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.

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.