A First Look At Fund Website Benchmarking Data

Digital marketing success isn’t defined in terms of Website traffic. There’s so much else to consider.

However, benchmarking data on the overall level and composition of your site traffic vis-à-vis your competition can be useful. You’re appealing to the same broad audiences, and their behavior on related sites should have some meaning for you.

This is a follow-up to last October’s post about the return of benchmarking to Google Analytics. Now there's data to analyze! Here's a first look at it.

The graphs below reflect 12 months of activity (April 15, 2014-April 15, 2015) on 426 fund Websites whose firms have opted in to share anonymized data to enable benchmarking.

The sites are grouped by number of daily sessions, and the data in the graphs are based on three groups: 0-99 daily sessions (sample=377), 100-499 daily sessions (sample=29) and 500-999 daily sessions (sample=20). Google doesn't yet have a large enough sample to report on fund sites with 1,000 daily sessions and more.

All data can be found in your Google Analytics account. Just go to Audience/Benchmarking. I looked at data at the Funds level (including mutual funds, exchange-traded funds [ETFs] and hedge funds), exported in Excel spreadsheets to be able to work with it.

This is more real (not based on user panels but on actual data that Google is collecting on sites) and more granular (most free benchmarking services stop at Finance or Investing in general, which includes brokerage sites).

Still, the benchmarking will be even more useful:

  • When mutual fund and ETF site benchmarking data is able to be reported separately. That can’t happen until a sufficient number of properties agree to contribute data. If your firm hasn't yet opted in, you might want to consider. More on that in my previous post.
  • When some category inconsistencies are addressed. Google has no trouble recognizing direct, search (organic and paid), referral and even social traffic. But if site publishers aren’t using tracking code to distinguish between display and email traffic, Google may mis-categorize it as direct traffic data. You’ll see below that Google benchmarking data is being reported for paid search, other paid traffic sources and email for the less trafficked sites but not for the most trafficked sites.
  • When you isolate your own peer group and delve in. I’m presenting the three groups together to get a high level sense of fund company Website traffic in 2015. Compare your site's traffic to your peer group and you’ll learn more.

A Few Takeaways

1. Overall, it looks as if the most that a fund site can hope for are a couple of minutes of the visitors’ time and a couple of pages viewed. This data suggests—let me amend that—makes the argument for easy-to-find content on sites that anticipate the task-oriented visitor. They come, they get, they go. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

2. Finally, we have data on the contribution being made by social efforts and by email—two areas that there is great interest and investment in.

In fact, see the growth in the total number of sessions driven by social in the most recent 12-month period over the previous period. Benchmarking data is available only from August 28, 2013, so the earlier period comparison is from 8/28/2013-4/14/2014, eight months versus 12.

3. Direct traffic (a reflection of brand awareness and product familiarity), organic search (a measure of content availability, quality and accessibility) and referral links drive the better trafficked Websites. Less trafficked sites rely on paid search, other advertising and organic search.

4. There’s a difference in the traffic sourced by each channel: Direct traffic, organic search and referrals lead to more longer-duration sessions, with more pages viewed.

5. Just about one out of four visitors to fund sites comes from non-desktop devices (e.g., tablets or smartphones). This is a remarkable change that has undeniable implications for sites created for desktop use.  

6. Desktop sessions last longer than mobile sessions, which is to be expected. But, there isn’t a big difference in the number of pages viewed across devices. Here too, it’s few pages across the board.

Drilling into your firm’s analytics will help you understand whether this is a good or bad thing. It’s good if you can see that visitors are immediately finding what they need and then moving on. Not so good if the short visits point to visitors—even more frustrated because they're on smaller screens and possibly on the go—who give up.

An Over-The-Shoulder Look At Advisor Sites

Out of curiosity, I also looked at the benchmarking data of sites that are in the Financial Planning & Management category, which together represent about 6,800 Web properties. Nine out of 10 of these attract fewer than 100 daily sessions. Google reports data on sites attracting as many as 10,000-99,999 sessions.

Make no mistake about it—many financial advisors are turning to the same content marketing and paid search tactics that asset manager sites use to build awareness and drive interest. I spotted certified financial planner Jeff Rose ranking for "Roth IRA" searches back in 2010, and more advisors have gotten more serious about inbound marketing since. (In fact, see FMG Suite’s 2015 Inbound Marketing award winners—there are some impressive marketers on that list of financial advisors.)

Few advisory firms may enjoy the brand recognition of your firms or the marketing budgets. The benchmarking data gives us an idea of the organic search strength among financial planning sites.

And there's more—but I'll leave the rest for you to explore.

7 Examples Of How Context Matters For Mutual Fund, ETF Marketers

You can’t control the U.S. mail. If your large cap growth promotion happens to arrive at a financial advisor’s office on a day when the stock market is tanking, well, that’s how it is. Shake it off—you didn’t know, how could you? Looks like that piece is not going to work as well as you’d hoped.

And, that pretty much sums up the powerlessness of a direct mail marketer. Moving on…


Communicating online is less forgiving. Digital marketers are assumed to have control of their online communications including not just the What but the When and even the Where and the How.

Add to this mix the fact that financial advisors are not just reachable online but also more knowable online. This heightens expectations that communications are relevant and appropriate.

The context of what's being communicated is an increasingly important factor to consider in the planning and execution of mutual fund and exchange-traded fund (ETF) marketing. 

“Context” is a concept that’s open for interpretation, and I’ll admit to taking some liberties below. But let’s start out right, with a definition, courtesy of an ebook from StrongView, Context Changes Everything.

StrongView explains context “as a combination of the consumer’s [client’s] disposition and situation, coupled with the business’s disposition and situation.”

Disposition refers to the essence of who a consumer is and includes demographic and behavioral data. Situation refers to dimensions that are constantly changing—location, social setting, sentiment and needs, for example.

“The relevance of a firm’s interactions is related directly to its understanding of customer context,” StrongView writes.

One of my favorite non-asset management examples: Do you remember when NetFlix accidentally released Season 3 of House of Cards in mid-February? Boston residents thought that was by design, as a consolation as Boston braced for another blizzard. Think of the goodwill engendered if that had been the intention. 

If you don't already, I’d encourage you and your team to begin to pay attention to context. Who knows how the Apple Watch is going to rock content marketers’ world, starting with tomorrow's pre-orders. But it seems a safe guess that “wearable” content delivery will make context-awareness even more important.

To urge you along, I offer the following list of how context can make a difference. It’s in no particular order and in a slightly different tone. I’ve let myself go snarkier than usual to make obvious to you the need for alertness on the part of marketers, supported by enabling technology including customer relationship management (CRM) systems, marketing automation and Web, email and social analytics. Opportunities abound for relevant communicators. This is a partial, random list—surely, you can think of more?

What Not To Do

1. Overestimate The Compelling Value Of That PDF

Send a blast email with a link to a PDF at a time of day when you'd reasonably expect most recipients to be checking their email on smartphones. Do you communicate across multiple time zones? Right, well, you could stagger the email sends by location, drawing on regional information no doubt extractable from your CRM. It is more work. How important are those PDF opens to you?

1A. Burn Through Your New List


Use your hard-fought-for list of conference emails to email attendees while the conference is underway. Please don't. They won’t read your introductory message then, and all you've done is waste an opportunity. Conference attendees are battling to stay on top of their business emails, yours will be one they’ll be happy to quickly dispose of. Choose your time and message wisely.

2. Play Hide-And-Seek With People Who Are Already Stressed

Move your tax-related content from one place on the Website to another in the months between January and April. Oh, and don’t sweat the details about trying to map redirects to every single (likely Google-indexed) page. Are you trying to incur the wrath of your clients and the people who answer the phone lines at your firm?

The graphic below is excerpted from a Google Finance Trends infographic (link opens a PDF) that reports that tax-related searches are starting earlier in the year, and that more are happening on mobile devices. Plan your enhancements for during the off-season.

3. Dawdle With The News

Twitter is all about what’s happening now or maybe in the last 24 hours. A February tweet announcing the availability of your 12/31 communications is going to impress no one. That’s not what Twitter is for, I wouldn’t bother.

Did you see the number of firms that jumped on the Lipper award announcements last week? InvestmentNews published this list immediately after the evening ceremony March 31 and quite a few firms took to Twitter the very next day. Looks like Thornburg needed a full day but imagine how that ginormous image looked in a tweet stream.

That’s the way to do it. If your announcement is still working its way through your process, I’d say that ship has sailed on Twitter—the news was so last week. (Your timely addressing of bad news would be expected, too, but let's save that for another list, another day.)

Off-topic but I also really like TIAA-CREF’s use of its Twitter header image to promote its Lipper dominance. Where is it written that asset managers need to use a moody photograph of their headquarters as their Twitter image and never ever change it?  

4. Advertise 24/7 If You Can Help It

Pay for broad match AdWords searches all day and all night. Unless you are convinced that financial advisors are looking for solutions in the wee hours, I have one word for you: dayparting. Let the non-advisor (most likely) night owls amuse themselves with organic search results or run up some other firm's pay-per-click budget.

5. Get Caught Sleeping At The Wheel

Release a blog post on your firm’s philanthropy (or whatever) on the day the Fed raises interest rates for the first time in seven years. Throw your body in front of this if you have to.

If you’re not fortunate enough to have a blog contributor offering a reaction post that day, don’t publish anything. It’s better to say nothing than to reach your blog subscribers—on a day when they’ll be paying extra attention to what you contact them about—with something that suggests that your team is either on autopilot or blissfully unaware.  

6. Just Stroll In There Like It's 1999

Fail to train your wholesalers how to check for LinkedIn profiles and updates (including links to blog posts), tweets and Facebook updates prior to calling on advisors. Advisors research their clients (and vendors) and you can be certain that they expect others to be doing the same due diligence on them. I may have mentioned this before.


7. Lump Everybody Together

Track and report on your Web visitors as one homogenous group, as if desktop, table and mobile sessions all yield the same experience. As if all visitors regardless of device have the same motivations or needs. 

If you were to segment the traffic, you would see some eye-opening differences.

Note: Blane Warrene, co-founder of Arkovi Social Media Archiving, now financial technology speaker and advisor and editor at large of TheDigitalFA, and I discussed the state of asset manager marketing on Blane’s Digital Well podcast last week. Blane is fun to talk to and it’s a freewheeling discussion (what was supposed to be 30 minutes turned into 40). If you check it out, here’s hoping there will be something in it for you.

What To Give The Mutual Fund, ETF Marketer—9 Elf-perts Weigh In

Now that the day of giving thanks is a distant memory and you’ve managed to score a few Black Friday/Cyber Monday bargains to give as holiday gifts, let’s talk about you. Specifically, what to give you, the mutual fund or exchange-traded fund (ETF) marketer this holiday.

Oh, sure, I could stuff a stocking for you. I’d pack it with thousands more YouTube video views, hundreds more email subscribers, dozens more Webinar attendees and a healthy dose of ambition for all that has to get accomplished in 2015.


But that’s the small stuff. To make it a memorable year for you, I organized a small Gift Ideas for Investment Marketers crowdsourcing project.

“And what gift would you give a fund company marketer?” I asked a panel of merry elves hand-picked for their relevance and because I consider them experts in our world at large (sorry about the elf-pert mash-up, it couldn't be avoided). Feel free to put your tongue in your rosy cheeks, I added in my note although not in so many words.

The result, below, is so not the gift guide for someone who has everything. The asset management marketer doesn’t have enough of anything—there’s never enough time, money or resources to deliver what management, Investment Management, Sales, Sales Support and consultants want.

But, let’s suspend belief for a moment...Pour a cup of hot chocolate, turn the volume down on your computer (there’s one video that’s not completely safe for work) and let’s open these gifts.

Note: It’s been said that a gift says more about the giver, and there is definitely some of that in these. Suffice it to say that marketers’ self-improvement is the contributors' overall theme. You’re going to have to get your sugarplums from some other group.

New, Improved Clients

From Tom Brakke (@researchpuzzler), CFA, consultant, writer and investment advisor who frequently comments on asset management marketing on his The Research Puzzle blog. Tom’s Letters to a Young Analyst, which I blogged about in March, would also make a fine gift for an investment marketing team.


"I'd like to give investment marketers a new group of clients [financial advisors] that will make their lives harder, but more rewarding, during 2015.

"Of course, getting a number of incremental clients would be a bonus, but I'm really talking about current clients changing how they make decisions, specifically by abandoning the near-universal tendency to chase performance. As it is, performance trumps everything, and marketers ride the ebbs and flows of performance-driven choices. (It must be tiring to bob around in that ocean, unless you have been "hanging ten" for a long time on top of a nice wave and have forgotten what it's like to fall off.)

"However, the 'harder' part that I mentioned is that devoid of the performance driver, clients would have to dig deeper to understand what's really going on at an asset management firm. That means getting beyond the pat descriptions of investment process and 'smart people' to see the messiness of the organization intersecting with markets. The reality of it, rather than a stylized model of it.

"More demanding clients would make for tougher, but more interesting, days for marketers. And, the chance for the best to shine in a whole new way."

Better Social Media Analytics

From Blane Warrene (@blano), founder of the Arkovi social media archiving solution (now RegEd), co-host of the Digital Well podcast, editor-at-large for TheDigitalFA and speaker and advisor on financial technology.  

“An area I've been exploring is finding more context in the use of social media. From my perspective, that reaches beyond the standard analytics. For example, a normal dashboard looks for engagement and then maps that to the possible influence and reach of those who are connected with your digital properties.

“I would put two new tools in the asset manager marketer's toolbox: ThinkUp and SumAll.

"ThinkUp uses a more plain English approach to giving you a view into daily interaction with your content. I also like the time shifting reporting—looking back and reminding you of what's worked in the past.

“SumAll is analytics 2.0 to me. Giving you the ability to combine and overlay metrics you might not have thought of or been able to do in the past. One example would be connecting statistics on social advertising with organic content marketing to evaluate the value of social ad dollars.”

Study Up On What Not To Do

From Lawrence P. Stadulis, Esquire, Stradley Ronon Stevens & Young, LLP, a specialist in “matters pertaining to the registration and regulation of investment advisers and investment companies under federal and state securities laws.” Every once in a while, I ping Larry with a completely random (for him) question regarding FINRA or Compliance and he’s been good enough to set me straight.

“How about a copy of that timeless and informative tome, How to Lie with Charts, by Gerald Everett Jones?

"I recognize that most folks tend to have a pretty good handle on this aspect of marketing so it might seem a bit boring at first. But I promise you that this book is positively loaded with invaluable tips and techniques to create the most misleading marketing piece possible and draw the admiration and attention of regulators, such as the SEC."

Marketing Survival Kit

From Rob Shore (@shorespeak), wholesaler training and coach of WholesalerMasterminds.com and an inveterate salesman, as you'll see in his gift. :)

"Created by recent graduates of a 12-step financial services marketing intervention program, and specifically designed for the home office marketer, this kit contains everything you need to improve the chances of your wholesalers emerging from group meetings victorious in both the message of the firm and furtherance of their brand in the field. 

"Inside this kit you'll find:

  • slide:ology: The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations by Nancy Duarte so that you never again create slides for your sales team that contain 14-point type, charts that simply can't be read by audience members, and graphics that do nothing to support or enhance the story your wholesalers are trying to convey.
  • Wholesaler Masterminds Email Clinic so now you can craft emails that get opened, read and acted upon versus the mountain of product-pushing pseudo spam that is generated each day by well intending marketers across the land. 
  • Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds for the marketer who wants to up his game using Garr's fresh approach, which has inspired millions to communicate more clearly, creatively, and visually.

"And, if you order before the next National Sales Meeting, we'll include Tequila of The Month Club to cope with the endless deadlines, demands and irrational requests of the internal clients that you serve every day.

"The Sales Force Marketing Wholesaler Survival Kit from ROBCO, because talented folks and sizable budgets don't always mean a great end product."

When You Need A Knowledge Boost

From a real, live (follow his @iamreff Twitter feed for action shots) fund company marketer: John Refford, Vice President, Strategic Marketing Technology, Natixis Global Asset Management – U.S. Distribution

"You’re a busy digital marketer, always asked to do more with less. What you need is a knowledge robot.

"Imagine you’re working on launching that fixed-income email campaign…but wait…you need to know how many teaspoons are in a tablespoon, and you’re just too darned busy to pull your phone out of your pocket! Noooo problem. Amazon Echo to the rescue!"

How About Paying Attention To Where Your Ad Budget Is Going?

What I appreciate about this next contribution is that Brooke Southall, managing principal and reporter of RIABiz.com and @RIABiz, has his own platform and access to conceivably millions more readers. But here he's sharing a very targeted perspective for those of you who are outsourcing/offloading your media decisions. My broad exposure to advertising analytics after the fact leads me to believe that these comments have value beyond RIABiz' self-interest.

“With a large red bow I would like to present to asset management marketers a bottle of Tylenol—not for any headache they have now. It is for the one I would think they should court in 2015 by rethinking their strategy.

“Asset managers, with a few exceptions like T. Rowe Price, Invesco and Fidelity Investments, have used a low-neuron method of attracting new investors to their products—reserving larger lobes of the corporate mind for investing. Marketing has been treated as a necessary evil. This harsh assessment comes from our perspective of selling advertising to this constituency—often through the third parties hired by the asset managers.

“The prototype at these third-party firms is a 26-year-old who is at pains to be dealing with a business-to-business publication when the sexy, millennial thing to do is to work on consumer products. Their interest in financial wares or how they flow to investors is very low.

Understanding the difference between an RIA and a broker is not something a third-party ad agency will strain their mind to understand.


They know the client will be wowed by creative output and flash and numbers and "deliverables"—even if only illusory ones. In the online world, there is no reward system to that third party for the handful of super clicks an advertisement receives from the managers of large pools of money, i.e., billions in assets.

“Often enough an asset manager simply gets a list of publications and applies dollars across the board—rewarding the lowliest publications with higher buys because the pageviews are dirt cheap.

“This tendency is truly unique to the asset management industry. People who cross over to a trade publication that covers investment managers from, say an aeronautics trade publication, are dumbfounded by the lack of care applied to the spending of these precious marketing dollars. The ultimate proof they see in the advice industry is that there has never been a shakeout of the dozens of websites and print publications that serve financial advisors—though many of them are a shadow of their former selves because of a diminishing value proposition.

“I can only conclude that this confounding marketing practice of giving final discretion of dollars spent to uninformed outsiders, like other tendencies that come across as nonsensical, can be attributed to the residue of a culture of privilege.

“Asset management has enjoyed one of the great business models of the past 30 years—with high profit margins and terrific scalability. It has also existed in a very static world of distribution whereby stockbrokers held sway and acted in predictable ways.

“But with RIAs or quasi-RIAs supplanting brokers and asset managers squeezed by ETFs and a proliferation of other asset managers, the need to market like your lives depend on it has come to the fore. This is only complicated by print publications fading as online publications take up the slack. Telecommunications companies eventually learned that you can't trust local phone companies to handle cable quality from the trunk lines at the telephone pole across the yard to the living room. Marketers of investment management could pay greater attention, too, to who sees their marketing by concentrating on this 'final mile'.”

You Can't Afford Cold Feet

And now let's hear from Leslie Marshall (@LeslieAMarshall), Director - Events, Magazine and Social Media, Morningstar Inc., who can always be counted on to lighten up a room.

"For 2015, I would like to make sure my fellow #finserv #funserv marketers stay warm…with socks—the more colorful the better! With early cold temperatures, we can’t stay on our toes and think of fresh social media ideas and ways to work with Compliance if we have cold feet.

"To capture ideas and inspiration, I also love to give paper-based notebooks or agendas. Old-school? Sure. But there’s still something inspiring about putting pen to paper. In pure social media style, I found these on Pinterest: Kate Spade Bella Bookshelf and Replace the Fear of the Unknown with Curiosity.

"Here’s to an inspired new year!"

Financial Jargon Fighter

From Susan Weiner (@susanweiner and one of my anchors on Twitter), writer-editor and chartered financial analyst (CFA) “who helps financial professionals increase the impact of their writing on clients and prospects.” You can follow her thoughts on her InvestmentWriting blog, her @susanweiner Twitter account and in her Financial Blogging: How To Write Powerful Posts That Attract Clients book.


"Investment marketers want to do the right thing. They want to use language that's easy for readers to understand. After all, that boosts the impact of their communications. But sometimes it's difficult for marketers to detect financial jargon. Or maybe they can't think of plain language to explain complex concepts.

"My recommended gift is Financial Jargon Fighter (FJF) software. Unfortunately, it exists only in my mind. However, the ideal product would go beyond identifying jargon. It would also suggest wording that satisfies even persnickety portfolio managers. Perhaps it could tap the mind of Berkshire Hathaway’s Warren Buffett, one of the industry’s most influential advocates of plain language.

"Until an FJF is commercially available, impatient gift givers can seek a living, breathing Financial Jargon Fighter. A member of the marketers’ target audience can give invaluable feedback on communications. Marketers will get the most mileage out of these folks if they ask, 'Please explain my main point in your own words' to test reader understanding. Otherwise, their readers will parrot the marketers’ words back at them.

"Also, free tools, such as HemingwayApp.com and the SEC’s A Plain English Handbook: How to create clear SEC disclosure documents, may help to identify jargon and other bad writing habits."

Harmony, Peace And Some Stretching

With this contribution, Back Porch Vista Chief Marketing Officer Jeremy Floyd makes his debut on the Rock The Boat Marketing blog. In the spirit of his message, here are both his Twitter and LinkedIn accounts. 

"If I had one wish that I could wish this holiday season, it would be for all themarketing and sales departments of the world to join hands and sing together in the spirit of harmony and peace.

If you proceed to YouTube to watch this video (not embeddable), now would be a good time to turn down the volume on your computer.

"Maybe that’s a bit much, but in Steve Martin’s holiday wish is a nugget of truth: we need to connect. Our role as marketers in this space demands that weconnectwith our clients, customers, investors, and most importantly our internal alignment. So, my gift to a fellow marketer is abook, the courage to carry the message, and the imagination to tell our stories in new and creative ways.

"I'd give David Meerman Scott’s newest book,The New Rules of Sales and Service, because in 2015 we must see sales and marketing sing in perfect harmony. Success will require 'stretch' on both sides. As marketers, we have to embrace our role as technologists, marketers and community managers, and we have to 'join hands' with our sales departments to recast the vision of our departments within the business. Cheers!"

My thanks to these contributors who've given us a lot to think about. While you do that, I'll be back the week of December 15 with the final post of 2014—my annual roundup of the best of the year.

Asset Managers Dominate #FixedIncome Tweeting Post-Gross

After this post, I’m going on a PIMCO/Bill Gross/Twitter diet, I promise. But, I was looking at some data this week that was too rich not to share.

First, the September 26 announcement that Bill Gross was leaving PIMCO to go to Janus spiked interest in “Bill Gross” as a search term but not so much fixed income. This is according to the Google Trends U.S. data shown below (click on the image to see the data more clearly on the site).

Interest in Janus was far above average search interest while still lower than "Bill Gross."

On Twitter, where Gross' early use of the @PIMCO account influenced how other asset managers began to use Twitter to deliver timely, relevant micro-insights (see post), the news gave a healthy bump to the use of the #fixedincome hashtag.

In the period between September 29 and October 22, 189 users sent 310 tweets with the hashtag, according to Keyhole.co.

The RiteTag graph below of tweets and retweets shows a rush to #fixedincome, relative to its average volume, that has since petered out. 

Competing With Content

Here's what I was interested in. We saw some opportunistic fixed income advertising from fund companies in the days immediately following the news. And, of course, the email factories were working overtime. Did asset managers figure among those jockeying for what would be a burst of fixed income attention on Twitter?

Why yes, they did. The screenshot below from Keyhole.co shows the 32 accounts that used the #fixedincome hashtag most frequently. Twelve belong to asset managers, with @FidelityAdvisor, @NuveenInv, @WFAssetMgmt and @PutnamToday four of the top five accounts. Other firms participated at a lower level. 

In all @FidelityAdvisor sent 37 #fixedincome tweets, most in support of Fidelity Advisor Total Bond Fund. 


@BlackRock takes the honors as the account producing the top #fixedincome tweet (shown below), drawing 18 retweets and 38 favorites.@FTI_US, Putnam and @HartfordFunds were #2, #3 and #4 ahead of @SquawkBox. Sweet.

An investor's dilemma: Net worth and liquidity up, but #fixedincome market slowing down. What to do http://t.co/EnmfOdKmsk

— BlackRock® (@blackrock) September 30, 2014

Everybody Gains

What did the news do to @PIMCO’s enviable follower count? It's happy news all-around.

After a dip—there’s likely some correlation between fund flows and Twitter followers—@PIMCO is back on the rise again, according to TwitterCounter.com.


Meanwhile, @JanusCapital experienced a growth spurt in followers, although still trails @PIMCO by about 174,000.


You Got This

There are very few lightning-in-a-bottle moments for mutual fund and exchange-traded fund (ETF) companies using social media. There’s been no equivalent of seizing the opportunity of a dark stadium to promote dunking an Oreo cookie and watching the Twitter account grow by thousands overnight, for example.

But communications windows open and close on Twitter, and there can be opportunities for alert and agile investment brands. 

On this single hashtag over the last four weeks, more than a dozen fund companies showed up and dominated in a way that rarely happens elsewhere online. (Unfortunately, paying for placement is the only way for many firms to get on page 1 of search rankings of key terms. Other brands got to most of the premium terms first and they’re not budging. See post.) 

For some perspective, fund companies use other hashtags and many to a greater extent. Event hashtags get lots of pick-up, as Morningstar's Leslie Marshall has documented. And, it’s not as if @BlackRock hasn’t been retweeted 18 times before—its maximum is 155 RTs. 

Still, this was a collective demonstration of the communications possibilities for asset managers:

1)using somebody else’s platform
2)and a lightweight, quick turnaround medium
3)to access an "audience" that others helped build and maintain
4)without being constrained by a frequency cap (i.e., Fidelity could have never sent 37 emails in the same time period)
5)to be relevant on a topic
6)that targeted others (financial advisors, media and other influencers) had hyper-interest in and were seeking commentary on.

For those of you in the mix, I hope something good came out of your participation. As for those of you still on the fence about Twitter, does this episode make you any more interested in chiming in?

The Added Significance Of Multiple Email Opens

How are you measuring the effectiveness of your email marketing? You’re looking at open and click-through rates (CTRs), no doubt. But recent research suggests that multiple email opens may have added significance. 

Failure to understand multiple email opens could result in an under-assessment of the appeal of your emails. This is particularly germane for those of you who pay advertising partners for email blasts.

We’ll get into it below but fair warning: This delves into a fuzzy area of email campaign performance measurement.

Finserv Content Isn’t So Easily Dealt With

For the last few years, data has shown that mobile devices are being increasingly used to read emails. And, email marketers have made design, layout, content and even functional (e.g., click to call) adjustments to drive opens and click-throughs on smartphones and tablets.

Mobile devices are an efficient way of using stolen moments on the go to stay on top of an Inbox. But not every email—and I’m thinking of investment management offers of whitepapers or videos here—can be dealt with so quickly or easily while on a phone.

In fact, YesMail last year reported some interesting data on financial services emails in general (probably not asset manager emails sent to financial advisors) accessed on mobile devices. While financial services email subscribers topped the list of industry email subscribers who preferred to view emails on mobile, it was at the very bottom of the list of those who clicked to open on mobile.

A 'New Standard' Of Engagement

In this latest report, email provider Campaign Monitor is highlighting a new email consumption habit it refers to as “triaging”—aka flagging the good ones to be read later, possibly on a different device. A triaged email was opened, not clicked through then and there, but possibly saved to be read again later.

“The shift to mobile has made it more difficult to get readers to engage with your content...The new standard in successful email marketing is not only capturing a subscriber’s attention but holding it long enough to get them to return and engage with your content,” says Campaign Monitor in its Email Marketing Trends report.

As email opens shift to mobile devices, there’s been a correlating decrease in click-throughs—a 10% decline from 2012 to 2013 alone, according to Campaign Monitor.

Unique Opens Vs. Total Opens

Of course, your reporting is duly tracking click-throughs. But if all you’re tracking is opens and CTRs, you may be missing something.

Here’s where it gets frustrating. Data that reports on email open activity is routinely accompanied with a few qualifiers that seek to explain why open data may be both under- and over-counting.

Email open tracking depends upon the downloading of an invisible 1×1 pixel gif image as embedded by the email provider.

As the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) warns, “some opens may not be detected when, for example, the user has images disabled, is on a mobile device, or has elected to receive text-only emails.” That would lead to under-counting.

And, as Campaign Monitor acknowledges in its study, “Apple devices display images by defaultthereby automatically registering an openwhereas many Android email clients don’t.” This could result in overrepresentation of Apple users in your data.

On the other hand, the IAB explains, “the metric may also falsely indicate some impressions when the message is briefly loaded into the preview pane but may not be actually viewed by the recipient.” Some email clients render HTML within the preview pane—every time the user scrolls through the Inbox and passes your message, it will count as an open.


The industry’s answer to this has been to focus email senders on Unique opens, a metric that eliminates the duplicates included in Total opens.

But the Campaign Monitor research raises a possibility that makes sense, especially for investment firms that are heavy users of emails to communicate with mobile-reliant financial intermediaries. It stands to reason that the multiple opens number includes some opens that indicate your content’s ability to prompt a second look.

A second look isn’t a click-through but it’s something. It’s more than an open and out. And, at a time when click-through rates are falling at a rate of 10% per year, multiple opens seem to be worth spending some time to better track and understand over time.

I would try to get my hands on your firm's Total Opens and Unique Opens data, including from media partners whose lists you use. Data that enables you to segment email response by device and email client would also be valuable to add to your reporting.

Your Best Prospects Are On A Non-Mobile Device

Mobile complicates an already complicated reporting dimension. Ready for more? Here are some additional findings included in the Campaign Monitor report based on its analysis of data for more than 1.8 billion opens from almost 6 million 2013 campaigns: 

  • The first battle is to win the mobile open: As has been well documented, an increasing percentage—41% according to Campaign Monitor—of email is being read on mobile devices. The most common time to click on an email is when it’s initially opened. 87% of clicks will happen then.

And yet, the fewest clicks happen the first time an email is opened on a mobile device. Only 78% of clicks on mobile devices happen on the first open.

  • Multiple opens more common than click-throughs: If users open an email on a mobile device, they are more likely to open it a second time than they are to click from their phone or tablet. Overall, 8% of people who opened an email on mobile clicked right away, while 23% opened it again later. (This would be a very broad benchmark to measure your own multiple opens/total open rate against.)
  • A second device optimizes the second chance: If a mobile reader opens an email again from a different device, more clicks happen. Mobile readers who open emails a second time from their computer are 65% more likely to click through. The Campaign Monitor Web page has a flowchart that visualizes this.

Your thoughts?