How ironic that in the wealth management business we spend extraordinary amounts of time looking for manager alpha and how little we utilize the same measurements for business development.
For an analogy we need look no further than a change the U.S. military recently implemented. In past wars, we would fly squadrons of B-52s and carpet-bomb the enemy. The outcomes were debatable, but collateral damage was almost a certainty. Today, the U.S. military is utilizing specific targeted military techniques with remarkable precision, efficiency and minimal collateral damage. Why not do the same with your marketing?
In my blog entry “Google Love,” published by RIABiz last month, See: How Google Love can put an RIA onto an equal marketing footing with BlackRock, I described our efforts to help managers compete effectively with institutions such as BlackRock Inc., which is, dare I say, the B-52 of our marketing competition. BlackRock has resources, cash and personnel that far outweigh what the individual advisor can muster.
How is it that our search engine team can compete against such an overwhelming marketing adversary? We are using our resources with remarkable targeted efficiency to the benefit of our advisor clients. See: Top marketing trends for 2011, and checklists for handling each.
Better than beta
Anyone today can buy Google ad words. In my last blog I used a direct example: “blackrock retirement calculator.” I purposely used this example as I wanted to highlight the success of our online search team in direct comparison to a significant market peer/benchmark in creating superior online relevance. Who better to compare ourselves with than one of the goliaths of the industry? (I’ll table all jokes for now about our alpha marketing comparison against a manager whose primary focus is beta returns…).
To add strength to the comparison, I focused my last blog on our search team’s ability to add alpha by buying the exact same keyword assets that were most valuable to BlackRock. Those keywords today, at a base rate, would cost $6.63 per click, given 246,000 monthly searches. But, for top of the page placement on Google, those prices would rocket to above $13! Would we buy those keywords at those rates? Absolutely not, we’d be adding no value/alpha if we did that. Again, anyone can buy Google ad words. That marketing approach is the same as everyone else’s, adds no value whatsoever, and is at best, marketing “beta.”
There are several things we are doing to consistently add value, all of which maximize Google’s efforts to satisfy its search users that its search results remain relevant to them. See: How one firm is supposedly cracking the lead generation code to the tune of 50,000 advisors supplied — by, for now, not trying to create referrals.
1. Use of long-tail key words
Our team is constantly researching which words work in each local geography. By constantly researching what a) order and b) specific words are relevant, we create different search strings. To use a simple example, we might find that “retirement and football” work in Houston while “retirement and golf” work in Sarasota, Fla. Of enormous proprietary value to us is that once we identify that optimal set of local keywords we have “cracked the code.” As our advisor footprint grows across the United States, we are learning more about what words are relevant, and where (and also when!).
2. High Google quality scores
We are constantly working to increase our quality scores from Google. Again, this is part of Google’s intense focus on relevance.
To quote from Google’s website:
“Quality Score is an estimate of how relevant your ads, keywords and landing page are to a person seeing your ad. Having a high Quality Score means that our systems think your ad, keyword, and landing page are all relevant and useful to someone looking at your ad. Having a low Quality Score, on the other hand, means that your ads, keywords, and landing page probably aren’t as relevant and useful to someone looking at your ad.”
As I said in the previous article, “relevant and useful” are crucial in our relationship with Google and to ensuring that its users have an optimal search experience.
3. High click-thru rates
For Google, it is incredibly important that what the end user experiences is incorporated into its data. When the user comes to FreeRetirementReport.com it is crucial that he or she is making successful Google searches, hence higher click-through rates to our website and those of our advisor clients. See: How exactly RIAs can leverage the new transparency as a marketing tool.
A piece of the rock
When all three of these variables (long-tail key words, high-quality scores, and high click-through rates) are efficiently used in combination, Google has ascertained, our offering is as relevant, and at times more relevant, than those of BlackRock itself.
To make matters more intriguing for our colleagues at BlackRock, while anyone can pay the same as BlackRock for keywords, combining these three variables allows for the same key words to be cheaper. Therefore, our alpha from business development is meaningfully higher, as we are spending far less for the same keywords, and achieving a much higher result.
In many respects, our online approach to marketing/business development is very similar to that of McDonald’s and Wal-Mart when they research areas to open a franchise or outlet. Once we identify the key online demographics in a given local market, we can predict with high certainty the consumer’s online purchasing behavior. Once we have ascertained local consumer/baby boomer data, the physical store and staffing requirements are a mere formality.
As we focus on the local areas of opportunity for new business for our advisor clients across the nation Google has determined that we are a) more relevant and b) should pay lower rates. Mathematically, we have synthetically created a cheaper online footprint that is seen by Google’s users as more real/relevant than that of BlackRock itself.
If that isn’t “alpha”...I am not sure what is!
Frank Troise is the founder of My New Financial Advisor Inc. He is a serial entrepreneur and passionate about investing. He has created several successful traditional financial services companies and several in financial services technology. Mr. Troise has a long-established record of risk management which began in the early 1990s at ABB Financial Services. where his and his team’s pioneering work with Value at Risk (VaR) won The Economists’ International Risk Manager of the Year Award. Mr. Troise’s research, work, Op-Eds and other writings have been published in The Economist, Institutional Investor, The Wall Street Journal, Barron’s, The Sacramento Bee, The Pacific Coast Business Times, Noozhawk, Derivatives Weekly, Pension & Investments, and InvestmentNews. His investment letter has more than 12,000 accredited readers and he is a frequent commentator on CNBC regarding market strategy for “Squawk on the Street,” The New Retirement series, “Power Lunch” and “Street Signs.”