Yes! LinkedIn Releases Its Social Selling Index Benchmarking To The Masses

There seems to be no end to the fascination the financial services industry—and mutual fund and exchange-traded fund (ETF) firms in particular—have for the potential of LinkedIn to help drive sales and revenue.

Content-wise, the Economy and Finance & Banking are among the most popularly followed LinkedIn channels, and this certainly warms the hearts of content marketers. But personal brand-building and relationship data tracked by LinkedIn suggests that there are miles to go before LinkedIn-connecting will contribute, at least at a meaningful level, to business results.

LinkedIn today announced a step that should help those of you hard at work training and empowering your sales forces on LinkedIn. This post updates a topic I commented on in June.

If you’re in a hurry, here’s the short version of what follows: Log in to LinkedIn and click on https://www.linkedin.com/sales/ssi to see your own Social Selling Index (SSI) as of today. At the same time, you’ll see measures of how you rank in your industry and your network. Each one of your wholesalers, national accounts, institutional and inside salespeople should be able to see the same when logged in to their accounts. This is a benchmark off which all efforts can start to be measured.

Because we’re all friends here, I’ll share my SSI to give you an idea of where I need to improve to be a better social seller. Seventy on a scale of 100 is not a score I’d ever be happy with—the fact that a 70 ranks in the top 1% of the financial services industry points to the industry’s room for improvement. As social media coaches do their magic across the asset management industry, I will expect—even root for—this ranking to sink.

Some Background

For your background, LinkedIn’s Social Selling Index is a metric developed to help sales professionals benchmark their performance across the four pillars of social selling:

  • The creating of a personal brand
  • Finding the right people
  • Engaging with insights
  • Building strong relationships

Each of these is measured on a 1-25 point scale for a possible high score of 100. The higher the SSI, the better a professional is positioned to connect with leads, and ultimately close more sales, according to LinkedIn. 

Average SSIs of financial services and insurance sales professionals are low across the board—22.1 on a 100-point scale as of August 2014 data. Professionals in just the investment management industry scored a tad better—22.8 as of November 2014 data. See my June 2015 post for more data and detail.

The post I’d written two months ago expressed begrudging admiration for the SSI.

Why the admiration (I actually called it “genius”)? By creating a benchmarking approach and assigning scores, LinkedIn found a way to drive adoption of a performance measure on which tracking improvement is possible only by heightened use of their Sales Navigator platform.

Why begrudging? After sitting in on multiple Webinars and other discussions, I felt that LinkedIn was teasing us in an unhelpful way. Everyone who has a LinkedIn profile has an SSI computed by LinkedIn but to find out what yours was, you needed to talk to a sales rep. Also, the still active (as of this morning) LinkedIn page where you can submit a request to get your SSI has an asterisked note that the SSI is for companies with over 100 employees and 10 sales reps.

This command and control approach made me crazy—a user’s participation on the LinkedIn platform revealed something to LinkedIn that they didn’t in turn share with the user? They could help all, but chose to help just the paying customers? From a new media platform that was old school.

But this change makes it right. According to an email I received from LinkedIn this morning, the index is available to all 380 million users. Obviously, not all are going to care about their social selling competency but many will. Sales managers and trainers will still need to access the LinkedIn product to see multiple SSIs, I’m assuming.

Onward and upward.

6 Odd Examples Of Your Mutual Fund/ETF Dollars At Work

I once worked for a good guy who needed to grow into his ability to hold staff meetings.

In the early days, it was rough going—a dozen people jammed into a small conference room as we listened to Horace (not his real name) review the contents of his (paper) InBox piece by piece as a means of updating us. His interpretation of company memos, his analysis of competitors' work, his far-reaching commentary…until the hour struck and the meeting was over, bringing sweet relief for all.

Today’s post is not that, I hope. Maybe you’ll find something worthwhile in this random walk-through of what I’ve been clipping lately for my mutual fund/exchange-traded fund (ETF) marketing scrapbook.

Not In My House You Don’t

I have mixed feelings about tweets like this brief video of a BlackRock office (in the UK?) before a meeting was about to start. The behind-the-scenes look of it is what gives it appeal—I agree and I get it. But my stronger reaction is horror.

I’m making an assumption here, it’s possible that this was a completely sanctioned video. Allowing for that to be the case, let’s use it just as a jumping off point to something more general: If there’s one consistent message I have for every firm I work with, it’s that they lock down/rule out/expressly forbid views like this created and shared by outsiders.

Social updates showing the inside of an asset manager office or meeting (including presentation slides!) almost always serve to aggrandize the outsider (typically a vendor) only. They do nothing for your business and can cause trouble. I don’t like showing people in unguarded moments in general, my loved ones excluded. But you can imagineand your Legal and Compliance colleagues can fill in any gapsthe risks of others sharing in real-time what’s happening under your roof.

Just say no, in your meeting invitation, at the start of your meeting and at the conclusion of your meeting.

Wholesaler As LinkedIn Publisher

Wholesalers using LinkedIn to amplify their firms’ content and otherwise interact is old news (see this 2013 post). But this self-promotional LinkedIn publisher post by a new Virtus wholesaler was a new one on me when I spotted it a few months ago. 

LinkedIn didn’t cross its 1 million publishers and 1 million posts milestones this year solely on the backs of 5,000 words on climate change insights or what’s in a CEO’s purse. Why not this, I guess.

Can You Say Takeover?

Franklin Templeton Sponsored Content

Fund companies are taking part in an advertising trend that’s prevalent across most industries: sponsored content. The purpose of online sponsored content is to give an advertiser editorial placement similar to magazine advertorials in print.

I “wowed” out loud when I landed on this Think Advisor page, which leaves no doubt who’s sponsoring both the editorial and advertising on the page. Franklin Templeton “owns” the page with seven placements. I spotted this in April and then again earlier this week but your results may vary.

It’s Not You, It’s Them

On the very day in May when David Letterman retired, Fidelity was ready with a Letterman-esque Top 10 countdown to retirement.

@Fidelity is one of the largest Twitter accounts (translation: plenty of potential follower support) and easily the most interactive (replies 64% of the time versus 0% for most asset manager accounts). This should have been a can’t miss/slam dunk.

And yet there were just seven retweets. The graphic did better (76 likes and 21 shares) on Facebook although still less than I would have guessed.

Huh. This was a brilliant idea. Why didn’t it catch on?! Maybe the update copy didn't (or couldn't) go far enough to snag attention?

Don’t ever let anyone tell you that a chimp can do social media.   

In A Keyword League Of Its Own

There are all kinds of ways people can use to find their way to your site, but organic search continues to top the list.

Guess what dominant mutual fund and ETF firm is also crazy dominant in the number of organic search keywords driving traffic to its site? According to SpyFu data, Vanguard has twice as many keywords as T. Rowe Price (the next closest competitor although BlackRock is gaining), and look at the progress made in just the last three years.

I’d show the graph for Vanguard versus just ETF firms, too, but it isn’t pretty. 

ROI Challenged?

This upsetting graph is from a Boston Consulting Group benchmarking survey of asset management marketers. Every data point in this self-assessment of go-to-market capabilities is fascinating.

But the low, low regard that marketers themselves have for their “marketing spending-productivity tracking” is no less than a cry for help. Tragic and unnecessary. Let me know what I can do to help.

The Mysterious Case Of The Shrinking Mutual Fund, ETF Marketing Job Postings

It’s been a year when 1)the U.S. job market overall has improved and 2)we’ve heard a lot about Silicon Valley’s interest in otherwise Wall Street-bound finance types. Seven months in, let’s talk about you. What’s the 2015 market demand for what you do?

This post is inspired by this week's excellent, uplifting Moz post that detailed the growing demand for digital marketers, content marketers and social media marketers. It led me to wonder about the environment for mutual fund and exchange-traded fund (ETF) marketers ready to make a change.

This was going to be a feel-good post, I was sure of it. And then things went south.

Slim Pickings On LinkedIn

First I turned to LinkedIn’s database, which enables the quickest, most targeted inquiry of jobs within an industry. Below are the results of an advanced search this week of “digital marketing” positions in the investment management industry. Wait, 19 positions in all of the United States? 

A search without the quotation marks around digital marketing produces 100 results nationwide but then you pick up positions that simply have a marketing component (e.g., relationship manager, business analyst, fulfillment coordinator).

Digital Marketing Jobs LinkedIn

Maybe go broader than digital? But no, then the number of results for “ETF marketing” (7) and “mutual fund marketing” (4) shrinks. And there's some overlap in those. Again, dropping the quotes produces more results but few of the new results are on-point. 

Mutual Fund Marketing Jobs LinkedIn

This was a surprise. Maybe it’s just a slow week on LinkedIn? I skeddadled over to the Indeed Job Trends search to see what could be learned from hiring trends over time. 

OK, clearing my throat, this is not what I expected to see at all—especially considering the expansion underway of ETF business lines. But hang in there, a click on the Indeed jobs link produces 77 results that include the LinkedIn jobs and others. Well, that's more than 19. Otherwise, you just missed the 2010 hiring boom by about five years.

Do we dare look at the mutual fund marketing results? 

Hey, it's not all bad. Yes, the postings tail off but look at the y-scale—if mutual fund marketing jobs midway into 2015 make up 0.01 of all job postings, that’s still more than the ETF marketing postings (at the risk of overstating, let's call it 0.001). This is to be expected, given that mutual funds still outnumber ETFs. Note, however, that these postings peaked mid-2007, right before the market melted down.

Wait, one more search. What about financial services marketing? Maybe that’s up? A broader category with more job postings? Negatory, looks like financial services job postings have been declining since 2012.

Time to suspect the Indeed Website (when in doubt, there's always that)--do their charts even know how to draw up? Yes, yes, they do, for digital marketing, content marketing and social media over the same period. The following three images are from the Moz post, using a combination of terms.

What Is Going On?

The only possible explanations I can think of:

  • The investment industry is broke and nobody can afford to hire marketers. Except that's not the case. According to the Boston Consulting Group, the asset management industry operated with 39% margins in 2014, close to the pre-crisis high of 41% and among the highest in any industry.
  • No jobs are available because firms are fully staffed with all the marketers they need and nobody wants out. 
  • We are on the brink of a hiring boom, not visible yet but just about to break out. The industry's talent gap is the theme of a few reports I've seen this year, including one from ninetwentynine.com that specifically mentions the need for people who know fintech, big data, risk management and...social media. 
  • Job postings, or maybe just LinkedIn and Indeed job postings, are not a reliable indicator of demand. Is it possible that all recruiting for this discipline in this sector defies hiring trends elsewhere and is predominantly conducted offline or via private LinkedIn connecting? Are most available marketing jobs executive search-level, too senior to post on Websites?

What am I, or the data above, missing about the job market for mutual fund and ETF marketers? As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts, whether via comments below or privately via email.

5 For The Campfire: Ebooks A Fund Marketer Could Cozy Up To

Marshmallows? Check. Graham crackers? Check. Hershey bars? Got ‘em. Hey and how about these—if you’re heading out for a well-deserved vacation in the great outdoors, why not grab a few ebooks/whitepapers for your campfire reading pleasure?

Here’s a quick look at five—four of them based on research—I’ve downloaded lately. (This is the second in a series, preceded by last July’s Beach Reading For The Mutual Fund, ETF Marketer.)

Get Your Brag On

If I could make one tweak to the approach of just about every asset manager content team I observe online and offline, it would be to amp up the promotion of the content that’s being produced. Too much light is being hidden under too many bushels.

And marketers in this industry are not alone—failure to promote is an epidemic across brands, according to the Content Promotion Manifesto.

Author Chad Pollitt takes an editorial approach when discussing channels, tactics, tools and budgeting for content promotion, including citing the work of other content marketing leaders. Of course, he invokes the famous line “Content is King, but Distribution is Queen and She Wears the Pants” by BuzzFeed’s Jonathan Perelman.

It’s an entertaining 85 pages (!) with a dead-serious message.

Social Selling Crushes Quotas

More than halfway into the year, I’m calling it—2015 was the year mutual fund and ETF sales teams “got” social media. Others were earlier (see post). And, the training on the basics, the coaching on participating and yes, the coaxing of those who hang back will continue well beyond 2015.

But Sales leadership and teams at firms large and small are paying attention this year, and they want in.  

By and large, the interest is in what can happen on LinkedIn (seerelated post). This make sense. Wholesalers want to go where the most financial advisors are, and that’s LinkedIn. Interestingly, The Ultimate Sales Guide to Crushing Your Quota: The Impact of Social Media Usage on Sales Performance and Corporate Revenue reports on a survey of social media-savvy sales professionals who rank the value of Twitter a tad higher. Even survey authors KiteDesk and A Sales Guy Consulting admit to being surprised.

“I like to describe Twitter as the bar after work—where you keep your tie on but loosen it a bit, and LinkedIn is the conference room in the corporate office. Due to the fast and collaborative nature of Twitter, a salesperson can effectively share an idea or engage with a prospective client through a pithy missive. When the exchange goes well, it can then be moved to LinkedIn—which represents a much larger personal commitment,” one social selling influencer explains.

But that’s just one insight in the 28-page report. I recommend this to you for its perspective (survey data and quotes) on B2B sales pros who have a jump on your teams in understanding how to use social media to close deals and meet goals.

Let’s Start With The Right Questions

I could cut right to the chase and tell you that the average respondent to this State of Marketing Automation Maturity survey answered 56% of the questions “correctly” and scored a grade of C. But there’s more to benchmarking marketing automation maturity than that, as the Spear Marketing Group expounds in 14 pages.

You’ll read the survey results on 33 best practices in several categories including analytics and reporting, lead scoring and data hygiene. I wonder whether the questions themselves may be of even greater use to you, especially if you’re early in your adoption of marketing automation.

Expectations Of The Connected

Let’s see, we’ve surveyed the salespeople and the marketers. Who’s left? The investors!

The 2015 Wealth Management for Connected Investors from Salesforce Research is based on responses from than 1,000 participants—millennials, Gen X and baby boomers. The 13 pages include a lot on investors' relationships and communications with financial advisors, which is helpful.

See page 8 for a question I don’t remember others asking previously—“How do you currently keep track of your financial record(s)?” Millennials (36%) show more comfort with electronic methods like cloud storage, as Salesforce mentions three times on the page. That emphasis itself I found intriguing.    

Where To Draw The Line

The shortest document (9 pages) in this collection may be the most difficult for you. Just as the technology exists to enable marketers to start doing some really interesting, targeted communicating, privacy concerns threaten to kill the buzz. On top of that, consumers expect more of financial services firms.

What is Privacy Worth to Your Customers?  is based on a Communispace survey of 3,000 consumers, building on work done in 2014. The focus of this report is on consumers’ willingness to provide personal financial data online in order to use a tool or create a profile—and their expectations of what the Website providers will do with that data. 

This research is broader than just investment companies but don’t miss the first bar on the graph on page 7—one-third of consumers are not OK when an investment company Website tailors content based on the visitor’s age.

You and your firm are likely having internal discussions on privacy, this research will help frame the data-for-value exchange. Not touched on by this work but worth thinking about, too: your financial advisor clients also have a privacy line to keep in mind with your digital outreach, as well.

Enjoy—and watch those pesky mosquitoes!

If Being Visual Isn’t In Your DNA, Change Your DNA

“Being visual just isn’t in our DNA,” one workshop participant pushed back by piping up. “We can do words—lots of words—but we don't do pictures,” she said as her colleagues nodded in solidarity.

OK, that’s a belief that has been too prevalent and if it’s afflicting your organization, you need to stomp it out. DNA can be changed (see this New York Times report, for example) and so can the way every mutual fund and exchange-traded fund (ETF) firm communicates. "To be visual" simply requires conviction and resources that include bigger fonts and brighter colors. You can do this.

This post revisits a favorite topic (see the July 12, 2012, “Asset Managers Start To Say It In Pictures”) but with added urgency. The most dramatic recent change to content posted to asset manager Websites—and especially to blogs, those insatiable beasts—has been in the visual appeal of the content.

To be sure, many firms are still extracting those sad scans of grayscale charts used in previously created (!) documents and passing them off as visual relief on all-gray Web pages.

But, more and more marketers are reading the memo—visuals help the brain process information, essentially facilitating communication.

source: optimaltargeting.com

source: optimaltargeting.com

The image above is an excerpt from a larger Optimal Targeting infographic called "The Future of Marketing." Yes, that's how important images are to marketing. Others’ visual communications competency is evolving and yours must too if you expect your customers and prospects to pay attention to what your firm has to say in 2015.

For one window into the very best graphics being published by asset managers, check out the social media accounts of your competitors or firms you have a particular interest in.

You’ll get an idea of both the content the firm is publishing and what’s getting shared. You may be surprised. If your content isn’t visual and inviting, it’s getting much, much less social support. The screenshot below shows the Photos & videos tab on the @JPMorganFunds Twitter account, as an example.

Here’s a quick review of some of what I’ve been noticing, in my visits to Websites and following social updates.

Keeping It Simple…

Simplicity is the key to this Nationwide Funds small caps vs. large caps graph shared on Twitter. There’s no proprietary data here, any fund manager could create this chart and many do. But the team behind this graph made a smart decision to downplay or even eliminate all but the necessary data points. 

This stripped down version makes it possible for followers to get the main point from the visual as they encounter it in their tweet stream. The underlying Website contains all required information.

This Prudential Investments chart is another example of, when possible, less is more.

…And Quick

In fact, visuals don’t necessarily have to be made in-house. When time is of the essence, AdvisorShares (and other firms) regularly relies on screenshots of trading screens to make a point.

Dense With Data

Then again, some firms are taking the time to produce data-based interactives for their sites.

For example, here’s Putnam’s chart on the U.S. labor market recovery. Nothing about these—not the creation and maintenance of the graphic or the user’s consumption of it—is simple and quick.

Assuming your visual expounds on something of ongoing interest, a data-dense chart could be a consistent contributor for you. It could draw attention to your site and foster engagement.

And, given that the year is 2015, whatever you do has to look good on a smartphone, too. See how well the Putnam graphic works when shrunk to fit a phone in portrait mode.

Spare The Word, Save The Reader

If there ever was a firm with visual DNA, it would have to be Russell Investments, whose Economic Indicators Dashboard has been a thing of beauty for years. Note how few words are used in Russell’s newer Market Expectations graphic.

Spare The Word, Save The Reader, Part 2

But even PIMCO, home of the long form narratives, is going visual. Having first appeared in a PDF at the beginning of the year, this updated Asset Allocation Views graphic now appears on the PIMCO blog.

As if inspired by Cliff's Notes, this Fidelity graphic provides five takeaways of a wordy business cycle update. The image appears on the update page on Fidelity's site and was used in a tweet. What about this couldn't you do?

Show A Little Love To Product

Finally, these charts from OppenheimerFunds offering “good reasons to avoid timing the senior loan market” serve as a reminder to extend your visual capability to product communications, too.

In this case, when the visual on the Website itself needs to be enlarged in order to be appreciated, it obviously won’t work as a social-worthy graphic. That’s when you need to create a separate image, probably a subset of the larger image, to share. It's an extra step that will be worth your time.