Need To ‘Move The Needle’? Some Metrics For You To Consider

The 2015 asset management marketer finds himself or herself thinking much more about Sales. That’s a good thing, you might agree.

When senior management expresses the conviction that “marketing should be moving the needle,” there can be no doubt what that means: Marketers increasingly need to be able to draw a line between funded marketing activities, sales and overall business results.

The mandate to demonstrate results typically starts with marketers getting more involved in the tracking of sales contacts and communicationsincreasingly via a CRM/marketing automation combinationand progression through a sales cycle.

This expectation represents a stretch in a few directions for today’s typical mutual fund and exchange-traded fund (ETF) marketer. For example, Marketing’s participation is often despite any formal grounding in Sales management or theory. We are largely a self-taught bunch.

So, when the Twitterverse directed me to The Essential List of Sales Metrics published by the RAIN Group last month, I thought I’d mention it to you here. Below is a screenshot of the partial list, you'll find the entire list and PDF on the RAIN Group site

The organization of the list—by strategy, structure, operations, talent management, capabilities, enablement and motivation—might itself be helpful. The Enablement category is most on-point for fund, retirement and institutional marketing although other metrics (e.g., adoption rate of CRM) may be relevant, too. Lead generation has its own subsection.

Consult with care, however. In its entirety, this list is likely overkill for your organization and definitely for the role you play. You wouldn’t want to initiate a conversation, for example, by proposing an “Overall cost of replacing a seller” metric.

Historically, the asset manager CRM was developed for Sales' use only. In order for it to capture what's needed to measure Marketing’s contribution, your Sales/CRM partners need you to step up. See whether this list inspires your consideration of how your work adds value that can be tracked and measured. 

Investment Podcasts 2.0—But Let’s Promote Them This Time

I love podcasts so much that I keep waiting for them to make a comeback in the investment industry.

Elsewhere, others have declared a podcast renaissance, driven in part by last year’s stunning 68 million-plus downloads of the Serial podcast. See this 2014 post for what else has changed too, though.

Combine fund companies’ desire to assert thought leadership with users’ heightened content consumption, including while mobile, and the argument for podcasts should be difficult to resist on both sides.

Quite a few firms tried podcasts early on and gave up, as can still be seen on dormant iTunes and Web pages. Blame it on clumsy podcast downloading requirements, less than engaging content, lack of user adoption but also—here's where you come in—a lack of promotional effort on providers’ part.

It's too soon and too spotty to call it a comeback, but there are some encouraging signs that podcasts are back on the radar.

Advisors Are Listening To Something

Advisor use of podcasts appears to have rebounded, according to data reported by American Century’s 2015 Financial Professionals Social Media Adoption Study (more on the study in last week's post). 

Podcasts were among the choices provided in a general (as opposed to investment content-specific) question, “Do you have a profile or account with any of the following social media?”

One out of 10 advisors, by the way, is the same number of advisors who say they read blogs.

Promotion-wise, note the support that Goldman Sachs gives its monthly podcast “Exchanges at Goldman Sachs.” As opposed to tucking it on a modest Podcasts page buried somewhere on a Website, Goldman:

  • Commits high level talent to the shows
  • Gives the podcast exposure on the firm's home page
  • Launches each new show with a splash on its Website and elsewhere, including where I spotted it on an interstitial ad on Stitcher, the streaming service. Goldman is buying pay-per-click ads too. And, having Business Insider cover the podcast content, which happened this week, no doubt provides a nice lift.

Yet To Happen: Consistent Discovery, Delivery

Firms that have returned to podcasting or have launched anew tend to go their own way on presentation and delivery. This is surprising given the standardization of most other fund company communications, especially those directed at a primary audience of financial advisors. Why not simplify the user experience?

The inconsistency in how podcasts get discovered and delivered may be containing overall pick-up. For example, if iTunes is the first result in a search for your firm’s podcast, you’re not doing enough on your own domain. With all due respect.

Goldman’s approach—including making the podcast available not just on iTunes but also to be streamed on Stitcher and elsewhere—represents the state of the art of podcast promotion today.

Below is a list of mutual fund and exchange-traded fund (ETF) firms publishing podcasts that I’m aware of. If I’ve missed yours, please let me know and I’ll be happy to add to the list.

Asset Manager Podcasts

Also check out these related podcasts:

  • Between Sessions with Blane Warrene and Jay Palter. This is an occasional Google Hangouts-produced (but available on-demand via YouTube) discussion about #fintech and #finserv. 
  • Bloomberg Business ETF Report with Bloomberg reporters
  • ETF Gurus with Dave Nadig of FactSet. The August 26 show on the “ETF flash crash,” in particular, featured one of the most helpful discussions I’ve heard or seen.
  • The ETF Store Show One of my favorite business podcasts, this is an informative and informed discussion by a Kansas City-based registered investment advisor (RIA).
  • ETF Trends featuring ETF media veteran and publisher Tom Lydon.
  • FP Pad This is one of the many media properties of financial advisor technology expert Bill Winterberg; asset management marketers can learn from Bill.
  • Hearsay Social On the Air The social media archiving solution provider just celebrated its one-year anniversary providing financial social media content.
  • Morningstar A video and audio podcast are available. 

What's New For You In The Latest Research On Financial Advisors And Social Media

For an asset management marketer’s purposes, the best surveys of financial advisor social media adoption and usage are conducted by other asset management firms.

Their questions tend to be most tailored to what mutual fund and exchange-traded fund (ETF) businesses need to know. For example, fund companies know it’s important to capture the interest of advisors who are restricted by their firms from full participation. In fact, the latest data suggests that about one in five advisors consumes social media content passively.

And so, the release of two surveys—one from Putnam Investments and the other from American Century Investments—in the last two weeks presents us with an embarrassment of riches.

Let’s acknowledge upfront, though, that advisors have been surveyed on this subject for years now. Little in the new work is eye-popping. What's impressive—and encouraging for social media strategies—is that adoption continues to build across the board. There doesn't seem to be the fickleness that’s been seen among consumer use of various social networks over the years.

The 2015 research offers a few incremental insights, and there are some differences in the findings in the two reports.

On the assumption that the advisor trade publications will well cover what the research has to say about advisory business gains, where and why (and extensive detail on those firm restrictions), below I offer a few parochial notes about what I see in this research.

I recommend you check out the complete Putnam and American Century reports, including their different methodologies. The third annual Putnam survey of more than 800 advisors was conducted in partnership with Brightwork Partners LLC. This is American Century’s sixth annual report, based on a panel of 300 advisors, a sample provided by Research Now.

The 22-page American Century report can be found here. As a supplement to its press release, Putnam’s AdvisorTechTips blog has teed up an infographic and some high level data. Putnam tends to leverage the research by publishing additional findings throughout the year. My thanks to the firm for making the full report to me.   

More Than LinkedIn

The comprehensiveness of Putnam’s data collection and analysis enables it to substantiate a fine point often overlooked in other broad-brush surveys: LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter are the big three in the advisor's social toolbox and they are being used for specific reasons (click on the image to enlarge).

Putnam made the same point in its first survey two years ago, but the aggressiveness of LinkedIn marketing aimed at this space (and precious little targeted effort from the other networks) might lead you to believe that participating on LinkedIn will give you a lock on advisor attention. No.

The research found that advisor usage of Twitter for business and personal purposes grew 16 percentage points from July 2014 to July 2015. YouTube usage grew by 12 percentage points. That's my doing the math for you below on Putnam's graph.

And, according to responses to a separate question that explicitly seeks to understand any year-over-year change in platforms, Facebook is on top. 

Almost six out of 10 (58%) respondents said their Facebook use has increased. The leading reason: That’s where the advisors’ clients and prospects are active. Four out of 10 advisors—even more from regional broker-dealers and banks—say that Facebook plays a “very significant role in [their] current marketing.”

Advisors On Asset Managers

No matter how many surveys surface in the year, I believe I’m safe in saying that American Century is the only firm that 1. Asks advisors how asset managers are doing 2. Publishes the responses. Thank you for that, American Century.

You have to love the big strides noted in three of advisors’ four answers to the question about their opinions of asset manager use of social media (emojis added by me). 

A subsequent question gets down to brass tacks, leaving little room for doubt that advisors favor non-promotional non-firm-centric content. More than half say they’d follow an asset manager for content they can’t get elsewhere.

In another question, the ease-of-use of the social site is cited by 42% of the respondents, and that’s a datapoint I’d pay attention to. Whether via any one of the major platforms, content finds the social media-using advisor—the advisor doesn’t need to go to each (often password-restricted) site in search of what you're offering that's new and valuable.

American Century’s 2012 study was the first to report that LinkedIn Groups were the most important social media offering an asset manager could offer. I didn’t understand it then or in successive years, as it’s continued to be top ranked in the study above blogs, Facebook pages or Twitter feeds. Hmm, dunno.

Did anything in either of the surveys catch your eye? Please comment below.

A Quick, Easy And Crazily Accurate Way To Detect Personality

Here’s a Website to check out if you don’t have the time or interest to use the old school way of getting to know someone. In fact, even those I meet in real life are usually vetted later by me against what Crystal knows. After all, I'm just a human, my impression is based on just one interaction.

Crystal, on the other hand, is a tool that uses a “proprietary personality detection technology. [It] analyzes public data to tell you how you can expect any given person to behave, how he or she wants to be spoken to, and perhaps more importantly, what you can expect your relationship to be like.”

A submission of a name on the free Crystal site initiates a query of thousands of publicly available online data sources to find information written by or about the person. Another potential input is from people who directly contribute, although given the age of the site and its relative obscurity, my guess is that’s not much of a factor yet. Crystal then runs what it finds against a personality detection analysis to match with one of 64 different personalities.

The “accuracy confidence" index returned with each result indicates 1) how much relevant data was found and 2) how much of it was able to be used to determine the personality.

Toward More Effective Sales Interactions

This is worthy of our attention not just because I want to lighten things up for you after what has been a rough several weeks. Crystal is yet another service that demonstrates what can be learned about clients and prospects online.

If part of your digital marketing work involves helping drive businesswhich includes helping Sales professionals sharpen their effectivenessyou might want to show them Crystal. Just be aware that near-term productivity will take a hit because this tool is addictive. I found it in April and have only now been able to tear myself away to mention it to you.

Below are a few of the “predicted personality profiles” of the zillions of profiles that I have run. I selected these individuals because:

  • They’re prominent in the investment space and you might know them.
  • They’re active online and there should be plenty of data to base a profile on.
  • These snapshots seem pretty consistent with what I’ve observed on my own. Then again, it’s been mostly online. I should say, I’ve met only one person in real life (hey, April).           
  • They strike me as good sports who won’t mind my showing their publicly available personality profiles here. 

Shown are just the tops of the profiles. On the Crystal site, you’ll also see insights for use when emailing, talking and working with the personality, as well as what does and doesn’t come naturally to him or her. And, depending on whether you’re a free or paid user, you’ll see some predictions on how the personality works with you and your team, including some insights on conflict. 

Insights Into The Personality's Coworkers, Too

A click on other people in the same company reveals a LinkedIn-esque feature displaying the availability of personality profiles of others who work there. For example, after I checked out the profile of LPL Financial's Mark Casady, I was offered a View all to see Casady's coworkers. Hmm, this could get interesting...

Don’t read too much into what’s said here about LPL, by the way—variations of success "at the expense of freedom or creativity” and “could discourage creative risk-takers” appeared for just about every investment-type company I searched.

Finally (and least helpful in my opinion), Crystal will help write a personality-appropriate email.

I know I should conclude by mentioning the risks in relying on technology. To be sure, there are some. For example, no matter how big the data gets, online services always tend to misidentify Pat Allen as a him. (On the off-chance that you look me up, my profile is 90% exactly correct except that it’s not true that I’m disorganized!)

In general, though, there are risks in not taking advantage of what technology can offer and how the insights provided can help warm up an encounter.

Go, explore, detect for yourself!

The Rise Of Advisor Teams

Count on the financial advisor “team” construct to throw a wrench in the best-laid plans of strategic mutual fund and exchange-traded fund (ETF) marketing.

In a perfect world, marketers would be able to use an integrated marketing automation/customer relationship management (CRM) system to link financial advisor response to marketing communications for sales follow-up, and overall sales and marketing reporting.

Teams confound attribution and analysis—the individual who sees and interacts with emails and Websites is not always the same person who:

  • Conducts investment product due diligence
  • Meets with wholesalers
  • Makes the go/no go decision
  • Ultimately enters the order

However, firms that want their advisor partners to succeed—and you know you do—will need to figure out a way to combine the communication and product usage data of multiple professionals to measure overall sales and marketing effectiveness. Because a whitepaper released by Pershing last week makes clear that advisors are prospering in teams. 

published last week by Pershing LLC, a BNY Mellon company

published last week by Pershing LLC, a BNY Mellon company

The rise of teams, also referred to as “ensembles,” may be even more of a challenge for broker-dealers, according to Pershing.

“Although advisory teams generate significant revenues, broker-dealers are still working to understand them. Often their affiliation models—from compensation to relationship management—still treat advisors as reps, rather than as talented groups,” Pershing says in Why Teams Are the Client of the Future for Broker-Dealers

See if the below passage (click to enlarge) sounds familiar.

Teams Have Larger Relationships, Grow Faster

While Pershing prepared the 24-page report to help broker-dealer clients adapt, it includes plenty of insights for asset managers. I recommend that you read it in its entirety. What follows are just a few noteworthy points the paper makes.

  • Teams are prevalent across all business models, according to data in a 2013 compensation survey cited by Pershing. Today's numbers would be higher, presumably.
  • The average productivity of advisors who are part of an ensemble team or firm was almost 12% higher ($565,000) than those practicing on their own ($505,000), based on data from the Pershing-sponsored 2014 InvestmentNews Financial Performance Study.
  • The typical $2 million ensemble firm grew at a rate of 17.1% in 2014 compared to 13.7% for solo practices.
  • “The size of the average client relationship appears to be a perfect function of the size of the firm, i.e., the larger the firm, the larger the average relationship,” Pershing says.

According to the report, firms with less than $1 million in revenue have the smallest client relationships with less than $4,932 in revenue per client (total revenue divided by the total number of clients). “Super-ensembles” attract clients with revenues three times higher (between $14,937 and $16,362 on average).

  • Today’s typical advisory team is three times larger than it was in 2001.
  • Close to 40% of the ensemble firms in the 2014 InvestmentNews Financial Performance Study are looking to acquire and merge other practices.
  • Broker-dealers that fail to adapt to ensemble firms are vulnerable to losing them to RIA-only or hybrid business models. 

Pershing cites the 2013 FSI Broker-Dealer Financial Performance and Compensation Study to quantify what's at risk: “...Much of the revenue broker-dealers lost in 2013 came from the loss of top-producing advisors: the average firm lost six relationships with over $500,000 in productivity each. If broker-dealers could stop the ‘bleeding’ of large relationships, this alone would increase their rate of growth by 50%.”

What all has to change in your firms practices in order to adapt?