What I Don’t Know (A Partial List)

The risk that I or any blogger runs is that we come across as a know-it-all. But, it’s just natural that we veer toward issues where we can add value. Today and probably for today only, I'm sharing a few items from my random running list of what I just don’t know.

What is Yahoo! Finance's Mojo?

Since Yahoo! is in the news this week, let’s start with it. I don’t know why or how Yahoo! Finance continues to trounce all finance sites, including its monster competitor in search, Google.

The screenshot below of the top five finance sites is from Compete. Note that Google Finance (weighing in with fewer than 2 million visitors in March, according to Comscore) isn’t even on the list. The Yahoo! Finance staying power is opposite the fate of Yahoo!’s mostly diminished other businesses.

Yahoo!FinanceImage

Yahoo is on top with almost 29 million unique visitors despite the functionality and presentation advances of other sites while Yahoo's offering is stale and getting staler. On the iPad, where competition for personal finance users is moving, the Yahoo offering is Market Dash. It's essentially unchanged from its February 2011 launch, the last time the Yahoo! Finance blog was updated.

Is the online finance site user that inert? Is this Yahoo's lasting reward for being early out of the gate? I don't know.

Strategic Contributors Get Mentioned Earlier In The Deck

When, oh when, will Marketing score more than a passing mention in executive presentations by asset managers?

Searching through asset manager conference call transcripts and hoping for a nod to Marketing is one of the more futile things I do every quarter. (See? Even those of us on the outside have quarterly rituals.)

Marketing comes up here and there during earnings calls and other analyst presentations—as it did in BlackRock’s conference call yesterday and Eaton Vance’s in May—but as an expense line item.

When you have time to spare, listen in on a few asset manager conference calls or on-demand investor presentation Webcasts. For a stark contrast, then go check out the speech that American Express CEO Kenneth Chenault gave to the financial community last summer in which he waxed eloquent about the implications of Web 3.0. Marketing and marketing activities (i.e., brand, acquisition, loyalty, partnerships) are core to how American Express competes, as you can see from this slide from that presentation.

American Express Investment Process Image

I don’t know when Marketing helps drive the investment business' evolution and who among you will lead the change.

So…Are Minds And Hearts Being Won?

Have social media-active financial advisors explored the product offerings of an asset manager after having been exposed to the content the money manager was sharing socially? That's the hope and expectation. Is it happening as a matter of course nowadays? Wish I knew but I don’t yet.

This @SteinbergFinAdv tweet suggests that this firm is at least listening, which has to be the first step. Falls short of a full-on embrace, though, doesn't it? ;)

Steinberg Advisers Tweet Image

What about investors who come in “over the transom"? Are you starting to systematically attribute phone, email or Web inquiries that originate as a result of your social media presence? What's the follow-up plan for those intrigued by what you're saying?

The Way Forward For ETF Marketing?

 CHRISTIAN MAGOON

CHRISTIAN MAGOON

I don’t know how ETF marketing and distribution evolves past this current stage of new product launches and product communications.

Christian MagoonLuckily, I do know Christian Magoon. Christian is the former president of Claymore Investments (now Guggenheim), my former boss, and now a committed ETF educator through his IndiaETFs.com and GoldETFs.biz sites that (in the interest of full disclosure) I worked with him on early.

Christian wrote a piece this week for ETF Daily News in which he explains why he thinks the ETF product category should change its name, and he comments on how distributors are pressuring ETF sponsors to pay to play.

Transparency is a key characteristic of ETFs. I don't know how much this new product succeeds by borrowing from previous investment product marketing and how much it deviates. I like what Christian is doing to open the discussion about what we all know and don't know about how ETFs go from here to there.

Facebook And Your Business?

I don’t know that Facebook has the humility required to learn enough about you and your business to serve you. I'm not sure that "serving" is how they view what they do, although they sell stuff and some asset managers are buying it.

As we were all in slowdown mode approaching the Fourth of July holiday, Facebook pulled another stunt. Essentially, it wiped out users’ published email addresses and replaced them with Facebook.com email addresses.

Email sent to a Facebook user went to the Facebook email inbox, which most users didn’t know how to find because they didn’t use their assigned Facebook.com address. Worse—especially for independent advisors who can and do sync their contact lists with their iPhones or Androids—contacts’ email addresses were written over.

See the Wall Street Journal’s early coverage and then this CNET coverage when it was realized that address books were being altered.

Just about everyone affected by this heavy-handed switchover found it galling. But to businesses whose communications must be monitored and archived, the nonchalant redirection of email is business-threatening. If you’re an advisor who doesn’t know that a client sent you an email because Facebook sent your email to a different email address, that’s not good. I shot a quick email to Investment News’ Davis Janowski when I realized what it could mean for advisors.

I was thinking about Facebook’s arrogance the other day while listening to an ordinarily glib radio personality carefully enunciate every bit of an investment company ad, including the required “Securities offered through LPL Financial, Member FINRA/SIPC.” The investment company had provided a compliant ad and its media partner did its part by delivering the message as specified.

The medium needs to respect the message and message-sender. That’s something I know.

How about you? What don’t you know?