This Time It Was Different!

Bravo to all the investment company marketers who dropped everything this week in order to orchestrate (whether writing, editing, routing, cajoling) a stream of market and even some product communications to an information-hungry following.

Having tracked the industry's real-time response (shallow and slowsee this post from way back when) to the seemingly much worse September 2008 turmoil, I’ve spent the week marveling at the output prompted by the August 2015 market swoon. It was a quarter’s worth of work in a week, and it has been magnificent.

What explains the difference in response this year from seven years ago?

Keep Calm And Communicate

Firms today are much better equipped to communicate in fresh, short bursts. Everything that’s been done—all the scoping and planning and building of a content publishing infrastructure—has led to this moment. Advisors, investors, the media all turned to their online news sources and (many of) you were there.

Of course, you accepted invitations to television and radio programs and other places where your investment experts were invited, and you sent emails with PDF updates to the advisor names in your database. That's old school. Most impressively, you found a way to get yourselves to where others were online and you contributed to "the conversation." Yay for you and everyone on your extended teams.

I’ll leave others to react to the substance of what your firms had to say. The notes below focus on what you did. 

Tweets, Obviously

Twitter, the pet platform for breaking market information, was the quickest, no-friction way for asset managers to communicate.

Starting on Friday, market-aware tweets were posted to deliver simple messages to investors, and to notify advisors of hastily scheduled conference calls.

Firms used Twitter to circulate information—see how Fidelity’s Jurrien Timmer tweeted a New York Times graphic that the @Fidelity account and 21 others then retweeted. Isn't it great to be part of a village?

I happen to love how Nuveen’s Bob Doll used Twitter to provide some added info around a CNBC tweet quoting him.

Nuveen Bob Doll Tweet.JPG

Those Blogs Come In Handy, Don’t They?

It’s wondrous what can get done when there’s a publishing system in place, with a known process and identified roles and responsibilities.

Of the 50 or so asset manager blogs I subscribe to (see related post), maybe half had published a market-specific post by Wednesday. In fact, I was surprised by a few that didn’t (why launch a fund 30 days ago if you’re not ready to use it for this?).

Each firm has its own challenges, I get it. But for those with content benches, this was the time to show them off.          

It wasn’t a surprise that the Eaton Vance blog was all over what was happening, given that volatility is one of its three investing themes. The firm posted no fewer than 13 updates in the last three days (nine on Monday alone). And, they had some recent Advisor Top-of-Mind Index survey work (more content marketing!) to be able to cite.

Not everyone could whip up visuals on such short notice. This may be one of those rare times when all you needed were words.

Notable: The Columbia Management blog had a table at the ready listing crisis events since 1929. I’d show you but the warning on the site about further distribution discouraged me and probably others from sharing.

I’ll also call your attention to a little visual relief on the Guggenheim commentary, which doubled as a readymade (and provocative) tweet. Clicking on the callout goes to the @ScottMinerd tweet and five tweets responding. My former colleague and buddy Todd Donat tells me it’s just a matter of HTML playing nice with the style sheet.

Cut, Print And That’s A Wrap

I believe First Trust was first out of the gate Monday morning with a video report (unembeddable—click on the link to view). “Yes, it is a correction…” is about as unambiguous as it gets.

And the directness of the Nuveen video, Bob Doll again, is quite effective.

For Facebook, Photos

Asset managers also reached out on Facebook, appropriately so as it was recently reported that Facebook is the leading source of news for affluent millennial investors.

Content posted was mostly images with and without links, as shown in these Putnam and Fidelity screenshots.

Putnam Facebook Image

Did Any Of It Make A Difference?

There can be a bit of skepticism when people see Marketing types hustling around the office trying to get something out. Does any of it really matter?

Consider this: That Bob Doll video mentioned above? From Monday to the close of business Wednesday, it attracted about 800 views—easily more than 99% of the months-old videos on Nuveen’s YouTube channel.

Others from Northern Trust and Vanguard saw similar fast builds. Franklin Templeton’s video featuring Dr. Michael Hasenstab, recorded Tuesday and published Tuesday as the others were, was closing in on 1,200 views this morning.   

I haven’t mentioned LinkedIn yet. That’s because I saw just a few asset managers jump on it Monday or Tuesday. Those who did posted a few links and linked somewhere else or cross-posted their blog updates to their Company pages. My impression of this week's content on the Banking & Finance channel is that it was prepared well before the breaking news.

However, LinkedIn appears to have been the site of most sharing of asset manager content published elsewhere. I say this based on a spot-check of Buzzsumo data, and it's consistent with what we've seen previously.

Franklin Templeton really got the word out as its Macro View About Market Volatility post seemed to be everywhere I turned, including Advisor Perspectives. Courtesy of its blog, here's a look at where the two-day-old post was shared.

On Twitter, it was more about visibility versus retweets or favorites. Accounts may very well have grown this week, if only because of heightened tweeting. Few investment company accounts were using some of the more popular hashtags (#ChinaMeltdown and #selloff).

A decision may have been made to communicate with existing followers as opposed to using descriptive hashtags to garner attention. That’s debatable, and I would debate it. 

And Product Updates, Too

Product updates are tricky for mutual funds, especially on the very day the market is tanking and the fund has yet to be priced. Still, Wells Fargo found an elegant way for their portfolio managers to say something on Twitter.

In the glass half-full department, a few firms saw fit to comment on the "absence of volatility" among senior loan products.

Direxion has been publishing daily "notable activity" reports, including notable one-day creation and redemption activity. Granted, Direxion is a firm that offers products, for traders, that benefit when the market goes in either direction. Still, this is added data (screenshot below is an excerpt) that I don’t recall seeing published in 2008.  

Props also to @DirexionINV for using Twitter to acknowledge pricing issues. Other firms with Twitter accounts had problems, too, but didn't think to use the channel. When something's not working on a Website, Twitter is the first place many people think to look.

Many tweets directed to ETF providers and about ETF tickers went unanswered. Next time—and let’s hope it’s not as soon as next week—I’d look for ETF product providers to be more responsive in close to real-time. In the near term, I’m guessing many of you will be firing up stop-loss order explainers.

Finally, I’ll close this with a nod to @AdvisorShares, one of the most consistently entertaining asset manager accounts. To data only the CEO has retweeted it, but I’m sure I wasn’t alone in appreciating this tweet.

Is it Friday afternoon yet?

By Accident Or By Design? LinkedIn Exposes Advertisers' Campaign Data

Update: I published the below post early this morning. Mid-day I received an email from someone in LinkedIn’s Corporate Communications saying, “We were made aware of this issue that enabled a limited number of LinkedIn members to see this campaign data. It has since been fixed.”

That’s good news, it was inadvertent and not by design. I can confirm that I for one can no longer see the Sponsored Update campaign results of more than a dozen investment companies and other firms, as I described below.

But I still have questions regarding the visibility of the data, how it became visible and, ultimately, what sorts of protections and monitoring that LinkedIn has in place. Without a better understanding of LinkedIn’s controls, advertisers’ interest may very well cool.

When I hear more, I’ll update the post. I’m doing this piecemeal because my email goes out at 3CDT and this first update should be in place, at the minimum.

Something happened on LinkedIn this week (is still happening as of this posting Thursday morning) that serves as a fresh reminder about the hazards of relying on others’ ever-evolving platforms.

On Tuesday, while in the process of working on a client’s competitive review, I noticed that LinkedIn was showing the results of firms’ advertising campaigns—the impressions, clicks, interactions, followers acquired and engagement rate of sponsored updates. I was dumbfounded.

To give you an idea, below I show a J.P. Morgan update, one of the best-performing updates in the samples I reviewed and off-point for mutual fund and exchange-traded fund (ETF) firms.

On the company page, the shaded sponsored update campaign results (under the heading "Gained from Sponsoring") appear to be a show/hide module. I would have assumed its display would be driven by the account login—only those with admin access to the company page should be able to see results for only their own campaigns.

When I first realized what I was seeing, I'll admit that I made a beeline to check out the BlackRock company page. LinkedIn has singled BlackRock out for its sponsored update success (see a related post), and I wanted to see the data for myself.

Curiously, no data could be seen in most of the BlackRock campaign results modules. As shown in the example below from 10 months ago, the campaign name (revealing the target audience) and elements displayed but with zeros where the data would be. That can't be right.

BlackRock Sponsored Update Zeros

Also new to me Tuesday: Each company update that hasn’t been sponsored has a "Sponsor update" button that opens to a sponsored update promotion. That seems odd to show to all, given that only the company can sponsor an update on its own page.

From time to time, I use my clients' logins to access their LinkedIn analytics. Thinking that my use of multiple logins may have somehow confused things, I cleared my cache but still saw the data.

Then I asked several others to tell me whether they could see what I was seeing. Most logged-in desktop or laptop Chrome or Internet Explorer browser-users could. The one who couldn’t see the data was accessing LinkedIn via Safari on a MacBook Air.

Investment companies were my focus, but I also found that I could see the campaign data from companies not in the financial services space, too. 

Firms whose campaign data was visible in my spotcheck include:

  • Aberdeen Asset Management
  • Calamos Investments
  • Deutsche Bank
  • Franklin Templeton
  • Goldman Sachs
  • LPL Financial
  • Morgan Stanley
  • OppenheimerFunds
  • Putnam Investments
  • T. Rowe Price

If you work for one of these firms, I'd reach out to your LinkedIn account manager and demand to know what the heck is going on.

The question for LinkedIn: Is the publication of this data by design or by accident? I’d sent a tweet about my discovery Tuesday and then an email to LinkedIn’s press account Tuesday evening but have yet to receive a response. I’ve been checking Twitter and Google search results for any official or unofficial commentary on this. So far, crickets.

When and if I hear from LinkedIn, I’ll update this post. My expectation (and hope) is that this is a programming glitch that will be promptly addressed. In the absence of a credible explanation from LinkedIn, I find this breach and its persistence for most of a week to be unacceptable and inexcusable. Shouldn't somebody be paying closer attention?

What About Protections For The Advertiser?

Sponsored updates are an important source of revenue for LinkedIn. They drove almost half of the Marketing Solutions' $140 million quarterly revenue, which was up by more than double since July 2014, according to the company's July 30, 2015, earnings announcement. There is every intention to build on that, and the financial services vertical has been one of the areas of sales (and content) focus. 

Let’s proceed with the assumption that showing others’ campaign data is not how LinkedIn expects to drive sponsored update adoption. This episode nonetheless is a teachable moment for all of us increasingly intrigued by the possibilities of using social platforms to more effectively reach audiences.

If you’ve ever used a social network for any length of time, you’re likely to have been surprised by changes it’s made. Facebook is notorious for this but every platformand especially the public companies under pressure to demonstrate growth in usage and revenue—will change things up without notice. And, that has frequently included the exposure of additional data. While most of these surprises have affected individuals, brands and companies acting as content publishers have been caught unaware and needed to scramble.

I submit that advertising on these platforms raises the stakes, for both platform provider and the brand willing to commit a piece of its advertising budget.

Social networks are disruptive by definition. They don’t necessarily play by existing rules. As I thought about seeing all that campaign data this week, I wondered whether advertisers may be making assumptions that those running the social platforms either don’t share or aren’t aware of.

What assurances have been extended—more to the point, where is it writtenthat campaign results aren't something to tinker with by publishing or otherwise sharing?

By now, and through some trial and error, the networks have learned the importance of safeguarding personal data. But how much vetting has been done by advertisers to understand the steps that are taken to make certain that competitors don’t see one another’s marketing response data?

How seriously do LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook et al take the need to protect their advertisers, for some of whom advertising effectiveness is a leading indicator of their business results?

We have all been impressed by what the social networks say they can do. Their targeting capabilities and the level of reporting available surpasses what’s available from traditional media sites. They've been compelling enough to command significant sums for pricey products. 

This episode makes it obvious that we need to broaden the sales discussion to explicitly communicate what we require new marketing partners to do, and to confirm that platform and advertiser are aligned on the importance of keeping campaign results private. 

Measuring Mutual Fund, ETF Content Marketing Effectiveness

I invite you to join me on a tour of two (virtual) rooms. 

The first room we enter is well lit. Lining the walls are neatly stacked, carefully labeled shelves. A handful of focused professionals staff the room and yes, let’s say they’re wearing pressed white lab coats. This is a room where there’s a place for everything and everything is in its place.

Now let’s walk down the hall to a larger room. We could enter the room through any number of doors. People are dashing in and out of all of them, tossing stuff into bins of all sizes scattered here and there. Through a haze, we see a few people who look like they’re in charge. Each has a clipboard; they seem to be sorting and tracking different activity. The overall feeling is one of lots of commotion but not so much order, coordination or meaning.  

These are the scenes I flashed to when I read a Kurtosys survey result that content marketing has surpassed email marketing as the most effective digital marketing practice at asset management firms. (It wouldn’t have made a difference to the top rankings, but I wish display advertising and video channels also would have been included in the survey question.)

On the one hand, this is welcome news! Nothing has consumed the work of mutual fund and exchange-traded fund (ETF) marketers more over the last few years. I’m happy to hear that it’s believed to be working.

At the same time, I couldn’t help but wonder—and forgive me for this—how do you know?

Are You Winging It?

Email marketing has far fewer moving parts and, by now, most firms follow a structured approach to measure its effectiveness. At the most basic level, it’s known whether an email has been opened or clicked through. Firms know which emails have bounced and the number of unsubscribes. Those with marketing automation implementations are associating email interactions with sales-related activity and even revenue.

This work, involving a relatively small crew of specialists, has been mapped out and proven.

We’re trading up from a fairly well understood marketing tactic to a squishy, free-for-all of a content marketing assessment process. Granted, it’s early. But many firms appear to be winging it when it comes to evaluating their content marketing, declaring success by anecdote. 

Survey respondents told Kurtosys that “Client Satisfaction” ranks as the most important metric for measuring digital marketing performance.

About this, Kurtosys ventures, “We’re not sure how they’re measuring client satisfaction, but presumably it’s through proprietary studies and client retention rates.”

Right. If client satisfaction is the most important metric, wouldn’t that mean that mutual fund and exchange-traded fund (ETF) firms have a system in place to link their top tactic to improved satisfaction?

I have my doubts. I don't doubt that financial advisors and shareholders/investors appreciate the industry’s transition from thin, periodic content to a rich stream of content, and I’d believe that a few are expressing their appreciation. But I’m skeptical that a direct line has been drawn from content marketing to client satisfaction. Or between AUM growth and digital and content.

If I hadn’t seen these results, I would have guessed that today’s key metrics have more to do with quantity and quality of “leads” and conversions because that what’s reported and easily counted.

Elsewhere, Kurtosys reports that four in 10 respondents consider “measuring marketing’s return on investment (ROI)” the biggest challenge to digital marketing efforts in the next year, second to compliance and regulatory restrictions. This echoes the cry for help that showed up in Boston Consulting Group’s benchmarking survey of asset management marketers, which I mentioned a few weeks ago.

If you’re committing to content marketing, if it’s your go-to digital strategy, I’d urge you to take a step back and make sure you have clearly articulated objectives and a system to measure the investment you’re making. Borrow from whatever discipline and rigor and control you have over the assessment of your email activity today.

When you’re awash with data (and the average content publisher is swimming in metrics), there’s the temptation to mix and match to tell the best story. Be careful with that. Being accountable while hoping to secure additional funding for continued content work mandates that you keep it both measurable and real, quarter after quarter.

Cookie Cutter Metrics Won't Cut It

I have some confidence in this research. Kurtosys, a specialist in the space (see their 2013 guest post on this blog), says its findings are based on nearly 200 qualified respondents representing a range of fund and wealth management firms of all sizes.

What I’d caution you about are the results of a broader financial services study recently released by the Content Marketing Institute (CMI). The CMI does outstanding work, but I’d argue that this research is of limited usefulness for the asset management marketer. (This isn’t unusual with “financial services marketing” reports.)

According to the SlideShare presenting survey highlights, the survey cast a wide net and collected responses from 5,167 representing a range of industries, functional areas and company sizes. The SlideShare report is based on 117 responses from a mix of B2B and B2C marketers in accounting/banking/financial institutions.  

Note that the order of the organizational goals differs from what Kurtosys found (e.g., social media engagement is dead last in the asset manager marketer survey). But the list itself isn't at odds with what your firm's goals might be. At this point, I suspect brand awareness is a leading focus for content-producing asset managers, as well.

The CMI survey’s “metrics for content marketing success” are the reason I’m calling your attention to this—although only to suggest that you not pay attention.

The #1 financial services content marketing metric is Website traffic. That’s consistent with what typically ranks as the #1 metric for most industries surveyed, according to the CMI.

Website traffic and time spent on sites may be appropriate for retail banks. For asset managers, a campaign-related traffic spike is thrilling, to be sure. And, I’ll confess to an ongoing curiosity about mutual fund and ETF Website traffic levels.

But site traffic cannot be the endgame for a marketer whose products are distributed by intermediaries or other platforms. The effectiveness of what you’re doing with your content is going to be seen elsewhere, including far afield from your own domain.

You deliver your full blog content via RSS feeds, you publish to LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and media sites, your videos are viewed on YouTube, your value-added work is distributed at events or on partners’ sites, etcetera.  

The risk of winging it or of defaulting to off-the-shelf financial services industry metrics is that they will unquestionably understate the value of what you and your team have been up to.

I’d like to see you march into that messy content measurement room and throw a lasso around everything you’re producing and delivering, including where, how, for whom, by whom, why and at what cost. Only then will you have a handle on the totality of your effort, and you will be on your way toward strategic thinking about how to measure its reach and impact.

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 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.