Moving On...

This blog post required a couple of passes.

I want to use the post to let you know that I’m closing Rock The Boat Marketing to take a marketing position with an asset management firm. Yep, I’m heading back inside.

A part of me—ultimately overruled by the rest of me—wanted to regale you with how I’ll remember the last seven years. I had some reminiscences about the spread of social media and the progress of digital marketing within the industry, a few profound observations and one or two prophecies.

I’ll save all that for if we ever meet in person and you have a lot of time and nothing to say yourself.

The most important thing I have to say today is thank you and I don’t want that to get lost.

I knew few (non Chicago-based) mutual fund and ETF marketers, financial advisors or service providers when I personally became active online starting in 2008. It was a special time because lots of others were also finding their voices and experimenting with blogs and Twitter.

The encouragement from the people I’ve met through tweeting and posting has floored me. It’s been genuine, helpful in a material way and affirming. Thank you. Your attagirls have meant so much.

Starting December 1, I’ll be working as Director of Intermediary Marketing at Calamos Investments in suburban Chicago. I worked at Calamos for a short time several years ago. Marketing and Sales there is doing some cool stuff together, and I’m eager to get back on a team.

Rock The Boat Marketing is docking (hat tip to my nephew Danny for that). But my interest in you and what you’re up to will continue, naturally. Let’s keep in touch—here’s my LinkedIn profile if you’d like to connect.

How J.P. Morgan Serves Up The ‘Next Best Content’

J.P. Morgan Asset Management has a well deserved reputation for its content prowess, including the Quarterly Guide to the Markets and its many iterations.

Thanks to a vendor-organized Webinar last week, we now have a better idea of the thinking behind the digital experience that the content is used to support.

Below is a screenshot of the 58-minute “Asset Management: The Digital Transformation” presentation featuring idio CEO Ed Barrow and J.P. Morgan’s Global Head of Digital Experience Tom Libretto. It’s not embeddable so you’d have to click on the image or this link to go to the idio page and watch.   

Before you do, I’ll share a few of my notes.

The first 20 or so minutes from Barrow are broad and bounce around a bit. Some of his comments and generalizations throughout may test your patience. (Example: “Clients no longer trust past performance and Morningstar ratings to make investment decisions.”) And, there are more than a few idio product plugs. But hang in there for Libretto’s insights.

Too Much Content?

In the asset management industry overall, Libretto said, “The reality is that we don’t need to produce as much content as we do. We need to understand more and more what types of content, in which formats, wrapped around what type of context, are going to compel a client to engage and take the next step with us.”

Content Planning

At J.P. Morgan, “before there’s heavy investment in content production, we do the due diligence to determine what the objectives of the content need to be or are, and how the content will or won’t be promoted,” he said.

Editorial meetings include regular discussions akin to television programming (e.g., “how many slots do you have to fill?”). That forms the basis for an editorial calendar view of what’s available, identification of formats and syndication opportunities across distribution channels. 

Libretto repeated Barrow’s use of the word “surgical” to characterize how the team determines which formats—including “word counts, font sizes, graphical cues or peeks of content—are capable of driving interest. All of those things are part of the content continuum as we convert from raw material into a digital experience.”

“Emotional conversations” about what content gets produced are avoided by use of a scoring system, according to Libretto. “So,” he said, “when something hits a threshold and we all feel it’s compelling enough to promote, we have the resources to promote that output”—which they do across a multitude of paid and content syndication distribution points.

Data Leads To Content Intelligence

Most fascinating was how J.P. Morgan is merging, cleansing and aggregating its estimated 45 to 50 data sources, as well as buying third-party data, for the purpose of modeling the role that content plays.

In addition to the legacy nature of some systems and system redundancy, the sheer volume of data is a challenge. Libretto’s approach is aimed at determining which types of interactions—face-to-face meeting, Web visit, app open, transaction, etc.—matter and which don’t. Sequence is a focus, too.

To be able to isolate and correlate interactions that are leading indicators to a near-term business transaction provides “a much, much smaller, tighter set of interactions to optimize your strategies around. You can almost discount the others [he estimated that about 90% of the data could be ignored] or use them for other purposes to enhance the client journey,” Libretto said.

The idio solution is one of the tools that J.P. Morgan has begun to use to provide 1)contextual relevance for the content consumer and 2)real-time actionable insight for the firm.

idio’s contribution is on what can be learned from the content being consumed by a visitor to the J.P. Morgan domain. Topic interests are gleaned from the various content pieces accessed, and referred to for the purpose of building a profile that seeks to understand the visitor’s challenges and predict in real-time the next content to offer.

The slide above provides a look at how previous content and conversions drive “next best” content or action recommendations, although few specifics were given. 

idio provides a "data source on which to fire a variety of next step actions, whether it be dynamic content rendering of the next piece of Web content or firing an alert to a salesperson that we have high conviction that somebody who just read something—in combination with other interactions we’ve seen come through over the last n periods—means that a meeting should be queued up sooner or later," Libretto explained.

Why Facebook’s New Search May Prompt A Review Of What You’re Posting There

Facebook, the behemoth social network known for being a “walled garden,” has been an object of mystery and curiosity.

It’s easy to understand its appeal to financial advisors as a friction-free way to communicate with clients. And, most of those interactions may be none of the mutual fund or exchange-traded fund (ETF) marketer’s business.

But Facebook is also an estimable platform for discovering and passing along content—investment-related content included. (See this post for an analysis of the level of financial services content currently being shared, and the dominant brands.)

Financial advisors use content as their social currency. Putnam’s latest social media research reported that Facebook plays a “very significant role in current marketing efforts” for four out of 10 advisors (see post). Almost three-quarters (73%) said they posted business content to Facebook.

Exactly what content is being posted and shared, and by whom? Each Facebook account sees its own feed, of course, but to date there has been no view into the content collection. Those garden walls were too high to peer over.

Facebook’s decision last week to make all of its 2 trillion public posts available via a tabbed search capability changes that. It instantly makes Facebook a whole lot more interesting for the search-aware content marketer.

Market Volatility Search

With billing no less than "find what the world is saying," Facebook Search FYI is a new, rich resource to become familiar with.

I’ve previously mentioned the value I get out of Twitter’s Advanced Search, in part because it enables a filtering of tweets only “from people you know.” The new Facebook search one-ups that. 

A Facebook search will now produce a results page personalized based on 200 factors including what you like and engage with, what you’ve searched for, and information they've collected about your identity. The Top tab (which is the default) produces the most relevant results for the account.

According to a TechCrunch post, the results are organized “to highlight posts from trusted news sources, followed by people in your network, lists of the most popular links or quotes about a topic, and then strangers.” The images below were prepared by Facebook to illustrate the search results on a smartphone. 

Here's a quick review of where I see the added value.

Listening And Learning

Now you can plug into what’s being said on Facebook, and what you learn can influence your content positioning and development, including search engine optimization and pay-per-click keyword planning.

Example: Facebook claims to process 1.5 billion searches a day (that's about half of what Google handles) and that’s the basis for its assisted search. When I typed in the most generic of terms—“mutual funds”—Facebook reveals that “mutual funds vs” is a frequently searched term. Hmm...

Mutual Funds Assisted Facebook Search

The Latest tab is where Facebook takes Twitter head on. Twitter has been the go-to source for tracking what people are talking about right now, and that is what’s now delivered in the Latest tab. I find these results much less relevant on broad terms. Hashtag searches can get you to what you want to see, but keep reading. 

For Demonstrating Topic Relevance

Previously, posting to Facebook truly has been like dropping a teaspoon of matter down a black hole—good luck to anyone ever finding it. In fact, the joke’s been made that even those who aren’t diligent about their privacy settings have enjoyed "privacy through obscurity."

(This Search changes that and if you don’t want your own past posts showing up in search results, head on over to Facebook's Settings/Privacy/Privacy Settings and Tools.)

Assuming content-sharers make use of the new functionality and financial advisors in particular come to rely on it too, Facebook could be a powerful place to post on a fast-breaking topic and be noticed.

For asset management marketers, this may prompt a review of what’s being posted to Facebook.

Not Just The Soft Side Of What You Do

It’s a best practice to select content appropriate for each social network, and Facebook has tended to attract asset managers’ soft-side community posts. But things change.

For example, Cogent Reports reported in August that Facebook is the top business and financial news source for millennials. 

If users begin to rely on the Latest tab to search for investment-related updates, you are going to want your firm to be represented. 

But here’s the hitch I found in limited testing this week. I maintain a custom list of Asset Managers’ Facebook pages, which is a signal to Facebook that your content is important to me. While my keyword searches surfaced mutual fund/ETF firms’ updates in my Top tab (personalized to me), I don’t see your updates in the Latest tab.

For example, my search for #ETF produced this AdvisorShares post, along with posts from Scottrade, Investopedia and Wyatt Investment Research, in the Top feed. 

“@PeritusAsset: #HighYield softer again despite >$800M of inflows & only 2 new issues. Equities, oil, gold, treasurys all higher. #ETF”

Posted by AdvisorShares on Wednesday, October 28, 2015

None of those posts from "Financial Planning" or "Business/Economy" Websites appear in the Latest tab search results, however. Do a search for #ETFs and you’ll see a collection of unrelated updates about tattoos and such—not relevant, not helpful.

As a second example, a hashtag search of #BudgetDeal is a timely topic that asset managers might have produced content on and may even be tweeting about. In fact, I saw a few posts from Allianz's Mohamed El-Erian.

Good morning.FYI, the Wall Street Journal on “tentative deal” between White House and congressional leaders on “...

Posted by Mohamed A. El-Erian on Tuesday, October 27, 2015

But overall the #BudgetDeal discussion on Facebook is being dominated by what I'll call posters representing the fringe—it and the discussion of other investment topics could use the contribution of mainstream investment firms’ and Main Street financial advisors.

As has been well documented, Facebook is notorious for trimming the free publishing capabilities of brands. They have no intention of giving away what they could charge businesses for.

You could achieve your objective to get in the Latest tab feed if you could post updates from an individual’s (strategist or portfolio manager) account. This Kevin O'Leary (O'Shares ETFs founder and Shark Tank host) post from August appeared in a Latest search for #ETFs, for example.

Learn about O'Shares Investments and my newest #ETFs @ my live webinar. 11 am on Aug 26th, exclusively on &...

Posted by Kevin O'Leary on Friday, August 21, 2015

But wrangling to get access to an individual's Facebook account may be a whole ‘nother hornet’s nest—see this post for a discussion of related issues.

If brand content won't appear in the Latest tab, the opportunity for content discovery via Search shrinks. Even then, though, the option may be to resume "Follow us on Facebook" campaigns to assure that your firm has a place in followers' Top tabs.

An Opportunity For Investment Videos?

As I mentioned last week, investors say they’re being influenced by videos but whose videos and how are they being discovered? In the testing I did, there seems to be ample opportunity for asset manager or financial advisor content to surface on investment term searches in the Videos Search tab. Evidently, the Videos tab doesn't filter brand content.

For example, I searched for "rising interest rates" via the Videos tab. It was good to see a month-old Franklin Templeton video show up on top. Now that’s more like it!

Franklin Templeton Rising Interest Rates Image

Check out Facebook Search and see what you think the potential is. 

Mutual Fund, ETF Product Videos Hit Their Storytelling Stride

Stories not style boxes.

A recent paper from LPL Research Private Client Thought Leadership (this link opens a PDF) makes a valid point: While the investment industry tends to communicate in style boxes, what investors react to is stories—or themes, to use LPL’s word (and in a foreshadowing of its thematic portfolios to come).

There may be no better storytelling format than video. In fact, recently surveyed marketers said video is the most effective social content.

And yet asset manager use of video has struggled to fire on all cylinders. The Compliance requirement to script on-camera talent, the often stilted deliveries and the very messages themselves have fallen flat. Some firms have hesitated to use YouTube to expose their videos to the broadest audience possible. Many firms that publish on YouTube have neglected to throw any search engine optimization support behind them.

Video views of fund company videos hang in double-digit land even as survey after survey ranks video high on the list of advisor and investor social influences.

Whose videos are making an impression? Videos produced by other than asset managers, that's been my nagging suspicion.

New Energy

Despite a lack of public positive reinforcement (i.e., view count), many mutual fund and exchange-traded fund (ETF) firms have steadily improved upon their use of video, and the effort is showing: 

  • Almost every leading firm—American Funds, DFA, Davis Funds, you name it—showcases at least one video on its home page.
  • Strategists, portfolio managers and others are taking chill pills. Almost gone are the deer-in-headlights teleprompter-scanning deliveries of yore that made many videos uncomfortable to watch.

Talking heads are displaying a new energy, thanks in part to not being tethered to a script. For one of my favorites among the new breed of videos: check out (click here to get to the Brightcove video) how MFS Chief Investment Strategist James Swanson renders both the question-asker and question title slide obsolete. He stares directly into the camera, asks himself a question and then answers it.

  • Most important and back to the point of this post, there's an evolution toward product “stories,” consistent with what LPL is calling for and more aligned with what people will care about.

It's possible that a video featuring a portfolio manager expanding on a fund’s investment objective or process might attract a narrow audience. Loyalists might watch all of a strategist’s sweeping account of the past or coming quarter. 

But the improved product-related videos serve up specific, often illustrated answers to questions that a YouTube searcher may very well be asking.

Making An Investment Case

If the story leads with the why as opposed to the who and the how, a product-centric video can be engaging, as shown in this U.S. Funds’ video on JETs. 

Presenting The Opportunity

Here’s WisdomTree effectively delivering a presentation about the opportunity in emerging markets. 

Currency Hedging Made Simple(r)

IndexIQ takes on the topic of currency hedging in three short videos that intersperse currency-related questions to keep viewers engaged. See the questions starting at 1:44 in this part 2 video.

What We're Buying And Why

ETFs, especially those in niches, have a storytelling advantage, to be sure. But this Royce Premier Fund video acknowledges that advisors/investors also want to hear more about what’s in their mutual fund—and maybe especially changes to the portfolio’s composition.

Starting at 0:46 (click on the image to go to the site), listen to the portfolio managers describe a few companies recently added to the Royce Premier Fund and why.

None of this used to happen—let alone made available for the public via video. Video truly offers the capability to better inform advisors and investors, as these firms are demonstrating. The content has real value. The next hurdle to clear is to assure that these good stories find their audience. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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