ETF providers are finding creative ways to connect with their target advisor and investor audiences and technology is often playing a key role in these marketing strategies.
Aniket Ullal, founder and CEO of First Bridge Data, which provides data feeds and analytics on ETFs, emphasizes that "brand identity" is the key for effectively connecting with potential customers.
Ullal highlights Vanguard's ability to develop a message of "low-cost" offerings, iShares' emphasis on investor education and ProShares with leveraged ETFs as three examples of successful brand messages delivered to the consumer.
He says by having that brand target in mind when launching a product it will mean less money required for marketing campaigns.
"It's not just about being able to communicate that brand identity, but it's having that identity embedded in the product itself," says Ullal.
"In other words, it becomes easier if the product and brand identity are more closely aligned."
DIFFERENT MARKETING FOCUSES
Andy O'Rourke, chief marketing officer at Direxion Investments, says when it comes to the firm's leveraged ETFs, the communication focus is geared mainly toward traders with short market commentaries provided on Twitter and in email alerts. O'Rourke says he has a staffer devoted to scouring the news and developing updates on the day's developments that relate to Direxion's ETF exposures.
"Our biggest focus is trader awareness," says O'Rourke, who previously was director of distribution marketing for MassMutual Financial Group's Retirement Services division. "They are driving the bus." For Direxion's strategic beta products, O'Rourke says longer-form commentaries are the most effective education tool. Content that is built into advertising is created and distributed on websites mainly geared toward advisors but also aiming to reach investors, "O'Rourke explains.
"With strategic beta products there is more of an education focus on what are the strategies and how are they designed to be used," says O'Rourke of the content marketing approach. "The right size of content that gets people interested in the general concept is a good first start."
AdvisorShares, which is one of the largest issuers of actively-managed ETFs, focuses heavily on technology for its communication efforts. The Bethesda, Md.-based asset manager, which was founded in October 2008, is aggressive on the social media front by promoting weekly advisor conference calls on Twitter while also maintaining LinkedIn and Facebook accounts.
"When it comes to new ways of marketing, technology needs to play an important factor," says James Carl, managing director of sales for AdvisorShares. "Social media is a fabulous tool to stay in front of people."
AdvisorShares' emphasis on technology includes trying to be interactive through videos and setting up its weekly calls with advisors in a podcast format. The ETF provider also concentrates heavily on content marketing and has had articles picked up by third party outlets like Morningstar, Charles Schwab, ETF Trends and Advisor Perspectives. "Our approach has been a content marketing approach," says Carl. "It is a broader way to get the word out to the masses." ETF Securities, which touts itself as the world's leading independent product provider, uses a variety of marketing initiatives. This includes events geared toward clients and the media along with social media and email updates to clients.
"We tend to find there is no specific trend/tactic that works independently of others," says Melanie Svalander, director of communications at ETF Securities. "A combination of different marketing activities helps us to support our business objectives, generally aimed at educating investors on the value and benefits of exchange-traded products."
Svalander says research for the content created about its platforms focus on different asset classes like commodities, currencies and equities.
"The content of these deliverables relies heavily on the research produced by our team of analysts," says Svalender. "Our research analysts provide objective content on a weekly, monthly and quarterly basis. Content focuses on different asset classes including commodities, currencies and equities." Dan Sondhelm, a vice president and marketing consultant at SunStar Strategic who works with 40 asset managers on distribution and marketing strategies including ETF providers, urges very targeted marketing to advisors. He says content marketing is "preferred" with whitepapers and commentaries in "high demand" by advisors. Technology can also be a valuable communication tool for ETF providers for email marketing and webinars, Sondhelm adds.
"Media coverage in the advisor publications is also something sought after," says Sondhelm "Firms are looking for the third party endorsement to generate demand as well as add credibility to other sales and marketing efforts such as website and wholesaler team."