsiveness. If you’ve ever waited for IT to add code that you needed on the site yesterday, you understand the value of being able to control tags.

 Several efficiencies can be gained from tag management. A universal tag will reduce a site’s page load time, especially critical to mobile device users (see Will Google Deem Your Mutual Fund, ETF Website Fast Enough For Mobile Users?). Since all data is formatted in the same way, it will result in clean data that can be analyzed on a more timely basis. Once implemented, tag management can help provide a complete picture of visitors across an ecosystem. This, Elliott noted, can enable powerful segmentation opportunities. 

(For an introduction to Google’s approach to tag management, here’s a video from 2012.)

On another matter: At the Morningstar Investment Conference in June, I was interviewed by Stephanie Sammons for her new Wired Advisor podcast series. Steph made the 20-minute podcast available last week. You might want to check out the entire line-up out to hear the thoughts of a few people—including financial advisor/thought leaders Michael Kitces and Roger Wohler—prominent in the investment space and whom I’ve mentioned on this blog.

Thursday
Aug142014

The Gladys Kravitz Guide To Snooping On Your Neighbors

Gladys Kravitz, the Bewitched character who felt it was her duty to keep tabs on her neighbors—I’m hoping you’re familiar with this 1960s sitcom via Nick At Nite or maybe the half-hearted movie—was simply ahead of her time. Today, she might be Director of Competitive Intelligence and Strategic Benchmarking Insights for an asset management firm.

Something was going on over there, Gladys was right, and she was relying on only her keen powers of observation.

If you are equally as passionate about your neighbors/competitors online, today you have many more tools at your disposal. I’ve written previously about SharedCount, SimilarWeb, App Annie and SpyFu, among others. Here’s a quick look at four more that you can use to snoop with.

How Do They Do That?

If you’re wondering how a competitor is working its own brand magic, just use BuiltWith.com to check under the lid.

Information on the enabling technologies running a Website can be valuable to technology solutions salespeople (BuildWith’s target audience) and the pricing packages reflect the value and power available, including SalesForce and LinkedIn integrations.

My needs (e.g., which firms are using WordPress as their blogging platforms?) are simple, and yours may be too. For us, the Chrome extension provides more than enough intelligence on the content management, Web analytics and marketing automation solutions powering mutual fund and exchange-traded (ETF) fund sites.

For example, here’s an excerpt of the American Funds technology profile, showing the analytics and tracking technologies employed.

Banner Bonanza

Are you in need of inspiration for an upcoming digital campaign? Well, you could make a nuisance of yourself on the trade media sites, reloading and reloading hoping to catch different creative. Or you could head on over to Moat.com, where you can search by advertiser and find multiple ad units. Clicking on one of the ads will reveal some information about where it last ran.

Media planners would do much more with this site, and brand analytics are what Moat sells. Here again, I'm appreciating what Moat gives away.  

The screenshot below shows the detail provided on one of 765 Vanguard ads Moat has logged.


Watch This

YouTube success requires standing out from the crowd, because the crowd is adding 100 hours of video each minute of every day.

If you’re not familiar with optimizing for YouTube or if you’re unhappy with your results, VidIQ Vision is a terrific tool that enables you to learn from how others do it. Just add this Chrome extension to your browser and you’ll see detailed publishing information about every video you review on YouTube.

While you could limit your research to just mutual fund and ETF firms, why not learn from what the top brands on YouTube are doing? The screenshot below shows the optimization supporting a GoPro video published a week ago, which now has almost 2 million views. Note that strong social support and a large follower base helped drive views, too.

What’s Working?

As I blogged about last week, content marketers need to focus on what’s working and produce more of that while producing less of what isn’t working. Simple.

Your analytics on your content are central to that analysis, of course. But—since your competitors are also writing for the same audiences—there’s something to be learned from the content that’s taking off on others’ sites.

Use Buzzsumo for this.

Let’s look at the BlackRock blog, which is not just the most prolific but probably the most socially shared. Check out the Total Shares column at the far right. Quality, frequency and social appeal can be a powerful combination.

You could spend hours on this site. Note the advanced filtering and exporting capability. It produces results for Web pages as well as for blog posts. Buzzsumo sells solutions for influencer analysis but you can see a lot with a trial account.

Now let’s go out there and make Gladys proud.

Thursday
Aug072014

Managing A Content Portfolio Based On Response

Some journalists today are compensated in part based on Website clicks, pageviews, unique visitors, social shares, comments and/or the amount of time readers spend with the content they create.

That wouldn’t work for asset management content marketers, I’m pretty sure. But the more I learn about how publications evaluate the effectiveness of discrete pieces written by the journalists, I think there’s something to take away from the measurement rigor and accountability the approach implies.

I have to laugh every time I hear a marketer say, “It was a great _______[campaign, whitepaper, blog post]. Everyone thought so. But it didn’t work so well.”

If it didn’t produce a response, then it wasn’t so great. Agree?

Response must be the measure against which content is evaluated. Content that produces a response has to be assumed to be more successful than content that doesn’t.

And yet in the absence of a thoroughly considered framework for tracking what’s working and how, we get these cray cray conclusions that lead to more "great, but zero response" content.

Below are some thoughts, as I bounce between what’s different and what’s similar in journalists’ and marketers’ content creation and analysis. 

Content Creation Can Be Hard Enough

Pay-per-click journalism is controversial and not commonplace. As a 21-year-old J-school grad, I would have opposed it. I would have said that journalists should be covering the news and what’s important. Thankfully, many still do.

While I have plenty of reservations about paying per click, the approach compensates journalists (and other writers) for identifying what people most care about, as suggested by the attention and engagement their content drives.

One of its most outspoken defenders is Gawker founder Nick Denton. Gawker is not a site that one would ordinarily benchmark a mutual fund or exchange-traded fund (ETF) site against. The photo on its home page today helps make this point. :)

Denton reportedly displays analytics on the wall of the Gawker newsroom showing data for the whole Gawker network and individual writers.

“We find that numbers keep a writer conscious of an audience; and managers alert to the motivation of the writer,” HubSpot quotes Denton as saying.

While pay-per-click writers are motivated to find subjects or approaches that stimulate response, that’s not where marketers start. Marketers need to work with whatever their firms have to offer, and the business' priorities, and then try to figure out how to communicate in a way that people will respond.

Another difference: The work of most journalists benefits from the trust and authority earned by their publications over the years. Content marketers need to build both trust and attention. With Compliance riding shotgun, asset management marketers in particular need to be relevant, avoid any hint of the self-promotion that will repel followers all the while incrementally growing their brand.

Content marketing is an art, and when the art has been created there’s the tendency to sit back and admire. OK, take five. But not six.  

Too much talent, time and money is being invested in the creation and distribution of mutual fund and ETF content for us not to improve on our measurement of its effectiveness. 

Insisting On An Identifiable Quality Standard

On the Web, there’s no limit to the number of pieces that a publication can publish. Journalists can have at it.

This is not true for marketing communications, even those positioned as content pieces that discuss topics at levels above the products and services offered by the brand.

Your audiences—whether you reach them using your own means or whether you access them via a partner—have a limited capacity for what it wants to hear from you in a given period of time.

Too much too often runs the risk of alienating, unfollowing or your communications being tuned out on.  

Marketers have effectively stated the case for limiting the number of emails sent from their own domains. Now there’s also a reason to serve as gatekeeper on all communications including blog posts and social updates.

To preserve the prospect of your next high-quality communication commanding the attention it deserves, you need to impose a content quality standard. This is a new expectation and will require Marketing to assert itself in a different way. It involves added accountability for the content originated by Marketing but also for those elsewhere in the firm who contribute content.

In its traditional role, Marketing can be counted on to make sure that the content is going to look good. And, it’s going to have been proofread. Marketing typically oversees the content distribution.

The job of measuring and communicating the effectiveness of the content is the new job that falls to Marketing.

A Portfolio Approach

Journalists submit pieces to be published on Websites or apps maintained by publications with established brands.

Those who manage the metrics for journalists know exactly which topics produce the greatest response, and by referral source. They maintain rankings of writers, organized by any number of available variables: clicks, shares, pageviews, unique visitors, repeat visitors, etc. It’s the publishers' business, their focus must be on the performance of the content.   

Marketing’s digital content creation is much different. Its scope is broader (Your domain? Your lists? Others’ domains? Others’ lists?). There’s a wider range of content formats to consider (Text? Images? Presentations? Video? Apps?). Content creators may include staff, outsourced help, the firm’s investment strategists, product people, index providers, etc.

It’s your business, too, and it all adds up to the need to take a portfolio management approach to that content that's being created and distributed.

Content marketing’s aggregate return on investment will be the result of the strongest performing, average performing and underperforming pieces. What are yours? Who are your top contributors? What are your can’t-miss topics and which are the no-goes? What type of content is best at driving subscriptions? What do people most like to share? What converts best?

Data tabulation is an obvious important part of managing a content portfolio, but it can't stop there. If there’s a significant difference between the performance of your strongest and weakest performing content—on a multiple author blog, for example—I wouldn’t be so nonchalant. Use the data to step in and have whatever difficult conversation might be indicated.

To preserve and grow your audience, to optimize all organic and paid communications and to manage relationships with its content providers, Marketing needs a view of the content portfolio at least as comprehensive as what publishers maintain.

Response From Whom?

A click is a click to most publications. Gawker is the exception in that it's attempting to assign values to its readers based on their propensity to share. By and large, most publishers' compensation schemes don't distinguish between whether the traffic generated by a content piece is the "right" kind of traffic.

What’s different for Marketing is that you do care what’s working with what types of audiences.

It matters whether your LinkedIn likes and shares are coming from financial advisors or from job-seekers and vendors, for example.

Response by audience is a dimension to be documented, and learned from.

Paying For Performance

Unlike most pieces written by journalists, content that’s created by mutual fund and ETF firms is an ensemble effort. It wouldn’t be fair to either incent or ding an individual based on response measures.

Still, wouldn't it help to have a view into which staffers are writing the top-performing email subject lines? Who’s writing the headlines that are producing the most search traffic?

Such data may not (or may) ever make it into the performance evaluations of an individual or team. But understanding individuals’ strengths and weaknesses is also part of optimizing a content effort.

What are your thoughts? Your insights are welcome below.

Thursday
Jul242014

Beach Reading For The Mutual Fund, ETF Marketer

Who cares if the pages get a little soggy? 

Life is good for the mutual fund or exchange-traded fund (ETF) digital marketer who finally gets some time on the beach this summer (or on a gently rocking boat) to catch up on the latest ebooks. For your reading pleasure, here’s a guide to the best of what I’ve been downloading lately.

Go Mobile Or Stand Still

While the take-no-prisoners tone of We Are Social’s Social Brands: The Future of Marketing amuses throughout, this ebook is especially strong and relevant on the subject of mobile. 

It elaborates on five suggestions for “better mobile marketing:” 

  1. Deliver value: utility, entertainment, or social interaction.
  2. Harness mobile context: tailor experiences to the different situations in which people engage.
  3. Streamline the experience: adapt content for a range of different devices and connection speeds.
  4. Make it portable: enable people to continue their experience across devices, especially when sharing things.
  5. Offer varying depths of immersion: e.g., for people with a 30-second work break or with a 30-minute commute. 

Yes, there's a lot more to be done for mobile users by brands, including by asset management firms.

Heavily illustrated, these 127 pages are a fast, provocative read.

Hey Now, No Need To Choke Any Throats

The Marketer: “The site is too slow.”

The IT Guy: “It’s not that the site is slow...but we do have a performance issue.”

Grrr.

If you as a marketer are stumped about what to say next when the conversation heads in this direction, then Limelight Networks’ 103-page “Optimizing The Digital Experience” is for you.

The ebook itself says it’s written for IT staff and leaders, of whom expectations have evolved as more of business has become digital. While IT’s previous job may have consisted of building, managing and integrating content and Web tools, IT is increasingly expected to focus on user experience, this paper says.

“Because digital is becoming such an important part of the business, IT managers are required to think about the end user experience like never before. So when it breaks, you fix it," according to the ebook.

"But is being a firefighter putting focus on performance? Is fixing things when they break a strategy?”

Spoiler alert: No, the break/fix model is not a strategy for managing a technology ecosystem with both external-facing (e.g., Websites) and internal-facing (CRM) digital elements.

While some of the ebook will be of greater value to your IT partners, a chunk of it is a must-read for the digital marketer who realizes he or she needs to be more conversant. You will get a lot out of the first three chapters, which describe the elements of digital performance and the importance of establishing key performance indicators (KPIs). Check out the list of performance testing tools on page 47.

Bored At Work? You Won't Be For Long


KMPG’s Investing in the Future is a sweeping forecast of how the whole of the asset management industry will transform by 2030.

You can see the implications for marketers in just this statement alone: “The industry will have to capture new customers far earlier and keep them longer, by offering products tailored to a younger, less affluent and potentially less financially literate market.”

Oh and then there’s this line, too: “The industry will need to radically change its value proposition to remain relevant in 2030.”

Demographics, technology, environmental consciousness and social values, behavior and ethics all will conspire to shake things up in the coming years, according to KMPG. It takes 80 pages to make its case, and concludes with the top 10 questions for firms to consider.

A beverage with an umbrella might help the medicine go down.

Sales & Marketing 2014

Unlike some of the other ebooks, revenue + associates’ Modern Sales and Marketing Best Practices isn’t going to dazzle you with its layout and graphics. It takes an editorial approach to presenting 10 conversations with leaders including people you likely recognize: HubSpot’s Mike Volpe, MarketingProfs’ Ann Handley and ion interactive’s Scott Brinker.

It’s all relevant and useful, thanks to good questions from Louis Gudema, revenue + associates’ president.

This ebook is freshest on the subject of Sales, specifically social selling, in the interviews with Zorian Rotenberg, Jill Rowley and Nigel Edelshain. They get into some interesting detail.

How To Succeed On LinkedIn

The LinkedIn ebook factory has produced quite a few documents this year. Here are two that you don’t want to miss.

1. The 2014 Professional Content Consumption Report, which LinkedIn bills as “a deep dive into the top content-consuming members on LinkedIn and how marketers can connect with them.” Production of this piece comes at a time when LinkedIn is pedal to the metal on building out its content publishing platform. 

One factoid to bear in mind as you’re preparing your LinkedIn company page updates: The content needs to be mobile-friendly. In Q1 2014, an average of 43% of unique visiting LinkedIn members came through mobile. 

2. Way back in March, LinkedIn presented the idea of a content marketing score as a means of providing companies insight into the impact of content shared or otherwise interacted with on LinkedIn. A ranking of trending content also was introduced, and the content marketing score + trending content became the inspiration for The Dynamic Duo ebook.

As is strangely worded in the video above at 0:11, LinkedIn recognizes that “there may be questions about your content marketing. Questions surrounding your content marketing and how to make it most effective could be causing shadows over your strategy...”

The two enhancements should help brand marketers tune their effortsor, as the video says, "eradicate uncertainty."

I’d be more enthusiastic if these analytics were made available to every company that took the time to contribute content that enriches LinkedIn’s platform. Unfortunately, both resources are available for customers with a LinkedIn account representative (advertisers with at least $25,000 to spend per quarter, in other words).

Have you downloaded any ebooks you recommend? Before you head to the beach or boat, please suggest them below.

Thursday
Jul172014

How Soon Will Asset Managers Be Texting Advisors?

If financial advisors are planning to communicate with their clients via text in the next five years—as reported in recent InvestmentNews research—will they also be expecting to text with fund companies?

Here’s the survey data that prompts the question. InvestmentNews also reports that 20% of surveyed investors under the age of 45 expect to be communicating with their advisors via text in five years. 

Note that direct, personal communicating via text is practically swapping places with communicating via U.S. postal mail.

In a May post, BlueLeaf made the argument for the convenience of advisor/client texting:  

“You have a very busy day on the road, but need to contact your client about something quick. You don’t want to call and leave a voicemail in the chance that they won’t listen to it in time (or at all). Email’s no good either, as they could potentially miss important information about your upcoming meeting. You need a tool that will help you to make immediate contact to leave your brief message.

All of the above could apply to wholesaler-to-financial advisor communicating. Texting provides for a direct, time-sensitive communication that other means don't.

And, I dare say (and the reason for the mention of SMS messaging here), Marketing might well tiptoe into permission-based texting.

But in five years? Five years in this industry is like tomorrow in others. Is it on your firms’ roadmap?

I’m aware of firms that offer text messaging capability related to: 

  • Shareholder accounts (see T. Rowe Price)
  • Retirement accounts (see Vanguard)
  • Retirement account enrollment via text (see The Principal)
  • The availability of market and economic commentary (see Northern Trust)
  • A whole host of commentary and reports and fund event options (see Fidelity

This is almost the same list of automated content pushes that I offered in my 2012 blog post on the topic. I haven’t heard a peep yet about firms adding SMS to their call center support, enabling wholesaler-to-advisor texting or organizing for opt-in marketing communications by text.

Not A Regulatory Concern

Evidently, texting does not break new regulatory ground.

“We haven't talked about text messaging in a while,” says Theresa Hamacher, president of NICSA. “It doesn't seem to present any new areas of concern from a regulatory standpoint. My sense is that texts and emails are lumped together and handled similarly. Social media is a much bigger issue, since it's more public and harder to capture.”

How would a regulated enterprise support one-to-one (as opposed to automated) texting? I found this 2011 video about a SalesForce app that will help you visualize how a CRM might enable the communication, in the same way that a CRM supports Sales' emails. This is just for illustration, note. I know nothing about SMS Magic and have no idea whether this developer's storage of the outgoing and incoming text messages would meet FINRA recordkeeping requirements.

For Wholesalers' Best Clients

In fact, wholesalers today are using text but “only for their best clients with whom they have a relationship,” according to Rob Shore, founder of Wholesaler Masterminds.

"The great wholesaler understands the various methods of effectively communicating with their advisors and, today, texting is one of those options. That said, if wholesalers launch into a texting dialogue without knowing that this form of outreach is welcomed by the advisor it will backfire. Spam texts are more invasive than spam emails," Shore says.

True that, Rob.

(I appreciated being able to create the images above on iPhoneTextGenerator.com, but future asset manager texting will almost certainly take place on 4G-plus devices.)  

Cross-Functional And Complex

Mutual fund and exchange-traded fund (ETF) marketers are well aware of 1)the high reliance of advisors and investors on their phones and 2)the immediacy and impact that text messages have. In fact, these SMS messaging stats have been cited so frequently that the date and the source have long since been shed: Reportedly, 98% of text messages are read and responded to within 1.5 minutes versus 2.5 days for email.

Texting offers the potential to improve the relevance, timeliness and even usefulness of what's being communicated. At the same time, preparations for texting will need to be cross-functional and will be complex. My assumption is that these are in the works at least a few firms.

Do you work for the rare firm that has established an SMS capability already? If so, please let us all know below. Others' thoughts are welcome, too.