Outreach to asset management company clients through newsletters has dramatically changed in recent years with firms now seeking more creative ways to connect with their stakeholders.
In addition to fund companies switching their newsletter deliveries from print to email, firms are also tackling methods to liven up their content in a blog format or through videos. The frequency of the newsletter deliveries and how much is too much is also being explored.
Dan Sondhelm works with 40 asset managers on distribution and marketing strategies in his role as vice president and marketing consultant at SunStar Strategic and says he has noticed company newsletters being revamped to become more interactive. This includes imbedding videos that are typically three to 10 minutes long and produced quarterly either from a firm perspective or focusing on particular funds.
"They are often done simply meaning they are filmed interview style or looking into a camera and edited so it makes sense," says Sondhelm. "Some are more sophisticated videos filmed documentary style."
Sondhelm says many fund managers struggle with today's new forms of communications such as videos so he works with them on becoming more engaging and having more energy on camera. To make the best use of their time, Sondhelm looks to schedule portfolio managers for an hour or two for filming so that a wide range of topics can be taped for potential release in upcoming newsletters or on platforms like the company website.
"Once a company has good video to use, then they can use that content in multiple ways," says Sondhelm, who first joined SunStar in 1995 "Firms also use video newsletters on a monitor when they exhibit at advisor conferences to add attention."
EVOLUTION OF A NEWSLETTER
One fund newsletter that has stood out in the industry is at Al Frank Asset Management whose publication founded in 1977 and called The Prudent Spectacular has routinely been ranked number one from a stock picking performance perspective by Hulbert Financial Digest. The newsletter began as a biweekly print-based publication and after being offered by email in the late 1990s became exclusively online starting in 2011. The eight page newsletter emailed once a month to go along with weekly commentaries is authored by AFAM CIO John Buckingham, who says the initiative plays an important marketing role for the company.
"The true value of a newsletter is not the revenue it brings in but the leads it brings in," says Buckingham, who has around 3,000 subscribers. "It also helps retain existing clients."
The AFAM newsletter has added new features in recent years such as charts and a section answering reader questions. A Facebook page for the The Prudent Spectacular was also established in 2012 and AFAM has utilized SEO tools along with buying Internet keywords to try and increase readership.
"Our mission is to get our information out to as many people as we can but also qualified people," says Buckingham. "We do invest a significant amount of change to get our name out there."
AIDING MARKETING STRATEGY
Bill Wostoupal, president of Northern Lights Distributors, says tracking open rates from online newsletters helps when formulating a marketing strategy. The firm's monthly newsletter is also promoted on social media with videos also included. Wostoupal says finding that right balance in how often to distribute the newsletters is crucial.
"You want to make sure that the newsletter adds value," says Wostoupal, who also oversees a weekly newsletter published by Gemini Funds, which like Northern Lights is a subsidiary of NorthStar. "You don't want the clients to feel bombarded."
Dan Neiman, co-founder and portfolio manager of Neiman Funds, sends out monthly economic commentaries to advisors, but is looking to revamp the asset manager's newsletter soon to be designed more as a blog with a video focus. Neiman says an outside firm is helping with the process of revamping its website and incorporating videos that will help aid its newsletter efforts.
"Video factsheets or video newsletters are going to be the wave of the future," says Neiman, who has managed equity and mutual fund portfolios for individual clients since 2000. "It gives you instant credibility."
Motley Fool Asset Management, which was founded in 2008, aims through its monthly newsletter to educate readers about fund positions and has gained around 80,000 subscribers. Bill Mann, CIO of the Motley Fools Funds, says a question and answer feature called "Ask Bill" has proven very popular and that asset managers should always seek new ways to engage with their clients.
"We are trying to open up communication as best we can," says Mann, who is considered an expert in corporate governance and was asked to testify in a 2000 congressional hearing regarding the collapse of Enron. "We keep trying to innovate."