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.

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 WealthManagement.com 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?

The Latest And (Marketing) Greatest At The Morningstar Conference

So much of this business happens virtually—marketers, especially, spend little time in the physical presence of their financial advisor clients or their competitors.

 MARIO GABELLI AT MORNINGSTAR CONFERENCE

MARIO GABELLI AT MORNINGSTAR CONFERENCE

To me, the novelty of everyone coming together under one big tent is at the core of the appeal of the Morningstar Investment Conference and what drives so much of the energy of the sessions and the Exhibit Hall. The conference is where industry participants come out from behind their desks and mingle, and where luminaries such as Mario Gabelli navigate the Exhibit Hall within easy reach of mere mortals.

The 2015 affair, held Wednesday through Friday last week, didn’t produce the OMG factor of Bill Gross in sunglasses, as happened last June and reverberated the rest of 2014. Regardless, Morningstar produced another successful and engaging event. I attended as a guest of Morningstar's Leslie Marshall, Director–Events, Magazine and Social Media, and my thanks to her and her team.

As I’ve done the last few years (see the 2014 and 2013 posts), I made a couple of random notes to mention to you. While others have reported on the substance of what was said at the event, the focus of these comments is on how content and marketing messages were shared. Pioneering work from previous years—whether in social, the mobile app, Exhibit Hall creativity—was improved upon in 2015. By and large, the change I spotted this year was incremental forward motion.

A Whole Lot Of Tweeting Going On

An event is about the exchange of ideas, and that’s something that happens from the presentation dais, in the Exhibit Hall and in one-on-one conversations. Social media amplifies it all. Let’s begin with Leslie’s report on the 4,600 #MICUS tweets and 31 million timeline deliveries by what I'd guess is the largest number of engaged Twitter accounts to date.

Asset managers continue to sharpen their use of the #MICUS hashtag. The following tweets showed that Wells Fargo and MFS were paying attention to the general sessions while simultaneously pursuing their goals to drive booth traffic. Well played.

Twitter is the back channel but this year for the first time, Morningstar displayed tweets on the big screen in between general sessions. Even more reason to give your conference tweets some oomph.

Now Including LinkedIn

The #MICUS focus centers on Twitter, which makes sense because that’s where most of the conversation takes place. But a few asset managers also brought Morningstar into their LinkedIn posts.

In addition to live tweeting from its @Vanguard_FA account, Vanguard created a LinkedIn update about what others tweeted from a product manager's Morningstar appearance.

One almost never sees this: A Calamos LinkedIn update quoted the comments of another asset manager, PIMCO, on active management while linking to a Calamos piece.

The App As A Content Repository

It’s official—the head nod is being replaced by a session attendee lifting up a smartphone to snap a picture of a slide. Is there a better compliment for a presenter?

But maybe this too will go by the wayside. Although not explicitly promoted this year, Morningstar is starting to use its browser-based app more as a go-to place for content—slides, whitepapers, links, etc., according to Leslie. She calls the app a "resource repository for attendees."

Attendees don't need to strain to take a photo of a slide if their event app contains a link to the entire presentation. And, tweeters can just take a screenshot of what's on their phones. More to the point for mutual fund and exchange-traded fund (ETF) marketers, this is another means of distributing your content.

As you can see in the screenshot below, the Morningstar app event listing for the general session featuring J.P. Morgan’s David Kelly also included a link to the slides to the J.P. Morgan deck. 

JP Morgan Morningstar App

But this year a link to an asset manager document was uncommon. Typically, the event listings linked to a Morningstar deck associated with the breakout sessions (featuring representatives from multiple firms). A PIMCO general session listing linked to Morningstar’s June 2015 analysis of PIMCO.

The Social Media Center Comes Into Its Own

A few years ago, the Social Media Center was an oasis occupying an impressive amount of real estate in the otherwise bustling Exhibit Hall. I used to enjoy shooting the breeze with Blane Warrene and crew, only occasionally interrupted by financial advisor attendees. Most seemed to speed up as they passed.

But, props to Morningstar for sticking with it because last week the social media center was hopping. No more playing around with social media—it seems the surveys are getting it right, advisors are engaging.

Experimenting With Periscope

I looked forward to the conference as an opportunity to experiment with Periscope, an app released this year that enables a user to livestream or “broadcast” to Twitter.

Where better to use Periscope than to livestream what's happening at an event? That’s what I thought prior to the start of the conference and that’s what I continue to think, despite a fairly rough go of testing it myself.

My experience illustrates the hazards of working with new platforms. I was using Periscope for Android, which was released in late May. Things can go wrong or at least not as expected, and that can be discomforting in a professional setting when the value of the communication is that it’s live. Luckily, this was all for my own experimentation and no animals or clients were harmed.

My vision as I took to the Exhibit Hall first thing Thursday morning was to start Periscoping in the hopes that others would follow and interact with my account. (Because Periscope offers only a follower search, I even added #MICUS to my Twitter account profile just in case someone was searching for #MICUS Periscopes.)

Assuming all the correct settings are turned on, account followers are notified when a broadcast is live. They can interact with the broadcaster to comment, ask questions or send a little love in the form of a stream of hearts. This is so new, I wasn’t expecting a gang to pile in, but I was hoping there’d be some interest.

 yes, it's a selfie stick

yes, it's a selfie stick

Prior to Thursday, I’d tested everything I could—streaming and talking and walking. Also, I came packing a sophisticated livestreaming camera aid that you may also recognize as a selfie stick (but aimed outward).

The value of Periscope is the livestream. But I wanted to save what I’d created so I’d tested the autosave to Camera Roll feature, too. The sound levels, available bandwidth and overall energy of the Exhibit Hall that morning all were things that couldn’t have been tested ahead of time.

As one of my first “scopes,” I created a 16-minute video during which I walked the hall, taking time to show each booth. In my wildest dreams, I was providing a service for the stay-at-home marketer who might want to check out his or her own firm’s booth or get a feel for the Hall layout in general—in real-time!

In fact, this happened—Natixis’ John Refford spotted me Periscoping, sent a request via the chat note within the app to see a livestream of the Natixis booth and the team. So, I created a special livestream just for him. It worked, sweet.

Periscope Broadcasts

I wish I could show you both of those videos but for some reason I can’t. The videos were saved, I can watch them as a replay within Periscope and on my phone. But despite repeated efforts to download them in a variety of ways, these videos won’t budge. There's barely an online user community to reach out to, and I’m still waiting to hear from Periscope’s support.

Two videos are able to be accessed, and their quality will likely reassure you that you’re not missing much not seeing the other two videos. There’s a lot of pixelation, the audio and video are out of sync at times, the lighting and the volume are not great.

If all I wanted was to create a video to show later, my camera on my phone would have done a much better job. Periscope offers the promise of both showing a stream live (and I had higher quality expectations) and saving that stream to use later.

Having hopefully managed your expectations, the following are two livestreams (since saved and lightly edited as videos) that I created. My hope was that they might draw a live question or two from Twitter at large but none materialized. Even so, I'd underestimated the distraction of watching the phone for viewers to join or chat while filming an interview at the same time.

MainStay's Virtual Greeter

The first video shows MainStay’s virtual greeter, which was easily the most innovative booth traffic-driver (my tweet referred to it as booth bait) at the conference this year. MainStay is 2 for 2 for producing the Exhibit Hall's top head-turner, following an equally innovative campaign last year.

MainStay’s Director of Social Media Frank Ranu explains how the lifelike motion-sensitive greeter uses a few opening lines to draw attendees in to watch brief video clips.  

T. Rowe Price iPad App

T. Rowe Price was one of a few firms that seem to have devoted their booth space to their apps (J.P. Morgan Funds being another). I wandered into the booth and found myself talking to Darrell M. Riley, Asset Allocation Group. We’d planned on doing a demo, but the demonstration iPad happened to be low on battery at that very moment (the heartbreak of live). Darrell smoothly segued into an explanation of the MarketScene app strategy.

Later, I just had to chuckle about what I put these two gentlemen through. The Exhibit Hall was dotted with professional lighting and video setups, and it was their luck to be visited by a woman waving a dinky phone on a stick, asking them to talk to it. Oh and to remember, “Everything is going out live to Twitter!” They were sports.

I encourage you and your teams to research Periscope—and vertical video in general—yourselves. There are lots of possible applications for a livestream and it could be awesome. As with all other platforms you don’t control, just remember to limit your dependency/exposure and have a Plan B communication method ready.

Were you at the conference this year? Please use the space below to tell me what I missed.

New Insight Into Advisor Marketing: Those Mobile Apps Make A Difference

Cogent Reports released some fascinating data this week about the effectiveness of various digital, traditional and media marketing tactics. Of course, what’s not to love about the headline of the press release: “Digital Outreach Delivers Impressive Results for Asset Managers.”

Websites and Webinars scored well, but the big surprise was the finding:
“On average, more than three-quarters (76%) of advisors exposed to asset managers’ proprietary mobile apps indicated they are likely to increase business with the firm, compared with only 34% of advisors who were not exposed (a 42-percentage-point lift).”

This is for Q1 data posted to the Cogent Reports Advisor Touchpoints™ portal, which tracks the performance of the marketing efforts of the 15 leading mutual fund, exchange-traded fund (ETF) and variable annuity (VA) providers.

Not to be crass but...ka-ching! Driving more business is what marketing is all about.

Of the nine Cogent touchpoints, the average lift ranges from a low of 15 percentage points for News recall to the high of 42 percentage points for mobile apps and Websites.

I encourage you to read the press release and a related blog post with an image that names the Cogent-tracked firms that are leaders in the various tactics. It’s a three-way tie between J.P. Morgan Funds, Franklin Templeton and Vanguard in the apps category, and the American Funds Website still rocks, according to this data. 

Awesome intel and thanks to Cogent for giving us a peek at the proprietary research. 

Compared To B2B, B2C

It's exciting to think that something so new (the first apps were launched in 2008, and asset manager apps followed) could be having such an impact for app providers.

Unfortunately, a relative few asset managers have committed to what's required to launch and continue to maintain/enhance an app (see a related April 2013 post and October 2013 post). Prior to this data, some have struggled to make a case for the investment required. Providers' business success with apps has been a bit of a sleeper.

Every business needs a Website and email and print materials (I guess). But a mobile app? That's been assumed to be optional in this industry—even though by 2013, 92% of the top global brands had apps in Apple's App Store and 75% in Google's Play Store, and small businesses, including many financial advisors', have followed with their own apps.

Also, a milestone was crossed last year when comScore reported that 52% of the time consumers spent online occurred within apps, leaving 40% of the time spent on desktop browsers and 8% on smartphone and tablet browsers. 

Mobile apps may be even more important when marketing to advisors than in other forms of business-to-business (B2B) or business-to-consumer (B2C) marketing. The graphs below are a rough comparison of what Cogent reports is effective in advisor marketing versus B2B and B2C marketing, as reported on by Webmarketing 123 in a February 2015 report, 4th annual State of Digital Marketing report.

There is a difference to keep in mind when considering these: Cogent data tracks financial advisor response to the digital, print and media marketing of 15 tracked firms while the Webmarketing 123 data is based on a survey of marketers’ view of content marketing effectiveness, including return on investment. 

Based on what’s shown below, what works across the three types of marketing is generally in sync. The big divergence, however, is in the importance of a mobile app to advisor marketing. It’s not like the rest of B2B marketing. In fact, the importance of the delivery form (although likely to be much heavier in content and product data) is more on the order of B2C marketing.

First here’s a simple ranking of Cogent’s touchpoints using the Cogent measure in the first image above: lift in asset manager brand consideration after exposure, in percentage points.

The graphs below show some of the same tactics, as reported on by Webmarketing 123.

B2B Digital Marketing Effectiveness
B2C Digital Marketing Effectiveness

A few additional notes:

  • "Website" is not a discrete category in the Webmarketing 123 survey. Instead, it reports on more granular work than Cogent—videos, case studies, blogs, infographics and ebooks—all of which presumably have a presence on the B2B or B2C marketer’s Website. If I could pick one category for Cogent to add to its touchpoint work, I’d ask for two: videos and blogs.
  • Note that SEO (search engine optimization) and paid search are two categories broken out in the Webmarketing 123 survey and appropriately so since both are deemed to produce more revenue (16% and 12%, respectively) than social media or display. The Cogent work does not report on these, which are less common tactics at asset managers across the board although practiced by the leading firms tracked. Metrics on these would also be great to see.
  • At what point does B2C, B2B and advisor marketing, too, address the effectiveness of advertising especially relative to the spend?